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Finding an Agent

The best method is by word of mouth. Ask retailers for recommendations, talk to agents you already know or work with. A retailer recommendation can mean that the agent is liked, trusted and carries a range of sought after merchandise.

Alternatively, you could take advertising space in a trade magazine such as Progressive Greetings.

What should you look for in an agent

  • Good personality and appearance are very important.
  • An established territory with a strong customer base.
  • Compatible agencies i.e. make sure the lines already carried fit in with yours.
  • Check the agent does not carry too many agencies. Five is about enough.
  • Check the agent lives in the territory covered.
  • Check how often the agent calls on customers - it should be at least four times per year.
  • Check how long the agent has represented his/her other principals.
  • Does the agent seem motivated enough?
  • Check the agent has permanent use of a car, a fax and a mobile phone.

What to avoid in an agent

  • One who collects agencies like postage stamps.
  • One who carries incompatible or directly competing products.
  • One who is semi-retired.
  • One who lives far form his territory.
  • One who depends on the phone and rarely calls on customers.

What is the best way to assess the agent's potential?

A structured interview is paramount. An informal chat at a trade show is neither professional nor desirable. An agent keen to represent your company will be happy to attend an interview and assess the new principal's potential on their home ground.

Prepare an interview form on which you can enter the agent's details. This will be invaluable for remembering which agent said what!

The form should include the following:

Date, name, address, telephone, fax, mobile phone details. Date of birth. VAT number. Counties covered, current principals, types and number of outlets called on, trade shows attended, previous employment history. Comments.