As you develop your organization’s business in Africa, it is important to have a well-planned sales and distribution strategy that is sustainable and can scale with your business as it grows and continues to increase market share.
Setting up a robust sales channel that can help you reach and service your customer base. This includes having a strong on-ground team that can manage the operations of multiple players in your value chain.
Once you have prioritized the main markets that will give you the highest ROI, you have developed your local strategy per country, and found the right partners to start work with, you then have to think about building the right sales channels that are adaptable and sustainable.
Business in African countries can be very dynamic, so you want to keep your ears to the ground to prepare for the shifts in the market.
This means building up a sales teams and networks that will allow you to adapt and innovate your business model as you continue to grow.
Here are some of the steps successfully business developers at multinational companies take as they develop their sales strategy across Africa
Start with partnerships: Major importer and distributor
When a new entrant gets into the market, the first and easiest point of entrance for their sales and distribution strategy is to sell through partnership.
Finding and vetting a good partner brings a lot of benefits to your team.
The partners help you get over regulatory hurdles, provide logistics support, and give access to their customer base. Finding one strong partner is sufficient to get started but as you scale you can’t always be dependent on your distribution partner for growth, you have to add more distribution points to your sales strategy.
Don’t rely on your distributor to market and sell, find someone that will help move the needle.
Usually, once business developers have a good distribution partner, the next option for growth is to add someone to your team that will be actively looking for new business. They do this by adding a sales agent as a crucial player in their sales strategy.
This agent is independent from the distributor. Oftentimes they do not deal with importation, storage, or distribution of the production. They mainly deal with sales development and finding new customers.
Sometimes, the distributor can provide this service but major distributors sometimes already have a portfolio of products to sell and may not prioritize new products, so it’s up to you to find a dedicated sales agent that can work with the distributor to build out a customer base for your business.
Multiple players? Get a channel manager:
As you continue to build out your sales and distribution strategy, there’s a chance that you start to have multiple distributors, resellers, and sales agents.
The next step good business developers usually take in their sales strategy is to find a channel manager that will manage the activities of the distributors, resellers, and sales agents.
This is where a dedicated channel manager comes in.
They will make sure the proper incentives are aligned across your sales channels to efficiently build out and service your client base.
As your business grows, the initial focus is on increasing sales and customer development, but as you get deeper into each market, you have to think about more ownership of your access to customers in your sales strategy.
This is where business developers start thinking about building on-ground teams internally.
Up to this point, the distributors, resellers, sales agents, and channel managers can all be outsourced and worked through partnerships.
With a business manager, you will be hiring someone that will be in charge of the entire business, from sales to customer service, within each market.
This manager will also be in charge of managing customer relationships, finding new business opportunities, managing the channel managers and sales agents. From an operational perspective, they will be in charge of identifying any bottlenecks in your business and coming up with a solution to overcome.
They will also be in charge of the structural development of your business – from hiring to regulatory compliance.
Incorporate local entity: Manage everything, including remittance.
The final step in the sales strategy is to incorporate a local entity within each market.
This allows your organization to be in charge of the full spectrum of the value chain and own the entire relationship with your customers.
With an incorporated entity, you’ll be able to import products, provide storage and logistics, give quality customer service, and build your brand locally.
More importantly, you’ll be able to manage your capital and cash flow more effectively.
One of the biggest challenges for international companies is getting payments remitted from the local currency back to a global standard currency (such as USD).
With a local entity, you can take charge of capital management and de-risking currency fluctuation to make sure your sales strategy includes sustainable profitability.
Depending on where you are in your journey, you want to have the right system set up that will allow you to remain competitive, increase your market visibility, and deepen the relationship between you and your customers. Build a sustainable sales and distribution strategy with one or all five of the players (structures) mentioned above to effectively scale across the multiple markets and countries in Africa.