Do Your Distributors Know Your Product?

By Anje English | September 6th, 2019

Distributors sell thousands of products. This presents manufacturers with a few distinct challenges. First, you need them to decide to sell your product. Then you need to make sure they can sell it well.

Partnering with a master distributor is the best way to achieve both of those goals. Fostering productive relationships with the people who will be face-to-face selling to vets is absolutely crucial to the success of your products. But when you’re working to form contracts with many distributors all across the country, this can be a time- and resource-intensive process.

Imagine only having to deal with one distributor instead of 20. The right strategic partner will take the time to understand your product (and share their expertise with other member distributors), generate the right leads, and develop the market insights and strategy that will get your product in the hands of the clients who need it.

Whether you’re working with a number of distributors or considering forming a partnership with a master distributor who will do the work for you, these are a few best practices.

Signing On

Let’s say you have an anesthetic mask that competes with one a distributor already sells. Are you prepared to highlight the benefits and functions that differentiate yours from the competition?

When you approach a distributor with a pitch, you’re trying either to displace a product or to add to their product line. Neither of these options are necessarily easy sells — especially if there’s a competitive product the distributor is already comfortable selling.

Your ultimate goal is to prove to distributors that you can win on quality, price, and other value propositions. Win over a distributor, and you’re winning over market share. If you don’t have a master distributor investing resources in these efforts, you’ll want to invest your own. That means dedicated marketing and sales teams who need to know not only the target market for the product but how to communicate what the product is and why it deserves a spot on the roster.

Remember, the easier you make it for the distributor to sell, the easier you make it for them to say yes.

Onboarding

So how do you get there? Firstly, organization is key. You, or your master distributor, will need to work months in advance to communicate to distributors when the product will become available, what it is, how it’s different, and how it fits in with their portfolio. Your master distributor should manage all of these efforts, from announcements to order fills — plus offer training, sales tools, and marketing collateral.

Many manufacturers make the mistake of setting up contracts and then leaving them un-nurtured (“set it and forget it”). They may assume distributors will approach them with any needs. But with the marketplace becoming more crowded, it’s important to be more proactive. The reality is monolithic manufacturers may be getting more face-time with their distributors, at regular meetings, while small- to mid-level manufacturers lose out on the spotlight.

That’s why, as a master distributor that caters to companies of all sizes, EPiQ Animal Health sets six-month sales cycles in place to nurture distributor relationships for their manufacturer partners.

The key is not only to get your products in distributors’ warehouses but to keep them top of mind, make sure distributors feel incentivized to sell them, and formulate strategic commercialization strategies to get them to vets’ clinics where they are needed.

Training

There are thousands of products in veterinarian offices, from those used in surgical and clinical applications to those sold behind the reception desk. The way to set your product apart is to empower experts who know your product, from marketing and category managers on your team to distributors who know certain products and categories.

Think about it this way: The more your distributor knows about what you’re selling, the better vets can make informed decisions. So if you’re bringing a brand-new product to market, distributors need to be able to tell vets what it is and how it will improve their working lives and the health and well-being of the pets they treat.

Your training and marketing collateral should include safety data sheets, product details, pricing information, the item number, product name, active ingredients, category, images, collateral to share with customers when the time comes, job aids, training, and samples. EPiQ makes it a point to offer both on-site and webinar training, as well as on-demand video and self-paced training.

Market Insights

One of EPiQ’s key proficiencies is generating demand among vets for distributors, manufacturers, and their products. Market research and insight is really one of the most essential services a master distributor can provide.

We’ve worked with other member distributors, which helps us understand what works and what doesn’t. How much market share does your company have? What products are your competition selling? What promotions are happening in the industry that we could help our partners compete with?

We like sharing information because it means everyone can compete. And well-informed people make better buying decisions — it just makes sense.

Our laser focus on selling your products is a competitive advantage. You should pursue such advantages whether you’re working with us (we like that option!) or handling distribution on your own.

Learn more about partnering EPiQ Animal Health to successfully commercialize your product and manage your distributor relationships.


About the Author

Anje English is a national account manager at EPiQ Animal Health. With almost 25 years of experience in health care supply chain, she is a customer-centric leader with expertise in marketing, product management, account management, and customer relations. Delivering the best customer experience is always her No. 1 priority. She is responsible for managing the partnerships with distributors and acts as brand ambassador for the manufacturers we represent. She also manages the product launches and sales-enablement activities in the distribution channel. As a native of Columbus, Ohio, and graduate of The Ohio State University, she is a Buckeye at heart. She enjoys watching OSU football, playing with her dog Beanz, spending time at her kids’ sporting events, and traveling anywhere with her family where there is sunshine, a white sandy beach, and clear water (and maybe a drink with an umbrella in it).
Anje English
National Account Manager

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