1) Communicate on a monthly basis, Via Phone (Yes, via Phone – not email). You must call your distributor and create a rapport with them. Long term relationships are vital to your brands’ success. Distributors must like you as a person.
2) Request depletion reports on a monthly basis and if you see high and stagnant levels of inventory, offer help right away. Check the report to see which SKU’s are selling and which are not.
See how many accounts were created and if the number of new accounts are increasing. If they are steady that may well mean that sales reps are not taking your brand out on their routes anymore. That can be a good indicator to fly down and work the market before it’s too late.
3) Promotional Material: Make sure distributors are adequately equipped with point of sale material for your brand at all times. Their office should always have shelf talkers of your brand, case cards and all other promotional material that you carry.
4) Programming: Offer programming to your distributors. Here are different kinds of support programs that a supplier can offer for serious brand building. We mention how a support plan should be structured and delve into each of them.
5) Always be in supply and fulfill orders promptly. Suppliers who process their orders within 24 hrs seem more professional than suppliers who take 4 days and constantly have supply issues.
The last thing you want is to have insufficient stock. There is a chain of events that occurs when you are out of stock.
a) You advise your distributor that you are out of stock for a particular brand
b) They are disappointed and advise their sales representative of the same
c) The representative informs the retailer that they don’t have Shiraz so they are only shipping Chardonnay for their order.
d) Chances are that the retailer will cancel their order or you lose the coveted spot on the retailer’s shelf as your competitor takes that spot – maybe, for good.
When such supply issues continue to occur, the sales representative is demotivated and this directly affects your brands’ performance.
Most retailers and distributors understand if there are supply issues, but it is not a good idea for this to occur frequently and for you to keep low levels of inventory. If the goal is to make a national brand, stock up on inventory.
6) Motivation – You must motivate the owner, the managers and the reps. Most of the time motivation comes naturally if the brand sells.
7) Have an annual plan (targets, marketing and support) and review it every year with your distributor in person. (read more on what to cover in your annual meeting with your wine, beer or spirits distributor)
8) Incentives: Make sure incentives and rewards are promptly awarded. (Read our article on Effective Sales and Incentive Programs and how that can help your brewery, winery or beverage brands.)
The Bottom Line is: CARE about your distributor.