Careers Business Ownership Working With Distributors Share PINTEREST Email Print Ariel Skelley / Getty Images Business Ownership Operations & Success Supply Chain Management Sustainable Businesses Operations & Technology Marketing Market Research Business Law & Taxes Business Insurance Business Finance Accounting Industries Becoming an Owner By Karen Waksman Karen Waksman Facebook Instagram LinkedIn Twitter President and CEO of Retail MBA University of California, Santa Barbara Karen Waksman is a former writer for The Balance Small Business and an experienced seller who advises entrepreneurs who sell products to retailers. Learn about our Editorial Process Updated on 07/23/19 Finding the right wholesale distributor can help boost your product business in a big way! Distributors can get your products on the shelves of retailers as well as provide you with many other exciting opportunities and leads. Therefore, it is essential that you prepare your product for distribution success. If your product isn’t ready to go, then you put your business at risk of not generating the sales that you need to succeed. With that said, the following are some things to think about prior to getting started with wholesale distributors. Be Ready for Market Your first step should be to ensure that your product is actually ready for market! The product needs to be fully developed and functional (i.e., no prototypes) prior to contacting distributors. Additionally, you should know the price point of your product, how to package it, the best way to market it, and how you’re going to supply the product if demand suddenly skyrockets. Distributors are not interested in representing products that are months away from full implementation. Bottom line: Make sure your product is ready to go before approaching wholesale distributors. Develop a Marketing Plan Distributors will want to know how you are planning to market your product. This includes your advertising strategy, target demographics, and promotional considerations. Why? Because at the end of the day, it is still your responsibility to get people to buy your product at retailers. The manufacturer is always the one who is ultimately responsible for creating organic consumer demand. Therefore, my suggestion is to use every marketing resource you can to help drive demand and ensure retailers keep placing orders with your distributor. Bottom line: The more you sell, the better the distribution of your product! So develop that marketing plan. Understanding Your Distributor Working with distributors means that you are selling directly to them, and not to the retailer or end-consumer! Most people don’t realize this. Therefore, your true customer is your distributor, and you have to ensure that you prepare your product accordingly. Find out what matters to them when taking on new products. Distributors might have a different approach to shipping, packaging, etc. Some may specialize in a certain product range, consumer demographics, or geographic area. Don't try to sell a new pet-related invention to a distributor that specializes in food & beverage. Bottom line: Learning what matters to distributors will only help you find a company that will represent you more quickly. Finding Your Target Market The best way to have a successful partnership with a distributor is to ensure that you choose the one that can help you get to market as quickly as possible. Therefore, you need to ensure that the distributor you end up with is selling to your exact target market. Additionally, you want to know that this distributor is successful at selling products to yourtarget market. One suggestion is to find out who distributes your competitors’ products. And when I say competitors, I mean the ones that are selling a ton of product. Finding the distributor that represents similar and successful products can help get your product to market faster because these distributors have already proven that they know how to win. Bottom line: Choose a distributor carefully. Find one that already has success selling to your ideal target market. Get References Think of your distributor like a business partner. You need to make sure you can work together and that you’re on the same page. Just because someone says they’re willing to buy your product doesn’t mean they’re the right distributor for you. Do your homework and ensure the right fit between your two companies. Go to trade shows and ask retail buyers for references. Who would they recommend, based on your target demographic? Set up your own trade booth and have plenty of material for potential distributors and sales reps. Make sure you get all of their contact information and follow-up afterward. When later evaluating them, don’t be afraid to ask for references and customer referrals. Bottom line: If you choose a great distributor, their customers should be happy to share their experiences.