5 Key Tips to Becoming a Successful Export Agent

 Today, given the vast amount of company layoffs – along with those who are no longer happy with the 9 to 5 grind – there are more and more people who are deciding to start their own companies. While there are numerous opportunities available, one that seems to stand out for its status, as well as its potential for high pay, is the export and import business.
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Being involved in the import-export business can be both exciting and challenging. Therefore, it is important to enter into this business with an open mind, as well as a willingness to work hard and to become educated on all aspects. While doing so will not guarantee your success, it will help to ensure that you are several steps ahead of your competition.

Certainly, just as with any other endeavour, one of the best first steps that you can take to help in ensuring your success as an export agent is to learn as much as you possibly can about how to get started in the business, what currently successful export agents are doing, and what you can do to attain that level of accomplishment – or more.

What An Export-Import Agent Does

An export import agent may also be referred to as an international trade agent. This individual – or company – is responsible for sending and receiving goods that go to and from other sovereign countries. One key to getting a good start in this business is to thoroughly research the areas in which you want to work. This means knowing the needs of both the product manufacturers, as well as the areas in which these producers to provide their offerings.

With this job, the agent is not required to have a license. However, it is essential that they have an in-depth understanding regarding the overall business, as well as a good reputation in the field. This is because the agent is essentially working on “both ends” of the sale – that of origin, as well as destination.

Some of the ways in which you can become more knowledgeable about such markets are to read all that you can find regarding world trade. This means reviewing trade publications, as well as international newspapers, news magazines, and even financial reports. These can help you to get a better idea of who is selling what to who.

You should also obtain a good idea of which products are in high demand – as well as which ones are not. This is because, even if a product has a potentially high-profit margin, if it is not in demand, it will not likely produce any profits for you and your business.

Keys for Succeeding in the Importing and Exporting Business

When entering into any new field, it is essential to know the keys that will lead you to success. The import-export arena is no different. Here, there are paths that should be followed in order to help ensure that both you and your trading partners are well informed and are able to make the best possible decisions – and in turn, the best possible deals – for all who are involved.

Become Educated in the Import Export Business

While you may or may not decide to obtain an actual college degree in the exporting and importing business, it is essential that you become educated in the areas of international economics, as well as the political economy.

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This is because you will need to understand both the mathematical and the conceptual tools that are needed to profit from the developing and established markets that you will be working in.

In addition, a knowledge of import-export legal terms, as well as trade policy and currency transactions, is also helpful. This will help you to better understand the ins and outs of just exactly what goes into making a profitable deal.

Education also entails researching products and services that are offered from manufacturers – and then seeking out possible relationships with them as exporters. Gathering information may or may not lead to a deal – however, you can never have too many contacts in this particular niche.

Specialize in a Specific Area of the Importing Exporting Business

It is likely that you’ve heard the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none.” This holds true in the import-export business as well. With this in mind, it is important that you opt for an area of specialization.

This means that you should focus either on a particular product or on a certain demographic area. This will help you to have a much deeper understanding – which will, in turn, essentially give you the upper hand in the particular deals that come your way.

Know and Understand the Native Language

In order to be a successful export agent, you should also know and understand the native language in all of the specific areas that you will be working. This also includes having an understanding of the protocol of the country or nations as well. This will help you with making translations with much more speed and accuracy.

Know the Local Politics

Knowing the local politics will also help you to succeed. Here, you will be required to work with your importers and exporters regarding any type of opportunities and/or dangers that may be present within the trading countries. This will be beneficial for all who are involved – and potentially dangerous if you do not know or understand.

Likewise, having a thorough understanding of global economic trends is also essential to your overall success. Therefore, it is important to spend time on an ongoing basis studying the events of the world – especially as they relate to the areas in which you are trading.

Additional Considerations

There are some additional factors for you to consider prior to getting started, as well. First, although the import-export business will not typically require a great deal of overhead to get started, it can take a considerable amount of time for you to build up your client list, and for you to establish your contacts. Knowing this upfront can help to keep you from becoming discouraged too early in the process.

Also, once you have made contact with some promising manufacturers, you will need to make sure that you have written and signed contracts in order to bind your agreements with them. In fact, it will be important that you include your attorney in this transaction, having him or her draw up the contract – at least initially – in order ensure that you and your interests are protected. Once you have a contract “template” in place, you may be able to use this framework for your future transactions.

The contract that is used should state that the agreement is between you (as the export representative) and the manufacturer. It should also state that you are granted the exclusive rights to distribute the manufacturer’s goods to all countries, other than those in which the manufacturer already distributes their goods in.

In addition, the contract should also state that the manufacturer will pay you, as the export representative, the commission amount that is stated in the written contract. In most cases, the manufacturer should also provide you with samples and product information/literature to use in the distribution.

There are also promises that you will need to abide by in the contract. For example, you will need to do all that is possible to secure contracts, as well as to distribute the manufacturer’s product offerings in the territories that are stated in the contract.

Additional terms that may also be outlined within the contract should include the length of the contract (for example, how many years will you work as the export representative for the manufacturer), as well as what the terms of contract cancellation would be by either of the parties due to no sales and/or no product production (or various other reasons) over a certain time period.

Over time, with experience, you will become more familiar with various terms of the export business, as well as how all of the operations work. For example, you will likely become more well-versed in getting price quotations on various quantities of goods, as well as on providing the terms of shipping.

Typically, the responsibilities of an export agent will vary with the terms of the agreements and the orders. With that in mind, you will generally need to check with the freight forwarder in order to ensure that everyone who is involved is clear about what they need to be doing.

The freight forwarder is the individual who ensures that the important steps of shipping the merchandise are taken care of. A freight forwarder will generally take care of quoting the rates for the product shipping, as well as provides the routing information, and books the cargo space for the items being shipped.

They will also often times prepare the necessary documents for the job at hand, as well as a contract for the shipping insurance coverage that will be needed. In addition, a freight forwarder may also arrange for product storage, as well as look into the possibility of routing the cargo with the lowest possible customs charges in order to save money. If your business is successful, you will be working frequently with a freight forwarder, so it is essential to find one that you can work well with and build up a long-term business relationship.

Goods Delivery

When it comes to the actual goods delivery, there are several different combinations of people – as well as methods – that may be used for this task. Therefore, it will be important that you double check in order to ensure that everything is in place.

For example, you should make sure that you have a confirmed order that has been signed by the authorized representatives of the distributing company. It will also be essential to ensure that your banker has approved the letter of credit from the company.

A letter of credit is a document that essentially confirms that the funds are available from the distributor to cover the same costs that you have quoted. An irrevocable letter of credit will assure you that the order will not be cancelled. Further, when the letter of credit has been confirmed by your bank for delivering the goods, the distributor will be assured that the goods will be delivered. This also means that the currency exchange has been confirmed – essentially meaning that you will not need to be concerned about currency fluctuations. At that point, the bank will then hold the funds until all of the shipping documents have been presented.

Prior to the goods being delivered, it is still a good idea to compare the amount of the letter of credit to the amount that has been quoted for the goods and ensure that the figure matches up exactly. You should also confirm the quotation and the sale with the manufacturer, as well as with the freight forwarder. Your follow-through with all parties involved will be key to the success of the overall transaction.

The Bottom Line

When starting out in a business of importing and exporting, it is important to ensure that you have a great deal of patience. There is a lot to learn – and it won’t all come overnight. However, if you pace yourself, you will succeed in your research, in making your contacts, and with your overall education – both in the beginning, as well as throughout your successful career.