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Best Practice: Form a Distributor Advisory Council

By: Greg Seminara,Export Solutions
Topics: Food Distributor Advisory

It's a universal battle to secure your fair of your distributor networks time and resources. This is the nature of working with an external sales team where you are effectively renting a "share" of the organization's time. Forming a Distributor ( or Broker) Advisory Council represents a proven tactic at obtaining more distributor senior management focus and commitment to your business priorities.

Advisory Council Participation -Prestigious Honor for Distributors

Most Distributor executives would consider it an honor to receive an invitation from a Suppliers CEO or vice-president of international to participate on a Distributor Advisory Council. This invitation would serve as a "non-monetary" recognition that their input was valued by the senior management of an international company. Advisory Councils can be initiated on a global basis or at continent level. The key is to create an impression of exclusivity where only five or six distributors are part of an elite group.
Savvy brand owners often mix their councils with Distributor management from large strategic countries, countries where focus is an issue, as well as thought leaders from smaller countries.

Distributor Advisory Council Activities

An incentive for distributors to participate would be the ability to interact with the senior management or owners of a manufacturer. Normally, an advisory council would meet twice per year. Once at the company's headquarters and then a second time at a resort location in a good year or a major trade show. Agenda items could include a preview of new products, upcoming marketing campaigns, sharing of best practices, and a speech by an outside industry speaker. Note: Export Solutions frequently speaks to distributor groups. Normally the distributor is presented with a plaque or memento that recognizes his service. Advisory council terms last two years, allowing for the rotation of new members that aspire to join the high profile group.

Renewed Commitment to Your Business

A Distributor executive on your advisory council will experience a renewed commitment to your brand priorities. Participation on the council will link him closer to your company, brands, and priorities. The distributor may feel like "part of the family" as he now has a personal relationship with top management. Participating distributors will typically extend extra efforts to deliver leadership results, as they do not want to travel to a bi-annual meeting lagging behind expectations !

Watch-Outs

Developing a Distributor Advisory Council is a relatively low risk, low cost, high reward activity. However, membership selection can be tricky, as some distributors (particularly under-performers) may take the opportunity to criticize your plans and investment strategy. Others may leverage their new relationships with senior management to go "over the head" of the local manager responsible for the market.

Looking for innovative strategies to develop your distributor network ? Export Solutions can help !