FOR MOST MARKETS, exporters need an on-the-ground sales resource who has local relationships and understands the culture. Brian Roberts, VP of international business development at Wavefront, offers five tips on finding the right foreign representative
1 DEFINE THE ROLE
Obviously, you want your partner to take on customer acquisition and sales. But what about training? Technical support? Local marketing support? Determine in advance exactly what you want them to do.
2 LOOK AROUND THE OFFICE
Canada is a diverse nation, Roberts notes, with immigrants from all over the world. Your own employees may be able to help you understand the culture of their native countries and could even have personal contacts.
3 CHANNEL PARTNER OR EMPLOYEE?
There are several models the relationship could follow. A channel partner is a third party that's already selling to your target customer. You can use this partner or hire your own sales agent. “There are pros and cons to both,” Roberts says. “With your own employee, you have more control. However, it's a fixed cost whether they're selling or not. The channel partner is usually working on some sort of commission system, so you're only paying them when they sell something.”
4 FIND THE RIGHT FIT
Your foreign sales partner should already have access to the right customer base, language skills and technical knowledge to represent and support your product. “It's kind of like a marriage, so think about personal connection,” Roberts advises. “Do your goals and business ethics match up?”
5 RELATIONSHIPS TAKE TIME
Make sure you're addressing your partner's needs and issues. “I know one company that spends half an hour every single day with their partner in Australia,” Roberts says, “but their partner is doing huge volumes of business. You have to dedicate time to spend with them, but often the end customer wants to see you as well.” •