How to distribute

Distributors and sales agencies - a comparison

Understanding these differences between distributors and sales agencies is crucial for every flow of products.

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In the world of wholesale, businesses often rely on intermediaries to facilitate the flow of products from manufacturers to end consumers. Two key players in this process are distributors and sales agencies. While they both play crucial roles, their functions, responsibilities, and impact on the supply chain are distinct. Understanding these differences can help businesses make informed decisions about which model best suits their needs.


Distributors act as middlemen who purchase products directly from manufacturers and then resell them to retailers or other businesses. They take ownership of the goods, manage inventory, and handle logistics, ensuring that products are readily available in the market.

Key Characteristics of Distributors

1. Inventory Management: Distributors maintain stock levels, reducing the burden on manufacturers to manage storage and supply.

2. Risk Ownership: By purchasing products upfront, distributors assume the financial risk associated with unsold inventory.

3. Logistical Support: Distributors handle the transportation and warehousing of goods, streamlining the supply chain.

4. Market Penetration: With established networks and relationships, distributors can effectively introduce new products to a wide market.

Sales Agencies

Sales agencies, on the other hand, do not take ownership of the products. Instead, they act as intermediaries between manufacturers and buyers, focusing primarily on promoting and selling products. They earn commissions based on the sales they generate.

Key Characteristics of Sales Agencies

1. No Inventory Risk: Since sales agencies do not purchase products, they do not bear the financial risk of unsold goods.

2. Expert Sales Force: Sales agencies employ skilled sales teams who specialize in specific industries or product lines, enhancing market penetration.

3. Cost-Effective: Manufacturers can save on warehousing and logistics costs as sales agencies focus purely on sales.

4. Flexibility: Sales agencies can quickly adapt to market changes and pivot their strategies to meet evolving customer demands.

Comparing Distributors and Sales Agencies

Ownership and Risk

One of the most significant differences between distributors and sales agencies is the ownership of products. Distributors buy and own the inventory, taking on the associated risks. In contrast, sales agencies do not purchase products, thus avoiding inventory risks.


Distributors are responsible for a broad range of activities, including purchasing, storing, and shipping products. They ensure that goods are available when and where they are needed. Sales agencies, however, concentrate solely on sales and marketing, leveraging their expertise to drive demand and close deals.

Financial Model

The financial models also differ substantially. Distributors make money by adding a markup to the products they sell, while sales agencies earn commissions from the sales they facilitate. This distinction affects how each entity approaches the market and manages its operations.

Market Reach

Both distributors and sales agencies can help manufacturers expand their market reach, but they do so in different ways. Distributors use their extensive networks and logistical capabilities to distribute products widely. Sales agencies rely on their specialized sales skills and industry knowledge to target and secure customers.


Choosing between a distributor and a sales agency depends on a manufacturer’s specific needs and market strategy. Distributors are ideal for businesses looking for comprehensive market penetration and logistical support, while sales agencies are suited for those seeking expert salesmanship without the burden of inventory management. By understanding these differences, businesses can better align their wholesale strategies with their overall goals, ensuring efficient and effective market presence.

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