Using the distributor planning and management process to drive performance

One of the key dimensions of Industrial Channel Research’s best practice framework is “Tactical planning, communication and execution”. This is the process of suppliers working with their distributors to set goals, create a plan to achieve those goals, measure performance throughout the year and make course corrections as necessary. The benefits of suppliers and distributors working collaboratively are tremendous. It fosters alignment between activities and investment, but it also sends a message to the distributor that the supplier wants to be a trusted partner.

Unfortunately, many industrial suppliers do not have an effective program in place. When I speak with suppliers without an effective program in place, I hear reasons like “we are too small to do that” or “we are understaffed” or “we are not important enough to our channel partners”. There may be some truth in those excuses, but it’s like the old saying goes… no one plans to fail, they simply fail to plan.

One big misconception about these programs is that they are cumbersome and time consuming. They do not have to be. A simple, well-structured program could be managed over the phone with only a few hours of interaction throughout the year. It requires a little thinking and some discipline, but it does not need to be difficult.

Maybe even more importantly, having a structured program in place forces a pro-active dialog between supplier and distributor. Planned interactions are structured to talk about goals, plans and performance; but simply having the forum for discussion creates opportunity for productive, impromptu dialog. In other words, the planned meeting and standard agenda items become the excuse to improve the relationship and its performance overall. Without a structured interaction program, suppliers’ field personnel tend to spend their time primarily reacting to distributors’ problems and the relationship takes on a negative, unproductive tone.

If you are a supplier, the first step to putting the optimal program in place is to understand how effective your program is today and what needs to be improved. From there, a roadmap to improvement can be created.

Bart Schwartz, President / ICR / 630.503.6093 / bschwartz@icr-survey.com

Channel Partner Feedback, Distributor Feedback, Distributor Management Best Practices, Distributor Performance Improvement, Indirect Channel Best Practices, Indirect Channel Performance, Indirect Channel Performance Benchmarking, Industrial Manufacturers, Uncategorized ,

1 comment


  1. Even a small company can develop the distributor channel enough to merit a disti manager. And making my regular round of calls helped keep top of mind awareness and helped my forecasts come in within 10% of projections.

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