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Agent & Distributor Selection

Finding the right agent or distributor is one of the keys to export success. Here are ten selection criteria that can make the difference between success or misery:

1. Conflict of Interest: Does the Distributor represent another supplier of your product-type? Unless that agency is about to be cancelled, and there are no other conflicts of interest, pass it by.

2. Long term Presence in Field: Has the Distributor been continuously active, and focused, in your Product area for a minimum of three years and preferably five years? If not, he or she may well drain your resources in fighting for a decent market position.

3. Is the Distributor known to be reputable, successful and serious? If not, it is better to find another candidate or even leave the market empty-handed.

4. Does the Distributor have a leadership position (first, second or possibly third) in the specific Products and market niches where the customer base is the same as your own? If not, you are likely to get marginal results or else expend a lot of supporting energy in getting minimal sales.

5. Does the Distributor have excellent relations ("good" is often not enough) with key decision makers in the customer base group? If not, he is unlikely to be able to garner a decent share of the market unless your product and pricing terms are exceptional.

6. Does the Distributor maintain an adequate, solvent, financial position and the ability to open Letters of Credit and otherwise finance transactions in less than the standard time? If not, does he qualify for insured finance? If not, success is unlikely.

7. Strong References: Can the Distributor provide a list of three to five customers, two banks and three U.S suppliers for references? It is essential to check these out, and also get WTDR's or Dun and Bradstreet-style reports while you're at it.

8. Is the Distributor willing to make your Product line a "High Priority" (and commit to this in writing), as long as your prices, quality and service are competitive? If not, it is probably not worth the effort to sign him up. If he is, don't forget to include a Minimum Performance provision in your contract.

9. Is the Distributor able to provide your Product line a dedicated sales specialist with a good personal reputation and strong sales performance? This salesperson should be able to speak sufficient English to converse with people at your plants and offices.

Is the Distributor willing to carry at least 30 - 45 days of inventory and also buy in sufficient quantity to make up full container loads (or some other kind of minimum)? If not, the potential sales volume may be substantially reduced and the Distributor may not have quite the necessary level of commitment to assure a successful partnership.

"I find HCI to be a dependable company in their business dealings and one who has the interests of both buyer and seller in mind when they start a marketing project in Mexico. (We are) very pleased with the work of Mr. Hugh Henderson."

Robert P. Rich, Director, Virginia Dept. of Agriculture

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