Exporting to France: Finding an Agent or Distributor
France is Aragon’s largest export market and the question of distance is not the only one that makes it attractive. But, how can I develop a sales strategy? Should we be looking for a distributor or an agent or, perhaps, go-it-alone? Júlia Farré, a consultant in internationalisation projects led a working breakfast within the framework of the Arex Network. The event was organised in collaboration with Ibercaja. The aim of the meeting was to familiarise businessmen from Aragon with the peculiarities of French sales agents and where to search for them and to evaluate the success of the relationship.
The Role of the Sales Agent in France
Júlia Farré, in her role as a consultant in ITC who collaborates with Aragon Exterior (Arex), analysed the role of the sales agent in France. She also provided the key factors that are essential to finding a good agent. “In France, as in many other countries, the representative is a free agent who works for several principals on a commission basis. One cannot expect the same as we would from a company salesman, nor require a report every Friday”, she pointed out.
Ms Farré also said: “Generally, a single agent cannot cover the whole country, we have to keep in mind that the country will have to be divided into territories”. Do I need an agent to open a market in France? Ms Farré also clarified: “Agents are not suitable for all products and some may require your working with a distributor or buying centres.”
Ms Farré also went into the differences between an agent and a distributor and why you should opt for one or the other in function of your needs, your product line and the responsibilities that they should take on.
For further information on how we can help you to export to France, please contact:
Consulting Partner in International Team Consulting
Sales Rep in France (Chapter 2)
Tips on how to find a good sales representative in France
The basics are:
Completing a Portfolio: it is essential that our rep 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 a sales rep 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 French Manufacturers’ Agents magazine http://www.apacfrance.com/apac-infos-magazine. For a fee of € 250 you can search their DB of 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 FRENCH. 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 in order 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.
Once you have drawn up your “plan of attack”, you may find yourself in a position in which you do not have enough personnel or that your staffs does not have the necessary skills for the international project involved. The experts at ITC have over 30 years experience in the management of export departments and will advise you and aid you in your search for the sales agents most suited for the sales and distribution of your products in France.
For further information on how we can help you, please contact:
Consulting Partner at ITC