◾Completing a Portfolio: it is essential that our agent has a portfolio of products or services that complement our own. That is to say, that his existing client list also has a need for the same products and that these do not compete with our own. The icing on the cake would be if the contact within the company were the same person.
◾Experience: a certain experience in the target market as an agent means he will have the necessary understanding of the work and will not burnout or become quickly frustrated. In general we would recommend a minimum of 2 years. Whilst product training at first is of paramount importance, lack of expertise should not make this an onerous task.
◾Rapport: There must be a feeling of mutual understanding between the principal and the agent. We recommend you reject out-of-hand any candidate who is arrogant or makes unreasonable demands, or one with who we just do not feel comfortable.
How to go about it:
◾Place an advert in the Association of German Manufacturers’ Agents. For a fee of € 250 you can search their DB of 7,500 agents. We are of the opinion that your searching the DB is by far the best method as many agents do not bother to read the adverts or job offers.
◾Create your own DB of the agents that, a priori, may fit with your needs basing the selection on the information available of the web.
◾Generate a short but attractive presentation of our products IN GERMAN. The competitive advantages of our product should be very clearly presented.
◾Phone each and all of the agents in your DB. Positive response from a simple e-mail contact is very low. This initial phone call should establish the agent’s prior interest and obtain the agent’s direct e-mail to send your presentation.
◾A few days after this call, one should contact the agent again to measure his reaction to the information sent and will, most probably, require a second mail to answers questions raised by your contact.
◾It is absolutely essential to ask all those questions we need to evaluate the candidates suitability for the post. Although individual tweaking will be necessary, the basic points are: what others products and manufacturers do they represent; experience; age; geographical coverage; sales structure; commission; etc. It is helpful to have a questionnaire prepared which you can fill out as the conversation proceeds and will make sure you DO cover all the points you have established previously. ◾Answer all questions the candidate may have fully, frankly and quickly.
◾Only short-list those agents that fit the profile and appear to be interested from the start.
◾Prepare a trip to meet the candidates personally to make your final evaluation. Please keep in mind that this trip should be made as soon as possible so the contacts don’t “cool off” and to reinforce the idea that you are “really interested in the market”.
◾Having chosen your candidate, draw up a “fair” contract. Please note that the Agent must feel comfortable and you must protect your interests without imposing unreasonable conditions.