Choosing a foreign sales agent: 10 questions to ask | BDC.ca
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10 questions to ask when choosing a foreign sales agent

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It’s time for your business to venture into foreign markets. But you need feet on the ground, a trusted representative who will serve your interests, and make business happen, in your market of choice.

You need a foreign sales agent.

This is an individual who knows your target market, is a resident of that market, and has experience driving sales on behalf of organizations comparable to yours.

Even if you’re prepared to staff an overseas office with familiar and trusted faces, you still need reliable and credible individuals who have the local experience and knowledge that your team does not.

Finding a foreign sales agent is easy. Selecting the best one for your business is much more challenging. We’ve written before about how to go about finding a foreign sales agent. Here are 10 questions to ask once you have a list of candidates and are trying to make a final choice.

1. Can we meet?

This is an essential first step.

2. Can you provide me with references?

You want to talk to other clients with businesses similar to yours. Any hesitation to provide this should raise an immediate red flag. When checking the references, ask about how reliable, trustworthy and productive your prospective sales agent has been.

3. How well do you know my product?

An experienced and credible agent should be willing and able to sit down with you and carry out a quick strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis of your product in the market. Hesitation is again cause for concern.

4. What resources do you have to represent my interests and achieve my business goals?

It’s important to understand what kind of support your sales agent will be providing to you.

5. What support do you require from me?

At the same time, you should be clear on what your commitment will be to help the sales agent do the best job possible for you.

6. What’s the fine print?

This should include clear specifics about sales territories, commissions, grounds and processes for terminating the relationship, non‑disclosure agreements and so forth.

7. Which regions of your country do you cover?

As a risk reduction strategy, you typically should not give an agent exclusive rights to represent you throughout an entire country. It’s better—at least in the beginning—to divide the market between a few agents, than to put all your eggs in one basket, should a single agent prove unreliable or dishonest.

8. Who else do you represent?

You want to know if they represent competitors and have a conflict of interest. Hesitation to provide this information is another red flag. There are unscrupulous individuals who work to deceive companies that pose a competitive threat to their clients.

9. What is your action plan for selling my product?

Try to determine whether they are going to be just reactive, or proactive.

10. Can I have all this in writing?

Some agents will attempt to win your business on a handshake. Gentlemen agreements have no place here. The only way to protect your interests is to draft a binding legal contract.

Final thoughts

Remember, it’s far better to have a few good agents, than a larger number of mediocre ones. Not only will bad ones perform poorly on your behalf, the cost of managing those relationships can be a substantial drag on your time and resources.

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