Questions to Ask an Overseas Distributor

Shot of a group of coworkers talking together in an office
••• pixdeluxe/Getty Images

So you’ve read “how to find and pre-qualify importing wholesalers for your product line overseas," and you think you’ve found the perfect overseas distributor. How do you know for sure? The only way to find out is to ask a lot of questions – 50 to be exact. Here we’ve created a checklist of all the questions you should ask to pre-screen distributors. You can organize this list any way you desire to better accommodate your needs. Then print it out and take it with you the next time you interview a candidate.

1. Why are you here?

2. What interests you about our company?

3. Why do you think you are the right candidate to get the job done?

4. What is your company all about?

5. How long have you been in business?

6. Can you share a few success stories about similar, yet non-competing products you have sold?

7. Have you represented other foreign companies? Explain what you did.

8. How long has your relationship lasted with the top three companies you represent?

9. Have you specifically imported products from _________ (fill in your country)?

10. How will our line fit in or complement your existing portfolio of products?

11. What’s your game plan for building our brand in your country?

12. What are your local customs and import duties on _____________ (fill in your product line)?

13. Are you aware of any restrictions on _________________ (fill in your product line)?

14. What documents will you need to import _______________ (fill in your product line) freely?

15. How much lead time do you need before you can begin to import _________ (fill in your product line)?

16. Are you aware of any documents that will require authorization in advance from your consulate, government or embassy?

17. Are there any special local regulations or restriction (e.g., carton markings, product labeling, special language requirements, cultural factors, numbering issues, etc.) that we need to know about in advance to fully comply?

18. Are you knowledgeable about product registration requirements, if any, on ____________________ (fill in your product line)?

19. Will ____________________ (fill in your product line) run effectively utilizing your country’s electrical current system or will it need to be adapted?

20. How will the temperature affect __________________ (fill in your product line) during importation, warehousing, distribution and the normal retail sales cycle?

21. Do you have good market coverage, including a trained and educated sales force?

22. What specific territory are you interested in covering?

23. Do you have strong relationships with customers who will buy our products?

24. Can you identify the types of customers who will buy ________________ (fill in your product line) (e.g., D.I.Y. convenience stores, hardware, electrical, discount, auto, department stores, boutiques)?

25. Can you effectively manage key accounts?

26. How often will you call on accounts?

27. Will you demo or sample products based on customer requests?

28. Will you provide monthly, quarterly or annual activity reports on an as-needed basis or according to our agreed upon contract?

29. Do you track trends in our industry to stay ahead and relevant?

30. Can you deliver on pre-agreed sales targets?

31. Can you create and execute on an agreed strategy?

32. Are you financially sound?

33. Will you be willing to furnish profit/loss statements for the past three years?

34. Will you pay bills timely?

35. How will you pay us, in what currency (e.g., you are looking for the experience level the distributor has in establishing payment terms – sight draft, letter of credit, wire transfer) and under what set of conditions (time: 30, 45 or 60 days)?

36. How will you promote our products in your market?

37. How will you measure the effectiveness of your promotional efforts?

38. Who will pay for the media activities?

39. Where do you see our brand in 3, 5 or 10 years?

40. What support do you expect from us in marketing our products in your country?

41. Will you be willing to furnish us with three references of companies you currently represent?

42. How often do you expect us to visit your premises?

43. Will you be our ongoing point of contact? If not, who will be?

44. How will we communicate (e.g., email, phone, Skype) and how often?

45. Do you have warehousing capabilities?

46. Will you drop-ship from your warehouse direct to customers?

47. How will you earn your profits (e.g., markup, commission or other)?

48. How will defective, expired, or discontinued __________ (fill in your product line) be handled?

49. How will you manage inventory?

50. Can you sum up what success looks like in your opinion on distributing _______________ (fill in your product line) in your country?

If a distributor can answer most of the above questions to your satisfaction, you are well on your way to selecting the right distributor for your product line.

Meanwhile, are there any questions we are missing?