How to Find Wholesale Distributors for Your Small Business

The Blueprint provides an in-depth and step-by-step process on how to find wholesale distributors for your small business.

Updated April 20, 2020

The wholesale distribution industry has seen a superb amount of growth over the past few years. According to the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, the industry now represents 29% of the total GDP in the U.S.

Working with a wholesale distributor can relieve some of the business challenges you face, such as sales and marketing strategies, acquiring the right customers, and determining an optimal pricing strategy.

If you’re a small wholesale supplier or small business looking for a reliable wholesale distributor and wondering where to start, we’ve got a step-by-step process to help you identify the right wholesale distributor for your business needs.

Overview: What is a wholesale distributor?

Wholesale distributors buy wholesale products in bulk quantities directly from manufacturers with the intent of selling those products directly to retailers, who eventually sell them to customers.

Essentially, wholesale distributors act as a middle-man between your business and the places that sell your products, such as retailers and wholesalers.

The idea behind wholesale distribution is that distributors buy high-demand products in bulk at a lower price point, and assist manufacturers with active marketing, making retail sales, and sourcing new retail avenues. They also take a percentage of profit from your products’ sales.

Wholesale distributors can work both autonomously and as part of an agency. Some of the most common verticals where distributors are needed are clothing, furniture and home appliances, and groceries.

In short, a wholesale distributor is a valuable asset for small businesses as they provide a host of sales and marketing services for them because of their knowledge of retail markets, wholesale sales cycles, and the wholesale sales process.

How to find wholesale distributors for your small business

While finding wholesale distributors can be a more difficult task than finding wholesalers, it’s not an impossible one. Taking the time to find the right product distributor is an important step for your business. Bear the following in mind during your search for a distributor:

  • Your budget for a wholesale distributor.
  • Whether they’re an independent distributor or part of a bigger company, as their services, terms, and prices will differ as a result.
  • What kind of contract you’d like to offer. Consider that the distributor might ask for exclusivity and a lengthy contract.

To help steer you in the right direction, we’ve compiled a few steps you can take to find the right wholesale distributor for your small business.

Step 1: Check search engine results

This should be your first port of call when researching potential wholesale distributors. Searching for general wholesale distributors online will give you a good feel for what you’re looking for, and what you’re not.

However, Google will return hundreds of results when you search for the term “wholesale distributors”, so you’ll need to be more precise with your search. A quick Google search for “wholesale distributors in Austin” returns 3,230,000 search results, and the first page has a variety of verticals, such as food, flooring, and clothing.

Google search for wholesale distributors in Austin.

Google returns a variety of vertical distributors in a search for wholesale distributors in Austin.

Tips for sifting through search engine results

Here’s what to make a note of when you’re looking through hundreds of pages of wholesale distributor results.

  • Include your industry and location: This will help you narrow down your search to specialized wholesale distributors that will have more expertise in your particular business operation and geographical area.
  • Read reviews: Checking customer reviews and ratings of wholesale distributors will give you a good idea of which distributors are reputable and reliable, and also which ones will be a good fit for your business needs.

Step 2: Check out wholesale directories

Wholesale directories often list not only wholesale suppliers, but lists of their trusted and vetted wholesale distributors. Remember, this is a supply chain that works on the basis of trusted partnerships, so the lists on these sites will give you a reliable indication of credible distributors.

Tips for using wholesale directories to find distributors

Wholesale directories are a good source of wholesale distributor information. Here’s what to look out for.

  • Read reviews: Again, reading customer reviews will provide you with the names of reputable wholesale distributors, and the ones to potentially avoid.
  • Filter distributors: Filtering for specific needs and products will help you narrow down your search for the best distributors.

Step 3: Attend local trade shows

Local trade shows and sales expos can be a great way to meet local wholesalers, local distributors, and wholesale companies in your industry.

While other wholesalers can give you the inside scoop on the best distributors and their customer journey experience, you can also connect with wholesale distributors in your industry in person.

Tips for attending local trade shows

Attending trade shows is a low-pressure way of checking out what wholesalers have to say about their distributors, and hear what potential distributors have to offer.

  • Get a hold of the exhibitors list: Before the day of the show, get your hands on a list of exhibitors who will be in attendance, and if you can, try and schedule some meetings ahead of schedule. This will help you map out and prioritize who exactly you want to speak to before you go.
  • Be ready to answer questions: Distributors will likely want to know more about your business to ascertain whether you’d make a good partnership. Have some key statistics on hand and be prepared to answer questions about what your distribution requirements are.

Step 4: Compile a wholesale distribution plan

Once you’ve done the initial research, you’ll have a much better idea of what you’re looking for from a wholesale distribution partner, and what they can do for your business.

Many distributors have developed into much more than just distributors and have become advisors that can help you position your product, advise on how to set your prices, and how to forecast sales.

Tips for compiling a wholesale distribution plan

Before committing to a distributor, you need to prepare a business plan that will help you get the most out of any distribution partnership.

  • Include marketing plans: You need to know who your target market and demographics are, how you’re going to advertise, and what marketing responsibilities you want a distributor to take on.
  • Identify distribution channels: Prioritizing your distribution channels will help you determine what you need from a distributor. Estimate how much of the market you’ll be able to reach through retailers, and cross reference this information with your distribution budget.
  • Adopt the appropriate technology: You’ll need to make sure that your business has all the technology it needs to support wholesale distribution. This could include looking for a POS system and POS hardware that will best suit your wholesale needs.

Support your business with the right wholesale distributor

We’ve gone through a few ways you can get started with finding the best wholesale distributor for your business. Finding the right distributor gives you more time to focus on growing your business, while distributors can focus on marketing and delivering your products.

Relying on a distributor also means that you’ll need to become comfortable with risk. Fuel, transportation, storage, and market turbulence can all raise costs that will be passed on to you.

Before committing to a wholesale distributor, make sure you understand your own needs first. Only then can you effectively assess each potential distributor against these requirements.

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