You can use commercial agents to help sell your goods abroad. Commercial agents include export agents and overseas distributors.
Export agents act on your behalf by introducing you to overseas customers. They charge a commission – usually between 2.5% and 15% – and they’re widely used in the EU.
An export agent can also help:
- give you information and contacts for overseas markets
- identify and make the most of opportunities overseas
- cut the cost of setting up your own offices overseas and recruiting and training your own employees to work there
- keep more control over your product, eg the final price and brand image (when compared with using a distributor)
You’ll still be responsible for things like shipping, customs paperwork and tax. Your agent may be able to help, or you can use a freight forwarder for this.
Overseas distributors buy your goods from you and then sell them on in an overseas market.
An overseas distributor can:
- take care of shipping and customs
- buy your goods in bulk
- warehouse your goods
- market your product for you
- introduce your product to new markets
Distributors may expect heavy discounts and a long period of exclusivity, so you need to research and choose one with proven experience in your target market.
You lose control over the marketing of your goods and after-sales service when using a distributor.
You need to:
- have a contract with your agent or distributor
- use a solicitor who specialises in this type of work to write the contract
If you want your agent to credit check customers you need to put this in your contract
Find a commercial agent
To find an export agent or overseas distributor you can contact:
- Department For International Trade for local international trade advice including how to find an agent
- trade associations for your industry
How export agents operate to help UK businesses sell goods overseas