Finding a suitable agent is not always an easy task. Unfortunately, while there several individuals who may operate as ‘export agents’, they may not have the experience, skills, or the drive to actually become successful agents. They present themselves as export agents because it sounds a glamorous job, but once they become more involved they realise how difficult it is and may abandon the idea and leave you stranded. It is essential, therefore, that you find an export agent that can prove to you that they have the background to do the work for you!

It may also be the case that you are marketing a very technical product that requires an agent with specialised skills – an engineer, for example. Finding such a person may prove illusive. Similarly, you may be seeking someone with experience in a particular country, such a German- or Spanish speaker. Again, finding this person may prove difficult (worse still, if you are looking for a Spanish-speaking engineer with export experience).

What do you need to look out for?

We discussed these issues in the previous section and we feel that they are important enough to repeat here. When seeking an export agent to assist you, you need to bear the following in mind:

  • Does the export agent have the skills and experience to do the job?
  • Does the export agent have the technical knowledge to market your product(s), especially if you are selling a very technical product?
  • Does the export agent have a good network of contacts that he/she can turn to for help?
  • Does the export agent have a working knowledge of the foreign marketplace (for example, do they understand the culture and speak the language)?
  • How many other companies does the export agent represent?
  • Does the agent represent any competing or similar products?
  • Does the agent represent any complementary products?
  • Does the export agent have a suitable personality to successful market/sell your products abroad?
  • Do you think that you can get on with the export agent on a personal level?
  • Can the export agent provide you with any references from other companies they have helped, and if so, go ahead, check these references?
  • Do you agree with how the export agent proposes to market your products?
  • Is the export agent affordable (is he/she proposing reasonable expenses and commissions)?
  • Is the export agent prepared to enter into a formal contract with you?
  • Does the contract or agreement with the export agent impose any restrictions on you (a) in terms of exclusivity, (b) with respect to the period of the agreement, and (c) as far as non-performance or conflict issues are concerned (i.e. can you get out of the contract if you need to)?