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Ten Tips-Increased Distributor Focus on Your Brands

By: Greg Seminara,Export Solutions
Topics: Food Distributor Focus
  1. Quarterly MBO Meeting with Distributor Senior Management-One of the most effective tools for increased focus is to create a regular process for Distributor senior management engagement in your business. The Management By Objective (MBO) system (or similar approaches) allows you to meet quarterly on a pre-planned schedule to review past quarter performance on key initiatives and firm up plans and commitment for the new quarter. Discussions should focus on key business metrics and account specific results. Meetings can be held via teleconference if you can not visit personally 4 times per year.

 

  1. International Distributor Network Conference-This can include all your global distributors or those from a specific continent/region. Program can be 1-2 days in length and can include Corporate Business Review, New Product Roll-Out, and requirement that each distributor give a presentation on a success story from their home market. Meeting location can tie in with a major trade fair such as SIAL or FMI to reduce expenses. Alternatively, the meeting can also be in a resort location to serve as an incentive. Export Solutions is available as a conference meeting speaker to discuss a variety of distributor optimization strategies and retail trends.
  2. Sales Contests- Sales contests bring energy, excitement, and focus to your brands. Sales contests should be about six weeks in duration and offer the opportunity for "everyone" to win. Prizes can range from cash incentives to trips to merchandise for the winners. Sync contest objectives and measures to your key initiatives for your peak season or a new product launch.
  3. Key Account Business Reviews- It is appropriate to conduct key account business reviews with each of the distributor’s top 3-5 accounts once per year. Meetings should include senior level management of the retailer. This strategy requires distributor analysis of the accounts business and opportunities for mutual growth. This also provides you with an avenue to develop a personal relationship with local customers.
  4. Retail Audit- Retail execution is critical to the success of any brand initiative. An important element in a new product launch or preparation for your peak selling season is the pre-scheduled Retail Audit across a market. The Manufacturer would bring 2 or 3 people from their company and match them with distributor personnel for a day in the field checking retail conditions. In one day, the 2-3 teams can see 30-50 stores in the market to judge the markets "readiness" and progress. Distributor personnel are competitive and will work hard to make the market "look good" for the Retail Audit.
  5. Plant Visit- Invite your distributors for a plant visit and/or a trip to your corporate headquarters. Distributor can be introduced to members of your senior management team. Distributors should be encouraged to bring a large customer as well. This type of trip can serve as a "bonding" experience and create a renewed sense of commitment to your business .
  6. Bonus Payment- Incentive pay for performance usually works well with sales teams. Sync bonus with your key objectives. Reward performance on achievement of retail distribution, profitability, as well as sales volume objectives. Volume based objectives alone may encourage questionable shipments that could be diverted.
  7. Distributor Sales Meeting Participation-Most distributors schedule monthly or quarterly meetings for their entire sales team. This is a primary format for the distributor to communicate direction and priorities. Most distributors allow their manufacturers to make a presentation on a new item or key sales drive. Supplement your meeting presentation with a small gift for all meeting participants such as a pen, key chain, or calculator with your company logo.
  8. CEO Market Visit- Distributors appreciate a visit from your CEO or other member of your senior management team (CFO, VP International etc.). This gives them the opportunity to demonstrate their results and share their input on the markets development. It is magical to watch certain market issues get "solved" immediately prior to a senior management visit !
  9. Share Best Practices- Create a process for sharing best practices and success stories within your global distributor network. These can be communicated via a monthly newsletter or email. Distributors are proud to share their achievements or innovative new strategies that they are using to build their business. Manufacturers may elect to reward distributors with the "best success story" each month with a "free dinner" or other incentive.