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A business agent is a person who manages some aspect of a company's affairs, generally by promoting, selling and distributing the company's products. They are commonly used in export businesses that want to sell their product in foreign markets but do not have offices or employees abroad. Business representation is a fairly competitive market, so you're going to need a strong letter of introduction if you wish to stand out from the crowd.
Are You a Good Fit as a Business Agent or C&F Agent?
Business agents, also called representative agents, usually work on commission. You don't get paid a salary, just a percentage of what you sell. As such, most agents stick with products, industries and geographies they know really well so they can shift product quickly to local buyers with whom they have strong working relationships.
The first step is to do your research. Is the company you're targeting a good fit for you? Are they looking for the type of services you offer? Some businesses will be looking for authorized retailers who actively sell the product in the target market.
Others may be looking for a customs clearing and forwarding agent (C&F agent) who can provide shipping and storage options and expertise in getting products through customs. It's common to hire a C&F agent for the FMCG industry and pharmaceuticals to optimize distribution, for example, and this requires a different skill set.
To Whom Should You Write?
Assuming the company is a good fit, the next step is to think about to whom you need to write. If the business is small, you may write to the owner. For larger businesses, you should dig around and find the name of the sales director. For a proposal letter for a C&F agent, finding the name of the logistics manager is probably your best bet.
Always address the recipient by name since it shows that you've done your research, and you've learned a little something about the company with which you wish to partner. LinkedIn is a tremendous resource for locating names and contact details.
Start your letter with a formal salutation, addressing the recipient by name. The salutation in business letters uses a colon. "Dear Mr. Jones:" is an acceptable salutation.
Who Are You and What Do You Do?
Identify yourself and tell the recipient why you are writing. How long have you been working in this line of business? What experience do you have? For example, you might say, "I would like to introduce my company [name] and let you know that we are interested in selling your [product] at our venue located in [country]. We have been in business for [X] years and currently have annual sales of [X] by selling [explanation of current product line]."
Keep this section very short – no more than three or four sentences. The meat of the letter comes in the next section. This is just a short elevator pitch to set the tone.
If you have met the recipient previously, now is a good time to mention it. For instance, you could write, "We met at the Saudi Arabia Medlab expo in Riyadh last year."
What's In It for the Business?
This section is crucial, as you're going to demonstrate exactly why the company should choose you to be its business agent over all the other contenders. The recipient is going to be thinking,"What's in it for me?" Be sure to answer that question. Here are some things to consider:
- How exactly will you generate business and achieve sales if you were chosen as the representative agent?
- What goals or targets could you meet?
- How would you sell the product or service? Do you understand how it is superior to other products on the market?
- What are your networks like?
- What sales figures have you achieved for other clients?
- What accolades or awards have you won?
In short, tell the recipient why she should choose you and only you to be the company's business agent. Direct the reader to your testimonials and/or include information on where the reader can learn more about your services. Finish with a clear call to action – what you want the recipient to do next and when. For example, you might say, "I would like to schedule 20 minutes of your time to discuss this proposal further. Would next Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. be a good time to call?"
Things to Leave Out
Using a business agent can provide businesses with many of the benefits of having a satellite office in an unfamiliar market without incurring large costs. The downside is that most agents handle many different accounts. Some may be complementary to the company's products, while others may compete.
At this stage, you want to avoid mentioning competing products or clients in your letter of intent for distributorship or sales. The recipient will be conscious of conflicts of interest, so it's best to wait until you speak with the sales director before mentioning anything that could throw up a red flag.
A former real estate lawyer, Jayne Thompson writes about law, business and corporate communications, drawing on 17 years’ experience in the legal sector. She holds a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Birmingham and a Masters in International Law from the University of East London.