Tips on making use of foreign distributors in global trade

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As tricky as it can be to obtain financing for a global expansion program, finding foreign business partners can be even tougher. If you can find foreign distributors for your product, you will be able to simply sell them your products and let them worry about reselling them at a profit in their domestic markets. Distributors are nice because they can offer foreign customers top-notch service and are easier for you do deal with because they typically buy enough of your product to build up an inventory.

You may be able to find a foreign distributor by simply looking around your home city or state for a foreign company with a U.S. representative. Trade groups, foreign chambers of commerce in the United States, and branches of American chambers of commerce in foreign countries are all good places to start your search for a foreign distributor.

International business consultants can provide valuable help the first few times you are trying to evaluate a foreign distributor. If you prefer to do the job yourself, look for the following when assessing in a foreign distributor:

  • You can eliminate many foreign distributor prospects by deciding whether you need a stocking or non-stocking distributor. Stocking distributors are generally larger firms that will commit to purchasing an inventory of your product.
  • If your product requires a salesperson knowledgeable about technology and other special aspects of your product, you will obviously require a distributor who can provide that type of sales force.
  • The best distributor will be one with a track record selling to the companies or consumers who are target markets for your product.
  • Unless you are fluent in the language of the country you are selling to, you should choose a distributor who can speak your language well.
  • You will want prompt, competent responses to your requests for information or service. Make sure your phone calls, faxes and e-mails are answered in a timely, satisfactory fashion.
  • Meet your prospects in person, and, as always, get and check references.
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