In recent months I have been looking for agents in the main European markets on behalf of companies in the most diverse fields. I have found that this type of search is becoming increasingly difficult. The job of agent, done in the traditional way, is becoming less profitable and therefore the number of agents available on the market is constantly shrinking.

I have three main approaches to finding an agent:

  1. My network of contacts
  2. Paid listings on dedicated web portals or on social networks (like Linkedin, Xing, etc.).
  3. A search on search engines like Google (but not only) with keywords in the target market’s language.

Using the key word “agent” in the various languages I discovered that it is no longer enough to just use this word to find agents through the web. The figure once known as agent has evolved in recent years and with it, too, the terminology that identifies it. Consultant, Key Account Manager, sales force, innovative partner with understanding of the sale, etc. It is with these descriptions that today’s agents often introduce themselves.

And this new label also brings with it a different way of being an agent.

The timeframe that is necessary to introduce a company into a new market gets longer and longer and often the agent asks the company for a willingness to invest: in marketing, in trade fairs, in products that are more suited to the new market, in logistics facilities to offer a better service, etc. And, finally, to guarantee a fixed salary (usually for 2 years) at least at the beginning so as to have a stable, guaranteed income for the work he will do while waiting for the company to begin issuing the invoices for their first sales.

Most Italian companies turn a deaf ear to this request: “This guy wants to milk us and will end up not doing anything”. I do not deny that there are people like this, too. But often this request arises from an increasingly difficult and competitive market – as well as from the agent’s experience – that often companies have no intention of making the investments that the markets now require.

My advice is simple: properly (and fairly) evaluate the person you are considering. Trust your intuition but also ask for information from the other companies that this agent represents. If the information and impressions are good then invest in this person. But don’t abandon them, though. Otherwise it’s just money down the drain.