Export agents

Last updated 19 March 2019

An agent acts as your local sales person in an overseas market. They find customers for you in return for an agreed commission. The customer then buys the product or service directly from you.

Agents often want to represent a client exclusively in a geographic region. It’s easier to agree a smaller region and make it larger after a trial period than the other way around. Make sure whatever you agreed is clearly defined in a written agreement.

Save resources with an agent

A good agent will:

  • speak the language
  • know the market and industry
  • know what the competition is doing
  • have contacts who could be potential customers
  • save you recruiting, training and paying your own sales person

It can be difficult to manage agents from a different country. Offering them training and marketing support is a good way to motivate them.

Paying their commission after you’ve been paid will encourage agents to make sure customers pay on time.

Choosing an agent

In some countries it can be difficult to part with an agent before the end of their contract and they may have a legal right to compensation.

Take time to choose the right agent. Discuss their experience and ask for a list of other exporters they represent who you can contact for a reference. Get listings and recommendations for agents from:

  • other companies operating in the same sector
  • contacts at trade fairs and exhibitions
  • UK and overseas trade associations
  • our international trade adviser network

You should detail responsibilities, targets and how they’ll be measured in a written agreement. Get legal help to create the contract.