Investing in a new market is expensive and resource intensive, which is why most exporters use distributors to sell their products internationally. Selecting a trustworthy distributor who can help generate the level of sales you envision can take some time, but it doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, the West Virginia Department of Economic Development has export assistance tools available through its Export Promotion Program to help you identify foreign partners.
Once you have identified a potential distributor, how do you make sure they’re the right one for your business? We believe the best advice should come from an experienced exporter, so we asked Chris Dosier from Industrial Bolting Technologies, Inc. to provide a few tips to help you select the right distributor. Here’s what Chris had to say:
- Analyze Compatibility
- Communicate Your Objectives
- Do Your Research
- Meet Potential Distributors
Tip 1: Analyze Compatibility
Analyzing a potential distributor’s capabilities and expertise in the market will help you determine if they are the right distributor for you.
“We look for distributors that carry comparable product lines and serve similar industry sectors to ensure they have enough product experience and market knowledge,” Dosier said.
Tip 2: Communicate Your Objectives
Communication is an important step in the selection process. Thanks to digital tools, this is easier now than ever before. However you communicate with potential distributors, make sure you are up front with your objectives and expectations.
“We exchange information via email, phone and video conferencing and try to learn as much about the prospective company. We also share detailed information about our products, processes, and company’s objectives,” Dosier said.
Tip 3: Do Your Research
When it comes to exporting, make sure you run a background check on potential distributors to determine their suitability as a business partner. Consider using the U.S. Commercial Service’s International Company Profile service. Prices for the background checks vary, but you could get reimbursed through our WV STEP Grant program.
“We like to use the U.S. Commercial Service’s International Company Profile to qualify our potential candidates. This report gives us a snap shot on the company (good or bad),” Dosier said.
Tip 4: Meet Potential Distributors
Digital communication tools have opened up a world of opportunities for exporters, but they can’t always replace in-person meetings. Inviting potential distributors to visit your facilities is a good way to familiarize them with your products and see if they would be a good match.
“If someone isn’t willing to visit our facility or put in the time, it’s a good indicator we need to move on with our search,” Dosier said.
Before a visit, Industrial Bolting requests a product distribution action plan and sends a distribution agreement for review.
“During a visit, we will develop a sales plan for the market, set obtainable goals and discuss business-related topics to make sure both parties are on the same page,” Dosier said.
If you do invite a potential distributor to visit your facilities, offer to cover some of their travel expenses, such as their meals and hotel. This is also a good opportunity to show them around West Virginia. They will really appreciate it.
If you’ve made it this far in the search, the last step is to visit the distributor to see their operation, meet their employees and customers and reinforce the details of your contract.
COVID-19-related travel restrictions may limit your ability to meet with potential distributors, but there are virtual alternatives that can help. Industrial Bolting Technologies, Inc. came up with creative solutions for meeting with distributors that have been so successful, the company plans to continue using them in place of some travel. Learn more about how they did it here.
About Industrial Bolting Technologies, Inc.
Industrial Bolting Technologies, Inc., based in Charleston, is a member of the West Virginia District Export Council. The company uses distributors to export its TorsionX hydraulic torque wrench to more than 40 countries, such as the Netherlands, South Korea and United Arab Emirates.
Apply For Export Assistance Today
Need help paying for export-related travel expenses? Contact us to see if you’re eligible to receive WV STEP Grant funding.
By Gabrielle M. Drake
Intern, Export Promotion Program
Gabrielle is a native of Charleston, W.Va. and a linguistics major at the University of Kentucky with an additional focus on international studies and Spanish.