Managing Overseas Distributors. When Three’s NOT A Crowd

‘Two’s company, three’s a crowd’
English language idiom

 

I was recently talking to a colleague about managing overseas business relationships. I shared some of my experiences managing different distributors, both in the same country and overseas, which she found interesting. Naturally, these delivered varying levels of success, but here’s how I tried to do things.

I was employed to manage and generate sales, so I didn’t leave it to my distributors to do this all by themselves. The saying goes ‘Two’s company, three’s a crowd’ I like to have a three-way working relationship, that looked something like this:

Overseas Distributors Illustration

I did the sales work; contacting my existing buyers when we had new product releases or offers, and prospecting for new customers. This was in the early days of LinkedIn, so it was still quite a labour intensive process. At each step, I would keep my distributor informed of my progress and invite them to join me in sales meetings, so as to present us to the retailer as a team.

I ensured that my distributors were trained on our new products in order to give them the best chance to sell them. I also communicated with them regularly to build trust in these long-distance business relationships.

I then let the retailers and the distributor get on with what they do best: gaining orders and supplying stock to the retailers. Of course, no arrangement is completely perfect. But, I recently had Skype meetings with two former distributors trying to find new ways to co-operate. As this was three years after we worked together, I guess they were happy with those working arrangements as well.

Mark Wiltshear, Co-founder, Xport

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