Sell through a commercial agent

Select a commercial agent

Guide

There are a number of routes to finding the right commercial agent for your business.

Your local Chamber of Commerce library is likely to keep a database of agents. Your local Enterprise Agency may also be able to recommend suitable agents for your business.

It is important that you narrow your search to agents relevant to your sector. If you belong to a trade association it is likely to have listings of agents with specific knowledge of your industry or market.

Similarly, if you attend your industry's exhibitions you may be able to have face-to-face meetings with potential agents who are always looking for companies to represent.

If you are looking to sell to overseas markets, joining trade visits is a good way of making contact with agents. 

Choose the right agent

When you're recruiting an agent, it's a good idea to regard it as a decision equal in importance to hiring your own number two. Only selling can bring money into your business - and if an agent fails to meet your targets you could end up with cashflow problems or worse.

There are a number of factors you need to look for in a commercial agent:

  • Trading history - is the agent established with a strong track record in the relevant sector?
  • Financial security - carry out appropriate credit checks. If the agent goes out of business it could seriously damage your sales and reputation. You can check bank or trade references or use a credit checking agency.
  • Reputation in the marketplace - is the agent well respected and seen as reliable, trustworthy and effective? Ask trusted business associates or your trade association their opinion of the company. Check references from existing customers. Be aware that the agent is likely to provide you with references from companies that will portray them in a favourable light.
  • Current portfolio - does the agent have a good portfolio of existing clients and, importantly, are any of them are competitors who might raise a conflict of interest? Ask for a list of clients or check if there's a list on the agent's website.
  • Knowledge of your sector - how well does the agent know your marketplace and the trading conditions within it? Ask the agent about their experience. The current client list will also demonstrate whether they have worked with similar businesses.
  • Willingness to take on your business - how keen is the agent to take on your business? How hard will they work on your behalf? Consider how promptly and thoroughly the agent responds to your queries and calls.

It's important to clearly define your own needs. Make you interview potential candidates so you can create a shortlist those who are compatible with your business.

When you have found the right agent, it's important to draw up a contract, clearly setting out the responsibilities of both parties to the business relationship.