When looking to become an import export agent, it’s sold to many as a quick way to make money without having to do much work. Link buyers and sellers, negotiate a deal and get paid, this is how easy some think it is. The reality is somewhat different and I’m going to give you the whole picture. Here’s what we’re going to cover.
How To Become An Import Export Agent:
- Find A Product You Want To Represent
- Build a Range of Products
- Make Sure Your Product Knowledge is 100%
- Do Your Competitor Research
- Make Sure You’re Aware of Any Safety Regulations
- Establish What Territory You Want To Represent (Local, National or International)
- Understand Circumvention Clauses
- Make Sure You Get Samples
- Make Sure You Have Promotional Material
- Know What Commission Rate You Want Going Into Negotiations
Become An Import Export Agent The Right Way
Firstly, becoming a successful import export agent is what we need to be focused on and for this become a reality, like anything in life, it’s going to take some hard work, time and dedication. As we all know, any new career or skill that we want to learn is always going to take effort and some form of dedication. Nothing worth pursuing comes easy or for free.
Product knowledge is paramount, hard work and understanding international trade are all key parts of making a success of becoming an import export agent. Honing your negotiation skills, understanding international methods of payments and an understanding of international contract law are very wise.
Two Types of Import Agent
The good news is, there’s always companies looking for import export agents. Below are the import export agent job description for the two types of role you can opt for. You’ll have to decide which one is appropriate for you with the products that you decide to represent.
A commission agent introduces a buyer to a seller and receives a commission for sealing the deal and continues to receive a commission for any future sales from that same deal. As a commission agent you’ll be dealing with buyers who want the product but likely don’t have much knowledge of international trade, which Incoterm to purchase under, best method of payment nor custom clearance procedures. This is where your knowledge becomes invaluable and you’ll be able to hold their hand through to whole import export process and this is where you earn your import export agent commission with confidence, professionalism and the best possible terms for you.
As a stockist agent, you will actually buy the goods or products yourself, keep and store those goods, find buyers yourself and sell them to anyone you want. You could sell regionally, nationally or internationally. To become a stockist agent you must have an in depth understanding of international trade and the entire import export process from start to finish.
As an example, we had a student who completed our online course and has begun importing very modern home security cameras with motion detectors that record to the cloud. These cameras are imported from Hong Kong where they are manufactured and being sold online and to various retail shops. This young entrepreneur now has a small team of sales reps that pick up stock and sell throughout the country.
10 Top Tips To Become An Import Export Agent
So, here’s our top 10 tips to becoming a successful import export agent:
Step 1: Search For A Product You Want To Represent
Establishing what you want to sell, finding a supplier, manufacturer or a source of products is obviously where you need to start in order to become broker for them.
One effective method of sourcing is by contacting the embassy of the country you wish to source from. For example, if you are sourcing products in China, contact the commercial section of the Chinese Embassy in your country and ask for a list of Chinese manufacturers and suppliers of the product you want to represent. This is an effective way to source products internationally.
Another effective way to source products is to contact overseas trade fairs and ask for a list of companies exhibiting at the trade fair. For example, if you were looking to become an agent for children’s clothing, try Google’ing “children’s clothing trade fairs in China”. You’ll be able to put together a list of dates, locations and contacts. If possible, visit the trade fairs that you can and get talking to people and start to build a network.
If you can’t attend the trade fairs, contact the organiser and ask for a contact a list of all exhibitors which they are usually more than willing to give you. Then you have a pretty comprehensive list of manufacturers you can contact and add to your network.
I have personally used the methods over the years and they have thankfully brought me some great results.
Step 2: A Range of Products
Develop a range of products from either your chosen supplier or consider finding a range products that fit well together, from multiple suppliers. The big advantage to this strategy is when you are in front of a potential client, pitching your main product, it can convince them to buy from you if you can back it up with a range as they may see more opportunity to sell the range, therefore earn more profit. The other advantage is, should your potential client not be interested in your main product, you may find that they are interested in another in your range. By having a range of products, you’re increasing your chances of a sale and expanding your sales network.
Step 3: Product Knowledge
Do you have sufficient knowledge of your product? You’re not necessarily expected to know every single detail about your products and be able to answer every question but you do need to have a good understanding of the product, how it’s manufactured, cost of production, wholesale price, retail price, profit margins etc.
You must be able to pitch your product with confidence and a depth of knowledge. If you then don’t know an answer to a specific question, you can always reply “I’m not 100% sure of the answer, so I’d like to check that and come back to you.” You can then make sure to get the correct answer and answer the question in a follow up email the next day, maintaining contact and dialogue.
However, this only works if you’re unsure of the odd question or two. You won’t be able to give this answer for all the questions, or you’ll look completely unqualified and make your products look weak.
Establish what product education and knowledge you’re going to receive. Training videos, webinars, video calls etc. are all great ways to get yourself up to speed.
Step 4. Research, Research, Research.
Know your market – this is so important.
- Who else is importing and wholesaling your product(s)?
- What’s the wholesale price of your competitors?
- Who’s retailing your product(s)?
- What is your product(s) retail price?
- What can you do to make your pitch better or different from your competitors?
- How can you make your service better that your competitors?
With this basic information, as yourself, “can I compete as a stockist or commission agent on price and delivery?”.
Run your numbers, do the numbers add up and is there a profit margin that you can work with?
Find your niche, find something that you can specialise in, become the leader, the expert, in that area and build a solid foundation from here.
Step 5: Safety Regulations
This is an important step that many overlook and can be very costly if not considered. Does your products comply with health and safety regulations in the country that you’re selling?
Imagine finding your products, pitching to clients, negotiating a deal and importing your products to find out they’re not compatible with health and safety regulations, can’t be sold and are held up at customs. This will likely add substantial cost and untold stress and there’s a decent chance that your profits will be wiped out or worse, you’ll make a loss on the deal.
Do not neglect this step, it’s not worth it.
Step 6: Mark Your Territory
Establish what territory you want to represent, perhaps become a national import agent in India or maybe International. It depends on what your goals are, what capital you have and to a large extent, how big your network is.
If you’re starting out, have limited capital and a small network, just work within your region. As you grow in all aspects you could start to look at a national network. Take it a step at a time but you may be surprised how fast your network grows.
Step 7: Circumvention Clause
Make sure a circumvention clause is included in your contract, which is a legal means of stopping the buyer or seller excluding you from future sales as the commission agent.
Step 8: Samples
You’ll likely need samples to promote and demo in your pitches and meetings. It’s much harder to sell if you don’t have a working version of your products to demo. So, establish if your supplier will provide samples to you free of charge, or at what cost.
Step 9: Promotion Material
What promotional material, if any, does your supplier have? Product images that can be emailed to you so you can add them to your website and advertise on Facebook. Be sure these images are clear, professional and represent the product and your brand well.
Videos are an effective way to show your product if professionally produced so find out if there are any available to you.
Product brochures are good to leave with potential clients after a meeting, with a breakdown of costs, prices and profit margins.
Step 10: Your Commission
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, what rate of commission will you negotiate? Your commission obviously has to make it worthwhile to you so it’s important that you know all your costs and what your bottom line is. This is where knowing how to export is so important as if you get this part wrong, it can obliterate your profit margin.
Import Export Training Course
If you want to learn how to become an import export agent, you’ll need to know and understand the import export procedure. Join our online course now which streamlines the aspects of import and export that you’ll need to know.