Having such profile in your distributor’s team is helping a lot growing the sales and getting closer to the market.

What is a brand manager / product specialist?

A brand manager (also called product specialist) is the person responsible for one (or few) brand inside a distributor’s team.

This person will become your primary contact in the company for your local day-to-day operations. The product specialist is the bridge between your company and the distributor/dealer’s business.

The main missions are: determining where your products fits, which are the most interesting customers for your products, developing relationships with your local key accounts and closing the biggest sales, training regularly the sales persons of your distributors, tracking the sales, making sales reports to you, developing new strategies with you, following up the aftersales department of your distributor, setting up a marketing strategy on the market, analyzing competitors’ pricing and gathering market information.

What are the benefits for me?

Well, in general export managers are so busy growing sales in many countries that it becomes difficult to become an expert in each country. It is really difficult to gather information about competitors’ pricing, making sure you have a decent market share, growing sales, knowing all the biggest customers. How am I sure my dealer has a good share of the market? How do I know that my distributor has good relations with all the biggest customers in the market?

When a dealer presents to you the situation in the country he could lie to you and could present the work he is doing as much more efficient than it is. There have been distributors showing the bad side of the market, the poorest customers, just to pretend they are doing great given the situation; which was not true at all!

If you have one person dedicated to your brand, you can better track what is done on the market. Even if the distributor is lying to you, in the end you will observe it with a product specialist that is not efficient, or because the dealer is not letting him be free of his moves.

Other benefit: More sales! Have you ever noticed that your distributors’ salesmen never remember the advantages of your products, never know the best sales techniques, and give poor feedback to their management or to you? Then having a brand manager is your opportunity to attract the best customers, to train consistently the local team, to push it to selling more and more and finally to go see the most important customers and close them for you.

Most dealers have their sales network and have difficulties broadening their customers portfolio. It is easier for them to retain a customer and sell additional goods or other brands’ products rather than hunting for you to increase your market share. Now that you have somebody dedicated to this mission, it will be much easier to grow. In some potential markets, I have seen 3 times more growth in revenues since we hired a brand manager.

Shall I pay for him? How do I implement this solution?

There are multiple solutions, and none is better. It depends on the situation.

The first one is to pay for the brand manager yourself. This person will be included inside the distributor company but will not be technically part of their company. This solution is costly, so it must be implemented when you have a large market potential or when you have a distributor you do not trust.

The second one is the distributor paying for the person (if he is kind enough). It is rare but can happen if you have in front of you somebody that understands the concept: the brand manager will help him bringing more margin.

Third one is to give the distributor money to help him start with the solution and then decrease slowly the financial help over the years. The distributor will increase the margin he is getting, and it should be enough to pay this new person after few years while helping him continue to grow the business.

Fourth solution is to give a percentage per year to pay the salary. The distributor is motivated to push the product specialist to sell your brand more and more. Your brand must be successful so that the distributor is not taking money out of his pocket to pay the employee.

All four solutions are good ones, it has to be adjusted to the dealer’s mind and the results you are looking for.

The personality you need to look for

You need to find somebody that is experienced in sales, has a very good presentation and strong reporting/follow up skills. These are the core skills.
The brand manager needs to have an education in your field and notions of marketing and communication.
Remember that the product specialist needs to build and maintain trust with the biggest customers in the market: closing bigger deals and being a leader for the local sales team.
Test also the ability of the person in building a strategy and analyzing the market.
Then it is time for you to set up goals to reach: Learn how to set goals to your distributor

Pic: Clem Onojeghuo_Unsplash.com