Import / Export Kit For Dummies
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A manufacturer's agent or manufacturer's representative is an independent agent wholesaling organization that's responsible for selling all or part of a company's products in an assigned geographical territory. The firms are independent and not employees of the manufacturer. Agents are used extensively in the distribution of products and usually have contractual arrangements with the companies they represent. An agent usually represents several noncompeting manufacturers of related products.

Many new firms have limited financial resources and don't have the ability to hire their own sales force. Using these representatives can be a cost-effective alternative because they're paid a commission for what they actually sell. Even if you're an importer, not a manufacturer, these individuals still can represent you if you have products that are comparable to their current representations.

With a little bit of research, you can locate agents or representatives who can work with you. You can use the Encyclopedia of Business Information Sources, go to your chosen industry classification, and look at directories or periodicals — in many instances, agents are listed in directories or trade periodicals.

Another resource is the membership-based Manufacturers' Agents National Association (MANA), which is an online source of information for companies that want to outsource their sales effort. The organization requires you to complete an application for associate membership. The annual dues are $549 and include access to the member area of the website, where you find the online directory, the contracts package, commission survey results, and an archive of Agency Sales magazine articles sorted by subject.

Membership also includes counseling and discounts on the seminars, ads, and printed publications. The online directory is a searchable database that allows you to identify agents by territory, product, or customers served.

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John Capela has taught marketing, management, and international business courses at St. Joseph's College in New York for 20 years. He is president of CADE International, which provides consulting and training in international business including importing, exporting, licensing, and foreign investment.

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