Export agents for international trade

You can use commercial agents to help sell your goods abroad. Commercial agents include export agents and overseas distributors.

Export agents

Export agents act on your behalf by introducing you to overseas customers. They charge a commission – usually between 2.5% and 15% – and they’re widely used in the EU.

An export agent can also help:

  •  give you information and contacts for overseas markets
    identify and make the most of opportunities overseas
  •  cut the cost of setting up your own offices overseas and recruiting and training your own employees to work there
  •  keep more control over your product, eg the final price and brand image (when compared with using a distributor)

You’ll still be responsible for things like shipping, customs paperwork and tax. Your agent may be able to help, or you can use a freight forwarder for this.

Overseas distributors

Overseas distributors buy your goods from you and then sell them on in an overseas market.

An overseas distributor can:

  •  take care of shipping and customs
  •  buy your goods in bulk
  •  warehouse your goods
  •  market your product for you
  •  introduce your product to new markets

Distributors may expect heavy discounts and a long period of exclusivity, so you need to research and choose one with proven experience in your target market.

You lose control over the marketing of your goods and after-sales service when using a distributor.

Contracts

You need to:

  •  have a contract with your agent or distributor
  •  use a legal adviser or solicitor who specialises in this type of work to write the contract

If you want your agent to credit check customers you need to put this in your contract.

Find a commercial agent