Identifying Foreign Agents of Exports

There are various ways to identify agents in the foreign markets. One way is to contact the Indian Embassies and the High Commissions for a list of agents who are working for the specified product group. The international merchant banks also have a good deal of information on commercial agents in various countries. The chambers of commerce in various countries also are in a position to provide information of agents. Import promotion centers established in various countries can also help in this matter. There is also an International Union of Commercial Agents and brokers at Amsterdam. This is an organization of the United States. Another method of identifying agents is to visit fairs and exhibitions. Since large number of agents also visit these fairs it is possible to contact them personally. The final method of identifying agents is to insert advertisements in trade journals. Over, advertising in foreign journals is a costly proposition and, therefore should be done when it becomes absolutely necessary. Manufacturers of related but not directly competing products may also help.

Once a list of potential agents is prepared on the basis of the various techniques mentioned above, the next step for an exporter is to decide on the particular agent whom he would like to appoint. Agents have to be the particular agent whom he would like to appoint. Agents have to be selected with care. Selection of agents takes time and effort and calls for good judgment. There are essentially three qualities which an exporter should look for an agent. First, is character which means that the agent must have established his credibility in the particular business he is engaged. The second quality is capital i.e. he should have contacts in the right places and possess adequate marketing expertise to promote the products of the principal these are the three ‘C’s’ which really make an agent successful.

Before deciding on a particular agent, the exporter should decide as to what type of agent would like to have. A question may arise as to whether a big agency house be approached or a smaller will be better. The answer to this question depends on the level of business that the exporter expects to generate in the first and subsequent years. If the initial level of business is not expected to be large, a big agency house will not be interested taking his product. In such a case, a medium sized agency organization will be better suited for the exporting firms. Similarly there are both advantages and disadvantages in appointing a very small agency firm. The advantage is that the firm being small make sincere attempts to get business and will devote more attention to the promotion of exporting company’s products. The disadvantage is that such an organization may not have adequate contacts. Further it may not possess adequate marketing expertise in selling technical and highly specialized items. The firm should also examine in selling technical and highly specialized items. The firm should also examine the product line the agent is engaged in. There are certain lines which are complementary e.g. fashion leather products such as handbags, purses, belts etc. An agent doing business in such complementary products is likely to have wide contacts in the related segment of the market and, therefore is likely to be more effective. The firms should also identify the specific centers in a particular market which are to be adequately covered. This is especially true in a large country like the United States. For example, if the exporting firm has found out that the principal markets for its products are New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, it should try to appoint agent who has got offices all the three centers. Similarly, the agent must have on his payroll specialized and technically qualified salesmen for the exporter’s product. Another point to be looked for is the warehousing facilities which an agent may have.