Part­ner Up

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

BC Business Magazine - - Small Business -

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.” •

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