EXPORTIA LAB: Accelerate Sales with a European Outsourced Sales and Marketing Team
Having an outsourced sales and marketing team with a network of Sales Agents is a great way to accelerate sales in Europe. It is also a low risk option that offers a lot of advantages for small businesses.
Get a crash course about European Sales Agents with this Exportia LAB webinar.
In this 30 minute webinar, we look at the following eight topics:
- What are Sales Agents?
- Their Traditional Role
- They Take All Shapes and Sizes
- How do you find them?
- How do Evaluate and Recruit Them
- Managing Your Agents
Sales Agents – the key to your Outsourced Sales Team
A sales agent is a sales representative that works independently. They are not employees or staff members of your business – they run their own business.
Their focus is usually regional. In the smaller countries (eg. Denmark or Austria) they are likely to cover the whole country, but in the bigger countries like Germany, France and UK, they often work only in a region within that country.
Traditional Role of the Sales Agent
The traditional role of sales agents is to drive and visit distributors. While their main focus has not changed, how they do this has changed a little bit due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the willingness of people to use technology like zoom and other video meetings. The sales agent will phone the distributors and keep in contact with them.
Some sales agents and in some circumstances they are more end-user focused, not only distributor focused.
Sales agents have a portfolio of products that are complementary – not just the one business’s products.
Every European country tends to have their own federation or association for sales agents. These usually have rules and guidelines. These rules and guidelines will largely determine the contract conditions.
The contract will also be guided by:
- their role
- the value of your product
- the sales level
One of the key elements a contact will require is the agreement on the commission to be paid. This is usually between 5 – 10%. Usually a sales agent will work on a commission basis with no retainer.
Some sales agents have their own contact and you can always ask for this and change it for your own requirements.
The contract needs to define:
- Product Range
- Trial Period
An important clause in the contact is when or under what conditions the contract is stopped. Set up the rules if you, or they, want to end the agreement.
There may be an indemnity clause. For example in France, the end of the contact can be 2 years of the commission if they have been working with you for a while.
Different Shapes and Forms
Some sales agents are trainers or installers as well as sales agents. Be open to explore in your industry what shape the sales agent often takes. Your outsourced sales and marketing team may look quite different to another businesses – and that’s ok.
It helps if the sales agent has multiple brands. It leaves it too exposed for them to be your employee if they only work for you.
How to Find Your Team
They’re not always easy to find as they can have multiple business cards! They are more common in some industries than others. In manufacturing it is a little easier to find them than in IT, software and digital sectors.
In the IT sector it tends to be spotters or referral fees more than people who travel to businesses.
Sales agents are common in Italy, Spain, France and Belgium and while they are also in Germany it can be a bit harder to spot them in that country.
Trade shows can often be places to find sales agents. Peers, customers and distributors may also know them.
Evaluation and Recruitment
Take time with the selection process. Follow up their references. Ask them for the sales director for other brands they are representing and ring the director to discover more about your prospect agent.
Its much better to know your market before you appoint an agent and outsource your sales rather than rely on them for market insights. Give yourself flexibility to exit or a longer trial period if product is new to market.
Managing your Agents
As sales agents are not staff you can’t ask for the same level of reporting you could from employees. Use monthly catch-ups and set a yearly goal. You can’t micro-manage them.
If you have a team of sales agents create a team spirit, with an annual get together. In this way they can share tips and contacts with one another. For example, if one sales agent sells to a branch in their region, you’d want them to be able to talk to the sales agent in the other regions as the other agent then might be able to sell to the branch in their region.