Finding distributors in Europe generally follows a certain process. While there might be small differences between two industries, the concept pretty much always stays the same. This article will take you through the method you can follow to effectively find distributors in Europe.
1. Before finding out how to find a distributor in Europe, decide where
Europe is a continent, not a single country or market. While the European Union unifies customs clearance, product registration, and currency, it does not mean the markets and customers’ needs are the same. It varies from one country to another. In addition, a distributor effectively covering more than one market is unusual.
We often see companies that are randomly targeting countries. They choose the largest countries first or the simplest to enter (i.e., those where distributors have contacted them). That is not always a good strategy. When you have limited resources (staff or budget), it is better to confront the market potential with the costs of identifying potential partners.
A good way of weighing up the pros and cons could be to do a market study. For example, you might discover the market is highly competitive. In that case, wouldn’t it be better to start in another country, delivering better results in less time?
In addition, each country has its own difficulties to overcome when you want to penetrate a market. From our experience in working for our clients, Switzerland, France, and Belgium might be located in the same region of the world but they have very different business cultures and economic ecosystems. For example, we explained in our article How to find a distributor in France what are the main obstacles to anticipate and why the English language and the high hierarchical power tendency can make things harder for you.
2. Analyze the market
Is the distribution channel you have in mind the right one? Will you need one distributor or multiple partners? These are legitimate questions. Not all markets are the same.
Imagine that you have discovered that the green energy market in [name a country] is split between wind power and solar power and that the local distributors of one category of products do not sell to the other industry. Thus, you will have to find two distributors instead of one. It will greatly impact your strategy for the market and for the selection of your distributors as well.
3. Create a list of potential partners
This is a crucial step. You need to put together a list of all the potential partners you can find in one market. This is how you find the right EU distributor. A lot of companies just list three to four distributors and the easiest ones to find. There are not always the best partners.
There are many ways to create this list. You can search through directories, browse the web, ask your network, visit or exhibit at trade shows. To find out more about all the ways you can identify EU distributors, download our white paper: The ultimate guide to finding a distributor in Europe.
4. Reach out to them
The next step now is to reach out to the priority targets on your list. It is important to be prepared: to have information on the local market (for fact-checking) and to prepare the advantages of working with you. In reaching out to potential partners, you will have to overcome a few obstacles along the way. The first one is that people in Europe don’t all speak good English. There are countries (like France!) where the language is the first barrier. The second one will be to find who is the decision-maker at your potential partners’ organizations. Finally, the last one we noticed is cultural differences. Often underestimated, it is a relevant one.
If you need inspiration to find the advantages a European distributor has in working with you, you can check our dedicated chapter in our white paper: The ultimate guide to finding a distributor in Europe.
5. Select the right distributor(s)
The hardest thing is not finding a distributor in Europe; it is selecting the right one! We strongly advise you to prepare all the questions that come to your mind beforehand. The more you have, the better it is. It will allow you to assess the quality of the potential distributors you pre-selected. The categories of questions we thought of are: information about the organization, the sales, the current portfolio of brands, the after-sales service, the marketing/communications, the stock/logistics, and the future goals.
The best solution to choose the right distributor is often to prepare a table where you can give points per category to the best targets you found.
To receive the complete list of questions, we would ask a potential distributor, download our free white paper: The ultimate guide to finding a distributor in Europe.
6. Sign a contract with one EU distributor or more
Before signing with the distributor(s) selected, we recommend checking the local laws. Even better, make a draft contract with a local business lawyer. In some countries, they favor the distributor or the sales agent and require monetary compensation when terminating a contract. In addition, we advocate that you include as many details in the contract as possible.
By following these simple principles, finding a European distributor becomes less complicated and less risky. Unfortunately, sometimes they are quickly forgotten and lead to terrible mistakes that can be time-consuming and costly. In conclusion, here is your six-step method of finding distributors in Europe to duplicate in each new market.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I find a product distributor?
To find a product distributor, you must conduct thorough research on various sources:
- online research
- visiting tradeshows
- searching in public and private databases
- asking your network in your industry
- sending inquiries to chambers of commerce
How do I find a distributor abroad?
To find a distributor abroad, you need to conduct the same research as for a local distributor but mainly in the native language and through local contacts and events. You can use the same sources as to find a local distributor, but in the country you target:
- online research
- public and private databases
- asking your network
- sending inquiries to chambers of commerce and industry associations
How do I connect with distributors?
Start by being prepared and learning about the potential of your products in the country. Once you’re prepared, you can reach out by email and double your efforts with phone calls to trigger their interest. Quickly book a product or service demo (virtually, for example), followed by a trip to their location not long after.
How do I hire a distributor?
To properly hire a distributor, you’ll need to interview him and ensure he’s interesting for you; and interested in your product/service. After you confirm the two statements, prepare a distribution contract to review and sign together.