Below are excerpts from the book Distributor Management: Winning Tools in Managing Distributors as Partners by Emilio Macasaet III, Chief Distribution Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders Inc., available in Powerbooks and National Bookstores.
You will easily recognize a novice from a professional in the way they distinctively motivate their distributors to achieve more.
Amateur distributor managers will tend to:
1. Coerce them “If you don’t hit your targets I will disengage with you!”
2. Cajole them. “You know, you’re such a nice team. Can you please kindly push my products to more customers, if you don’t mind?”
3. Play Santa Claus. “Guys, I have gifts for you.”
4. Play bond servant. “Is there anything I can get you guys? I’m just here at your service.”
5. Play comedian. “If you were trapped in an island, how did you get there?
On the other hand, excellent distributor managers will choose to:
1. Discover and understand first what motivates a person;
2. Apply the appropriate motivation strategies to the person; and
3. Evaluate the results of each motivational approach.
Below is a partial list of potential motivators that when used effectively can motivate your distributor partners and their salesmen to sell more of your products. I divided them into Business and Personal categories, as follows:
Business Category:
1. Higher return on working capital because inventories move faster, receivables are collected earlier, and the principal gives a reasonable credit term. Actively help distributor manage their working capital.
2. Growing sales turnover because products are saleable, supported by dynamic marketing activities. Focus on sales off-take and the impact of marketing activities to sales and profit.
4.  Better profit margins because distribution fee is competitive, reasonable, and flexible. Help distributor generate a  profitable sales revenue by managing trade sales discounts, returns and promotional allowances.
5. Lead generation activities of principal that help increase distributor’s coverage reach and customer base. Conduct regular review of coverage reach and customer base. Ensure that your number of actively buying accounts is increasing month on month, or if not, at least, not declining.
6. Information provision. Principal provides relevant market data and analytics that help distributor assess his business position and find opportunities in the industry. Conduct periodic market intelligence activities like local market and trade surveys.
7. Flexibility of deliveries (e.g. accommodates emergency orders, cross-docking, more frequent deliveries). Discuss and find ways with your logistics department how you can provide special delivery arrangements for distributor without compromising your own delivery costs.
8. Training of Managers and Staff. This helps build a more capable distributor organization. Training is one of the more powerful means of motivation. In fact, successful organizations are training organizations because they know training motivates people to excel. We have discussed the need and types of training you can do for your distributor in chapter 5 of this book.
“What’s in it for my business?” You must be able to clearly articulate and translate these supports into business benefits. For example, how will a higher return on working capital motivate the distributor to sell your products more? You see, the biggest chunk of the distributor’s money is tied up in his working capital. If working capital turns faster, he will not need to infuse more funds into the business.
Personal Category:
1. Recognition of Performance (e.g. Distributor of the Year Award, Salesman of The Year Award). Develop a recognition award with clear criteria and scoring system. This works well for persons with either Achievement or Ego Gratification as primary motivators.
2. Performance Incentives (e.g. Travel Incentive). This is best either for Survival or Power as primary motivators.
3. Information provision (e.g. Market Research, Trends) that helps the person make better decisions. This is most appreciated by persons with either Social Affiliation or Achievement as primary motivators. Social because this person always wants to be in the know.
4.  Assistance in business planning and constructive performance monitoring. This is primarily for persons with Achievement as main motivator.
5. Training. This helps boost the person’s confidence and credibility to the trade. While most distributors and their personnel need training to develop themselves, this is most valued by those who have either Achievement or Ego Gratification - especially the certificate of completion, mind you.
“What’s in it for me?” Again, the challenge for you is not only to identify the motivators but how to align your approaches to each one of them. As we have learned, different distributors have different carrots. Motivation differs from person to person. Some people welcome training with great anticipation while others may find it an interruption. As they say, ‘different strokes for different folks.’ On a personal note, as a distributor myself, what motivates me is a distributor manager who is an expert in what he does, genuinely concerned about my business and people, and loyal to his company and boss; a no-frills-honest-to-goodness distributor management.