Hi Smart Garment Exporter, welcome back.
I’ve been dying to talk about this topic – all about adding an agent for your garment export business – and today we’re switching things up.
So, I thought you know what – I’m going to continue that mini-series… and I give you even more insights.
Oh, wait. Did we not meet? I’m Heike Siegel from Germany. I used to represent Indian knitwear exporter for 25 years in Europe and generated many millions fob.
So here we go…
3 types of profitable ways to work with a European business developer (and how to choose the best for your business)
If you have been thinking about adding a business developer, agent, sales rep, marketing country manager (so many words for pretty much the same thing) for a while...
or maybe you’re just starting to entertain the idea of adding an external partner to your garment export business. Then this my friend, is the perfect mini-series for you.
And the fun part?
I’m going to tell you about my own experiences and what I learned from my mistakes.
And you will see how creative you can go about choosing a cooperation system that works best for you.
I don’t want you to wait any longer, let’s go ahead and tune in…
You might be asking:
How can you even stand out when so many people are looking for an agent abroad?
The reason why so many exporters want to work with agents abroad is – because it works.
A sales agent with a solid understanding of the apparel business who really wants to make it happen, who is well connected in the local market - can help you double or triple your turnover quickly.
That’s the number one reason why many exporters are looking to add an agent in different countries.
And the second major benefit of working with independent sales reps is the ability to tap into their existing network of contacts.
And if you ask like: "So many exporters are searching for a partner - how can I find somebody? Aren’t they taken already?"
You are unique
And what I say is this:
They are not you.
The way YOU run your business, the way YOU communicate, the way YOU set things up – you are a unique and a totally different exporter than everybody on this planet and you attract different agents.
And that’s why it works.
I suggest you put blinders on and run your own race here.
Pick a reason
This question I asked a number of sales representatives and business developers on my database.
"What is the MOST important thing for you as a business developer with the company you represent?"
Let's keep it simple.
... they say things like:
- Honesty and trust, reliability.
- Good relationships.
- Smooth communication and support (marketing material and samples) from the company's side, organization of the company in every aspect.
And things along those lines...
So I would hate for you to give up early – you see, it’s also about soft skills not only about the biggest factory.
A motivated, effective, and creative sales agent abroad can change your entire business.
So the 3 types of profitable cooperation with a salesperson abroad. And how to choose the best one for your business.
Let's go through these three types:
the independent agent or business developer
The half independent sales representative
The appointed country manager
Now, here’s what’s cool about all of these cooperation options:
You get to decide on all of these types of cooperation as long as your customers are ready to cooperate with your salesperson abroad - and we got to talk about that in the first video if this series. (If you haven’t watch that –go back and watch it first.)
And even if you started out relatively fresh – you can create a more robust business which working with a salaried sales representative abroad - we will get there.
Or you might decide: “I want to start out a little bit easier.”– which of course then would be working with an independent agent.
So, no matter where you are in your garment export journey...
one of these types of cooperation is going to be a really good fit for you.
Working with sales reps in another territory is a fantastic way to not only grow your business but gain access to areas of the market that your company might have struggled with earlier.
What makes this little mini-training extra special is that I’m going to give you examples from my own way of working, to show you what I’ve done - just to spark a little creativity and get those ideas kind of going for you.
Cool? Ok. Let’s get back to it.
I forgot to tell you I do have a freebie in case you don’t want to take notes but remember all of this. You can get it here Sales Booster Starter Kid.
FREE RESOURCE: I included the 3 types of cooperation in this free resource but I also included what are going to STOP doing in your business once you're generating revenue with your European business developer. This is really important because that's a part of the big picture of your garment export business.
Regarding the to-dos of your agent
Okay. Just for the record, these types of cooperation are just the “frame” ... regarding the to-do's - like what you want them to accomplish and do, their tasks– it can be all the same for all three ways to work together.
Here's the first type of cooperation, again - the borders are fluent.
The independent sales agent
(You can also say sales representative, business developer, country manager, and all of these names. To make it easy we’re now calling this style of cooperation “sales agent”, ok?)
This might be a jumping-off point for you.
An agent is a really great place to start - if you just want to kind of get your feet wet with having an external sales booster for products that you are really really good at.
Think this way: They will help you produce valuable results that can lead to bigger results if they keep going.
- Usually it’s one person or 1 person with a team of people running their own company. When I started off it was just me and my father – the two of us. Then business grew, my father retired, and I built a team of up to 10 people helping me, mainly for administration and design. When your turnover is growing you can do that easily. So, you get to decide if you want to work with 1 person or a person who has a team of people.
- Typically, they work with a couple or a handful of different suppliers. Like they might have a knitwear factory they cooperate with, a company that’s a denim specialist as well they might also deal with home textiles. Some might split like they have a partner in Bangladesh, India, China and in Pakistan, even if some products do overlap.
- Normally they work 100% on commission.
- In general, they pay for all of their business expenses themselves.
- Usually, the commission agreement is little higher. Typically, they ask for 3%-7%. I had people offering me 15% which I felt is really unrealistic. (I mean who can add 15% in the price nowadays?) ... so, if you stay with 3-7% you’re well on your way, I think.
This means that hiring a sales agent can cost next to nothing to start with. And the products they sell first will cover all the money you’ll pay them.
You can manage cash flow more effectively as you are only paying on closed business and shipped bulk orders.
This is a great way- just to get going.
That’s exactly how I got started. I started in my career as an independent agent, and I was 100% on commission. You might be wondering what are some of the pros and cons of working with an independent agent?
Let me show you.
First of all some pros:
Might be that an agent can be added to your business without too much effort. They are a lot easier to set up.
You don’t have to invest a lot of money upfront. One of the biggest advantages is that cooperating with an agent doesn’t require a lot of up-front risks. Because they are usually 100% on commission and will not be a cost factor for you.
A bit at the beginning yes, samples and stuff, but the ROI is quick.
Now here’s one of the cons:
Here’s a caveat to this - if you’re looking for exceptional sales agent talent you are probably not going to be able to just hire them – they are probably not all going to come to you.
The truth is you’re going to have a bit of sales power yourself – or to get help from a recruiter - to actually get that amazing sales agent.
So what I see garment exporters do is they just hope to get these amazing sales agents to work for them – but the problem is that somebody who is really amazing at sales, in this trade for years and well connected with retailers and brands – you can’t convince them easily because they’re making a ton of money – they are earning an insane amount of money.
And they have offers left and right.
And the next point might be they are independent. You only have so much control.
However, I think that’s the greatest thing to ease into an abroad cooperation.
So, I feel like there’re so many pros that they definitely out way the con. It might not start with a huge turnover in the first year, however, if you start this cooperation, let’s say if your agent generates 1 Million in the first year.
Like just starting out – simple – your agent can definitely generate more than 1 million per year - but I’m just being very conservative about what that might look like.
It might not be the best turnover on the planet but let’s say you and your agent start to create momentum and you’re learning the ropes of handling an agent – you’re getting used to this type of business you get better at it – well what if you did that with more countries?
Pretty cool, right?
I want to bring you into the next type of cooperation you can create for your business.
This one I want you to think about… if this is something you think you can do in your business. Like, if you have an idea for this next one.
Are you ready?
We will call this type the:
Half independent sales representative
(These are all no official terms; I’m just naming them here. Again – we could also name this type of cooperation like a sales agent, business developer, country manager, and so on.)
So here the cooperation is getting for both partners a bit deeper because both partners have more skin in the game.
- It can be also one person or 1 person with a team of people.
- They might, or they might not work with a couple or a handful of different suppliers. At least with non-competing product lines. So you‘ll have more attention from them for YOUR business.
- Payment method is usually a commission plus a monthly retainer. And some costs will be shared.
- If a retainer is there and costs will get shared - with that usually the commission is a little bit less.
Now what’s really cool about the half-dependent sales rep is that your cooperation is closer. Why closer? Both are more committed to each other...
It’s a bit tighter than the loose cooperation with a totally independent agent.
If you have an idea for a half-dependent sales rep- what might it look like? I want you to get these ideas going...
If you get a half-dependent sales rep, what might it look like in your business?
Ok, pros and cons…
First, let's tap into the pros:
… it allows you to have a bit more commitment on both sides and since you want your business to seriously take a big step further – this can lead to stable long-term cooperation.
And you can still calculate the return on your investment per month. I know exporters and sales reps likewise who are very happy with this type of agreement, and they make both lots of money.
This type of cooperation is a fantastic way to represent your company in front of your customers. A sales agent might be tempted to promote themselves a bit more rather than the supplier – a sales rep might be better in highlighting YOUR expertise.
They might work with less pressure because they have a basic income at least.
This can show in the way how they treat your customers. An agent gets money only if they sell – so I know agents who can go overboard with press-selling which fires back easily.
Something to think about.
About the cons.
Yes, a con might be the monthly fix costs. And that you can hardly calculate that easily at the beginning.
In total, I love this type of cooperation – I don’t think you need to start there – but it’s a great way to have somebody really committed to working for you and you can make money faster without having to pay like a salary.
Still, the main portion of the payment is the commission – so that way you can calculate your investment as you go.
Plus, you can request that at least in your product group your sales rep is not representing any competitors’ companies offering the same product groups. Like you’re the only person for knitwear. Or jackets. Or underwear.
Moving on... how about the:
Country manager or branch office abroad
Let’s get to that.
An appointed country manager is the most committed of all these three types of cooperation.
- You have the saying from start to finish, it’s not an independent company, this person is an employee of your own team.
- It includes a fixed salary and is like your other employees only they do their stuff in another country. I mean, if you have somebody in selling you should always add a commission factor – just to get better results and make money more quickly – but I’m sure you would consider that anyway.
Yes, this system can also lead to a total transformation of your business.
Now - I want to give you some pros and cons of an appointed country manager.
I think there are a lot of pros.
One, because it’s your own employee you get to have full guidance about literally everything. They don’t have their own business - it’s yours.
You can pay a salary that you think it’s worth it.
What you’re avoiding with this system is for example your independent sales rep works with several suppliers. One of them is increasing their commission percentage or the monthly retainer – immediately your sales will suffer because your independent agent will put her/his time, energy, and focus in this other project.
With having your own person this cannot happen. – With this system, you ensure that they will always keep your product highest on their priority list.
Also, this sales guy abroad can be a full replacement for a sales guy you would have in your own country.
And this type of cooperation establishes your authority the most and can launch you into another game-changing level as a factory or a buying house owner.
It’s genuinely life-changing to have a person abroad that works only for you over and over again.
Now the con is
... that it takes the most effort of all cooperation types. And at times it feels riskier because it’s a big project to tackle.
So, you might not want to go so big so quickly. – ... but it is something to aspire to for sure.
Just stay with it
Now, I’m really big on baby steps.
Like I told you, I started being 100% on commission and I stayed with that.
Now let me share something that is really cool with you.
The first time I really got an order from a major German retailer – I made 15.000 euro.
I thought that… I mean … I made 15.000 euro… with one order… that’s a lot of money!
I remember looking at my father and I just couldn’t believe how easy that was.
It was a really exciting day for me.
But after we got this German fashion chain on board I thought like:
“You know what – we can get more customers like that…!”
So, I approached new customers again.
And I approached new customers again.
And over of about 1 year, I generated about 1 million fob. In the first year.
Why I’m telling you this is when you find the sales agent, sales representative, or country manager that is really working for you and just continue to work with that person.
You don’t add something, you just continue to do what’s working – with every season you’ll get better and better, and so having a year where you’re making 9 million dollars in turnover – just from one agent alone – is life-changing.
You don’t need a bunch of sales agents abroad – one committed salesperson can actually get you to a million dollars.
How much impact can you create?
One of my members who went through my training course Easy Enter Academy for Garment Exporter said to me:
“To be honest Heike, I know now what to do to get buyers for my factory – I could do it– but I’m not really loving it. I don’t love traveling and stuff - even I can do it – it’s not working for me because I’m not loving at all to SELL.”
You might be like: “Ohhh- that’s not me, I love to sell!” ... everybody has her/his own.
So, I just want to tell you that – because I believe as entrepreneurs, we try to do way too much.
Too many spinning wheels in the air, we sometimes get burned out.
I believe if you create an abroad sales booster in a foreign territory in your business – preferably in your target markets’ country – and you continue to make this cooperation stronger – if it is with an independent agent, a half independent sales rep or with an appointed country manager, you can have consistent revenue with consistent shipments going out.
So that you’re not feeling pulled in a million directions.
I just hope that you really – if you’ve never worked with a sales agent abroad – stick with me because this is definitely my expertise.
I really hope you give yourself the opportunity to explore what this type of cooperation might look like in your business.
Right now you might be doing the selling part on your own – but imagine what you could do if you just add that on top of your own selling power?
How many customers you could reach how much impact and how many lives you could change?
Pretty amazing, right?
Just something to keep in mind.
So here’s my question to you
if I gave you these three types of sales boosters again
- independent agent
- half independent sales rep
- appointed country manager
... tell me which one fits where you are right now and what your customers would really want from you?
Now I need to tell you something that might take all the stress off your back
That really allows you to breathe a little bit easier and makes you really look forward to what’s to come.
I told you I’ve worked for 25 years as a sales agent.
100% on commission, totally independent company legally.
Surprisingly enough, I worked only for one single company, no other company.
Just as if I worked like an appointed country manager – but I wasn’t. In total, I put all my energy and every second into one single company that I represented. I promoted only them. Them alone.
So, you might think – hey Heike then you’re the jackpot – let’s be real here.
I did that because it was paying off.
For all of us. Customers were happy, I loved my team in India.
For sure - I could have worked with more suppliers.
For me, it was just a personality kind of thing. I want the feeling to be “all in” in one company, I enjoyed putting all my energy into one company and see it grow – I don’t know - it somehow didn’t feel right in my gut to represent many factories – but heck, I could have done that.
And would I have earned more money with having multiple companies that I represented?
Maybe yes. Maybe no.
We were able to make improvements year after year, we earned all good money – I had more than enough work on my plate – why would I add more to that?
Ok ok, I know this is a bit of a bummer to what I said earlier.
I’m telling you my personal story because my last point is this:
Nothing is edged in stone
With this way of working, you like to establish a win-win situation. For yourself, your customers, and your agent.
I know many of my community members are creative and flexible by nature. You’ll make your way.
When you have money coming in with your person who gets orders for you abroad – now you get to think about what do I want to do and what do I not what to do?
So for you now a FREE RESOURCE. And I want you to get your hands on that.
OK, stop me now.
The answer is, I love all types of abroad sales boosters. I love how they can make orders, loyal customers, and money for you without you having to be showered or even awake.
So, thank you very much for being here, I cannot wait to see you soon.
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