There a lot of things you should be doing in finding your distributor in shinning armor. Spoiler alert: It's about the relationship!
Just in case memory fails you on this important topic, let me just remind you the action items you ought to be considering. First advice would be to avail yourself of all the public resources at your disposal. This should be a no brainer and by "public" I mean first the Federal Government's U.S. Commercial Service which has more information, statistics, and research on export topics that you would have thought possible. In fact, all that information can get to be a bit daunting. Secondly, if you are not in country and still noodling (a term of art) as to how you wish to proceed and who would be the best distributor, I would most definitely inquire about their Gold Key service which is affordable and you will be presented with at least half a dozen, maybe more, candidates that have already been vetted. That leaves out the possibility of a serial killer. That vetting process helps you begin to wrap your arms your search for that distributor in shinning armor.
Here is where I draw your attention to the distributor warning labell.
Interviewing the chosen candidates is an important, critical I would add, first step. However. you as a consumer of the talent that's being presented, need to know, beforehand. what it is you are exactly looking for. What I mean to say is that it is more than just ascertaining whether the candidates can walk and chew gum at the same time and also can easily communicate (so elementary, we forget about it) and of course, demonstrate a working knowledge of your market. You need to have a firm grip on understanding how you, as an export sales manager, function best in this type of relationship. This is not something that's usually stressed but believe me, it's very important. Do you as the export manager expect to be snoozing away in Duluth (i.e., putting out your normal fires and attending meeting, things that take up an inordinate amount of our time) while resting in the sure and certain knowledge that Mr. X is busily looking out for your best interests in Saigon, Dubai, Jakarta etc.? If yes, then to put it in gentler terms, you are most likely doomed to fail. If you are a type A manager who insists on overly understanding (obsessed?) with every little detail, as an example, and you are use to having answers on your desk at the ready because you said so, then here again, your distributor relationship is going to be a frustrating exercise and likely one that's not going to be very productive. Extreme examples aside, working a good relationship with your distributor begins with understanding that it is just that, a relationship. First you need to understand what are your skills, your strengths and weaknesses as a manager. How do you normally supervise people? You want to try and match your skill set, as much as possible with the strengths of those of your distributor. He or she won't know what you want or expect unless you lay those out in pretty clear terms. But you have to know about yourself and your style as a manager as well as clearly understand what will make this relationship work way before you even start the interview process. Once your decide on a candidate, it is just the beginning.
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