A British client recently complained that it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to spot and recruit good distributors across Latin America, definitely a lot harder than a few years ago. “The best ones are taken”, he said, “they are already working with competitor brands, and as a result we need to delay our market entry or recruit distributors that wouldn’t be our first choice”, he added, and got me thinking that I needed to write a blog post about this.

I can see his point and in a way, recruiting the best distributors favours those first-movers that took the risk and identified market potential earlier. Good on them. If it was you, well done. But if you maybe left Latin America a little too late, should you give up and accept second best? No way.

But you will need to be smart and:

* Look harder and deeper – it won’t be that easy to spot a good distributor that is available, you will need to use a wide range of sources of information way beyond the obvious ones

* Have a strong local network – many of the best distributors are difficult to find with just desk-research, you will need to ask a lot of people around and you will need to know what to ask and how

* Be more flexible – I have seen many “ideal distributor profiles” from many clients, you will need to relax some of those requirements

* Negotiate – are you sure that distributor is happy with the brand they represent? is there any space for you? any discontent you could exploit? any gaps for you to prove just how good you are?

* Think laterally – is it a distributor you need? Or more than one? Or maybe a rep? Or a complementary manufacturer to partner with?

* Start small – can a distributor maybe just buy one line from you and then slowly cover more?

* Take your time – all of the above require time, you can’t rush Latin America

* Invest more – the more saturated your market, the more all of the above will cost

A very important point here: you need to fully understand the market you are targeting because you need to know exactly what makes a potential good partner tick. You will need to prove which of your products are better than the brands the best distributors are representing and you will need to know very well why. You can’t just compare two datasheets or test reports. You need to show how in that market, you are going to offer your distributor something better. Many clients are very good at selling to end clients but they don’t realise that selling the idea, the brand, the whole partnership to a potential distributor is a different kettle of fish altogether. Before we take on a new client, we make sure they are ready to prove this.

And remember:

* Sometimes the best distributors, particularly in B2B, don’t have websites and are not on social media and most probably not on LinkedIn. They are tough to find online but they will be the ones everyone will recommend – but you need to be asking around. That’s why an element of market research is always implicit in any distributor recruitment project we undertake.

* Even if a distributor has a website, don’t trust it. Chances are the website is out of date or incomplete. Ask, talk to people.

Distributor recruitment, and partner recruitment in general, is one of the top services we offer and probably the one most valued by clients all over the world. We’ve been doing it for 10 years, have the network, the skills, the methodology and the sources to do it professionally, yet it can be frustrating at times. Perseverance is a must, as well as resourcefulness and the ability to engage, to ask, to constantly enquire. When we say that doing business in Latin America is personal, we mean it. Finding a distributor for a client proves it every time.