Distributor and Dealer Litigation


You would like to terminate Midwest Distribution. Ever since the son of the founder became President, Midwest has shifted its emphasis from your Standard and Premium lines (require training and selling time) to your Economy line. In addition, some of their customers are complaining, they pay late, they don't follow-up on their leads and they just lost two of their best sales personnel. You sent them a letter giving them 30-day notice of termination (per the contract).

Now you are in litigation. Unfortunately, Midwest has always exceeded their quota.

The Limitations of Using Sales Quotas as the Primary Measure of Performance.

  1. Often the dominant measure of performance. Frequently a single value.

  2. Often defined with very limited information. Can be difficult to defend.

  3. Can lead to poorly defined and implemented distributor upgrade and termination programs.

Additional Evaluation Options

  1. Define and use quotas for each major product line plus a total for all products. Page 3, table 1, Historic Sales.

  2. Define easy-to-secure, meaningful distributor performance measures. Compare to a national average or similar distributors based on an index (distributor actual/national average and distributor/similar). Set goals. Keep it simple. Page 3, table 2, Performance Indexes.

    1. Credit and payables: DRO, % of $ paid within 30 days, # of "special events."

    2. Customer satisfaction score: Very effective. Requires major effort.

    3. Distributor field support costs: Activity based record of cost.

    4. Inventory: $, turnover, mix.

    5. Leads: # received: % follow-up feedback. # & $ closed.

    6. New products: # of new customers, $, % of total sales.

    7. Orders: #, $ and $/order. % emergency.

    8. Pricing: # & $ of special price requests/orders. % of total sales.

    9. Product returns: #, $ and % of sales returned.

    10. Profitability of product mix: Typically an index based on product weights.

    11. Samples: # received:. % follow-up feedback. # & $ closed.

    12. Shipments: #, $ and $/shipment. % to stock/drop-ship.

    13. Coop/MDF funds: % of funds earned that were used.

  3. Define their capability. Focus on securing information that is meaningful to being an effective distributor for your line. Calculate indexes based on national average or similar distributors. Keep it simple. Page 3, table 3, Capability Index.

    1. Personnel: Outside sales, customer service, field service. Total # of each available for your line. Sales/employee for each.

    2. Trained personnel: # of each type personnel that has received training. Sales/trained employee.

    3. EDI: Are they on your system?

    4. VMI: Are they participating in your program?

    5. Service capability: Do they have capability for system integration, startup, repair, emergency shipments, 24-hour customer service, etc?

    6. Showroom: Do they have a showroom? Which of your products are included?

    7. Demos: How many field demo units do they have? # of demos/sales.

  4. Market. Most difficult measure to define but information has major value. Compare to national average or similar distributors. Keep it simple. Page 3, table 4, Market and Share. Examples of how estimate market share.

    1. Distributor market = (Market potential in total US) x (% of industrial buying power in distributor territory).

    2. Distributor market = .65 x (% of US housing starts in distributor territory) + .35 % x (% of US existing housing in distributor territory).

    3. Distributor market = $6 x (# of K-12 school teachers in distributor territory) + $9 x (# of professors in colleges in distributor territory).


    1. $ sales quotas should be only one of the measures defining a distributor's performance.

    2. Additional measures of performance and capability can be of major assistance. They do not add significantly to the time and complexity of the program.

    3. Ideally, measures of market potential should be included. Though potentially complex and time consuming, a knowledge of market potential and share will have a major positive impact to the principal's distributor management programs.

    4. Utilize information with your annual joint planning sessions with each distributor. Jointly define action plans. Follow-up. Page 4, table 5. Summary of qualitative and quantitative measures.

Copyright © 2002 Don E. Smith, All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article, except as otherwise authorized in writing by the author of the article you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.

This article was last reviewed or amended on Sep 10, 2014.