Ten Ways Suppliers Can Gain Mindshare with Distributors


Distributors’ portfolios are more crowded than ever. Getting the distributors’ attention has become nearly impossible, especially for smaller suppliers.

But fear not; some strategies can help you break through the clutter and gain the focus you need to succeed. There’s always a way forward!

Here are ten practical tips to do it:

1) Demonstrate you value their time

Suppliers who hope to gain mindshare with their distributors will be very careful about the time demands they make upon their distributors.

Time is the one commodity every distributor is in short supply of.

Most suppliers demonstrate a complete lack of empathy for the plight of their distributor partners. By respecting their time, you will immediately elevate yourself among their suppliers.

2) Become more self-sufficient in identifying opportunities

Small, medium, and large distributors are completely overwhelmed by the sheer size of their portfolios and the number of suppliers they have. It is no longer practical to expect them to do the things they used to be able to do.

Therefore, you will need to do more of this yourself, starting with your market research and assembling your list of key account targets. The good news is that the tools and data exist to make this easier than ever.

3) Communicate concisely

The need for effective communication and collaboration between suppliers and distributors will never go away. However, how it should be achieved needs serious improvement in most cases.

Here are a few highly valuable tips for communicating in a way that earns high marks with your distributor partners:

  1. Leverage the subject line of the email. You have to imagine the recipient scanning hundreds of emails in their inbox. And what they are scanning are the subject lines. You can leverage this to ensure your emails always get opened. Remember that there is a special place in Hades for those who leave the subject line blank.
  2. Get right to the point in the very first sentence. As clearly and concisely as possible, state your reason for writing in the first sentence. Then, fill in a few small details in the following sentences. This is a courtesy that will take you far in life and business.
  3. No unnecessary details. Most email communications have way too much unnecessary “fluff” or details. This includes very short bullet points instead of large, unbroken blocks of text/paragraphs. TLDRis real.
  4. There is no need to cc everyone. It’s hard to believe this still happens, but it’s true. When you cc everyone and their sister on your emails, you think you are being efficient, but it’s only efficient for YOU. It shows a great lack of respect for others’ time. Perhaps one day, keyboards everywhere will emit an eclectic shock to people who do this.

How you communicate with your distributors will go a long way towards gaining their share of mind!

4) Keep your priorities tightly focused

The old saying, “If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority,” is more true than ever.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past six or seven years, you should know distributors’ plates are overflowing these days. Communicating your “priorities” is not enough anymore, especially when you have too many.

The “modern” way of working with distributors requires a very tight focus on your priorities—ideally, just one or two of the most important ones.

It’s unrealistic to expect your distributors to manage more than this.

5) Never ask a question you could discover for yourself

Imagine a world where you could only ask one weekly question from your distributors. If that were the case, you would be very careful about that one question you asked.

If the sender had taken the time to do their own research, they could have easily answered most of the questions they were asking of the distributors themselves. This is the new normal.

In 2024 and beyond, this is just common courtesy. To gain respect, you have to give respect, and the very best way to gain respect with distributors is not to bother them unnecessarily. Think before you send that email!

6) Get out of your world and into their world

It is human nature to focus myopically on our own needs and desires. But just because this is a universal trait does not mean you must give in to it.

As stated previously, empathy for the plight of these overwhelmed and overworked distributors will go a long way toward elevating your status in the supplier ranks.

Put yourself in their place and try to comprehend their day-to-day lives. If you truly knew what they were up against, it would change how you communicate, your demands on their time, and your expectations of what you can expect them to do.

It’s a reality check you must continually commit yourself to.

It is a new day, a new time, and all suppliers (large and small) must adjust.

7) Demonstrate tech savviness because your competitors likely won’t

Want an easy win? Do everything you can to understand how distributors use technology to get things done.

Then, look for ways to join this endeavor.

The software exists NOW to collaborate with your distributors in ways never imagined.

Today’s distributors have zero patience for “old school” ways of communicating, collaborating, sharing data, and monitoring KPIs. If you want to gain mindshare, you must have the required technology chops.

Need more specifics? Here are some of the top tech tools in use by today’s distributors:

  • Industry-specific CRM
  • Promotional events and spending tracking software
  • Retail ads, scans, and incentives
  • Pricing
  • Inventory management
  • Electronic reconciliations of billbacks
  • Automated reports
  • Automated approval processes
  • Many more!

If you need some help with this, we are standing by to help you. Just ask.

8) Access and leverage your own data

Technology and data are more important than ever to distributors. They get tired of babysitting and handholding suppliers who need constant assistance.

YOU need to have a good, firm handle on all of your own data, including:

  • Accounts sold
  • Top 25 accounts and what percentage of total business they represent
  • Points of distribution in your target accounts
  • Velocity per account
  • Retention
  • The mix of on versus off
  • The mix of chains versus independents

Ideally, your system would integrate automatically with the distributors’ systems. This is the new normal now! If you’re not already familiar with this, we suggest you get there asap.

9) Focus on being brilliant with the basics

Because distributors everywhere are overwhelmed, “the basics” must be mastered by the suppliers themselves.

For example, expecting distributors to manage your inventory and par stock is unrealistic. You need to monitor this regularly.

The same goes for your pricing. Be an active participant in this process. If you’re not already leveraging collaborative software for this purpose, it’s time to get with the times.

Being brilliant with the most basic tasks will help elevate you among other suppliers in their book because most suppliers are not doing this now.

10) Bring new business to them

Here’s a novel idea: instead of waiting for the distributor to bring you business, why don’t you bring new business to them?

Just be sure the “new” placements you gain yourself do not replace something within your distributors’ portfolio but something from their competitors’ portfolios.

Most distributors’ sales reps are very territorial and like to be informed about what you are doing in “their” accounts. So, respect this fact and consistently communicate (see #3 above). It’s just common courtesy.


These are some of the most trying times for your distributor partners. The stakes are much higher for suppliers now than they used to be.

The days of leaving most of the heavy lifting to your distributors are long gone.

In the spirit of true partnership, you are now required to do far more than you are used to, so the sooner you embrace it and adjust to it, the better off you will be. You will surely gain big chunks of “mindshare” as you do it.

Need ideas? Need to upgrade your systems? Let’s connect!