In the initial stages, you may not need a very sophisticated distributor programme. The focus will mainly be hand-holding your distributor. Remember that they have other products to sell and naturally their sales representatives won’t focus on a hard sell. As a new product in their range, they may feel that it is a harder sell than their usual products range.
Training sales team
That is the first key point, you will need to train their sales representatives. You will show to them how they can obtain quick wins. They need to understand very fast where are the low hanging fruits. It means you should tell them, which industry to focus on. But also, what problem your product is solving for that industry. And how do you present your product or solution to a prospective client, what are the key elements that are going to trigger interest of the prospect.
Finding champions – We found over the years, that having champions onboard, and looking after them worked very well. In very large distributors, it will be very hard to get the attention of everyone. They will always be a few distributors sales representatives that will have a keen interest in your product. They are the ones you want to focus your attention on. They will push your product forward and demonstrate to their colleagues it’s feasible! You need to make sure your champions have all they need to be in a position to sell.
Giving them the tools – Sales tools can be as simple as making sure they have brochures in their own language, that they know where to find technical information on your website. Case studies work very well, it is very reassuring for a client to hear who else has bought the product and is happy about it. To champions you may also want to give samples or kits for them to be able to demonstrate the product.
Generating Leads – That is really key. In B2B, this is really important. A distributors or a channel partner will come on board when they see that their client ask for the product. I know it’s frustrating, because in an ideal world you would want the distributor to go and get you clients, that is why you give them a margin. However, the reality is generating sales leads for them can get you where you want to be faster. And can get your distributor started faster. It is also interesting for you to keep that relationship with end-users.
Distributors Program – That is the ultimate! Once you have more experience with distributors, you can develop a program for them. If you are dealing with a large distributor, they would have they own programs that they run and that you can tap into. Often to be involved by the distributor in their sales & marketing programme you would need to be one of their key suppliers or offer them a strategic differentiation. Often all these programmes are not for free and they make you pay for it. You need to know upfront what everything is going to cost, so that your margin is kept under control.
Few key principles, you can adopt if you are starting with a distributor: you first want to give them a realistic sales target. In the beginning, you want to make this target easily achievable, then down the track you will want them to stretch. You can then build a marketing programme with them, such as common presence at trade shows, specific industry leads generation plan. You can also ask them to commit on these actions. It is then up to you to give them financial incentives around specific goals, marketing campaigns and sales targets.
Down the track you can build a structured tiered distributors programme, where key distributors get more margin and can get additional rebates around specific key performance indicators. It should all be articulated around your strategic sales goals in terms of growth.
It is important to keep these distributors programmes, simple and easy to implement for your distributors, and easy for you to track. Be very realistic about that.