Berg makes the right connectionsMick Elliott European distribution manager for connector maker Berg Electronics, Melvin Crane is heading an aggressive campaign to win the hearts and minds of its European distribution network and grow the business. Just over 15 months in the job Crane is happy with progress so far, but he is most certainly not complacent. “We have set ourselves stretching budgets this year,” he confides,” and that was on top of an excellent performance in 1997.” Crane chose 20 distributors from Russia to Israel managing revenue of ?10m and growth of over 40 per cent between 1995 and 1996. His strategy with Berg will be a mix of European and national distributors. In the UK Berg’s network is Arrow Electronics, Electronic Services, Future Electronics and Eurodis HB. Just recently Future’s franchise as extended to the Nordic regions. Avnet and SEIfeature in Berg’s European mainland networks. Crane reckons Berg’s sales through distribution will grow from 15 per cent in 1997 to about 25 per cent of total revenue by 2000. The longer term target is 30 per cent. “To achieve those goals we need to have strong relationships with the multi national distributors complemented by the benefits that local distribution brings,” says Crane. Crane’s initiatives so far have put much greater store on supporting the company’s 40-strong European distribution network with a variety of programmes, like the Quarterly Focus programme. “It has been vital in getting us share of mind in the bigger distributors,” says Crane. There is little chance of a distributor missing the promotion. Crane flags it up in a quarterly Distribution Newsletter and follows up with a range of inducements including full colour posters, sales contests focussing on a commodity line item and co-op advertising opportunities. More intensive design efforts, joint sales calls are all in the new Berg mix which is supported by a sales force in excess of 50 Berg territory managers. “We have sponsored a survey of customers to determine their connector buying habits, and we have design a programme aimed at bringing Berg’s full line of products to the attention of distributors and ultimately to their customers,”Crane explains. “At the same time we want to encourage distributors to stock our fast moving line items.” Crane, who spent seven years with catalogue distributor RSComponents before joining Berg, is keeping a sharp eye on the continuing consolidation in the European distribution market – “more to come,” he remarks . According to research company Europartners market share gains by the top 10 European distributors have continued and in 1996 they accounted for nearly 64 per cent of the market. The consolidation is a result not only of acquisitions and mergers, but customer preference, says Europartners. “All this does not mean we will overlook the important role played by specialist national distributors in our network,” Crane stresses.