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What Does an Export Agent Do?

An export agent arranges the delivery of goods to another county.
Export agents makes sure the transaction process runs smoothly.
An export agent acts as a middleman between a company that has a product that it wants to export and a foreign company that would like to import that product.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2014
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An export agent is a person who acts as a middleman between a company that has a product it wants to export and a foreign company that would like to import that product. He helps set up the transaction and make sure that everything goes smoothly, which often includes the shipment of the product. In exchange for his help with these transactions, he usually receives a commission. This can translate into a significant amount of money when a person is working with multiple companies or even a single company that has many products to export.

There are many types of products an export agent may handle. For example, he may deal in the exportation of everything from light bulbs to furnishings. Some people in this field help companies export a wide range of products while others may specialize in a single type of product. The choice is usually up to the agent, with one exception. If exporting a particular product is prohibited by law, he cannot legally help to arrange its exportation.

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An export agent also has some choices in how involved he is in the export process. For example, some are minimally involved. They match buyers with sellers and help to make sure the sale is complete. Then, they collect their commission. Others, on the other hand, handle not only the the transaction, but also the shipping of the product from one country to another. In many cases, this involves arranging freight with a company that handles overseas shipments.

Often, export agents spend a significant amount of time performing research. This may involve finding new markets in need of products and companies capable of producing large quantities of in-demand items. Many join trade organizations and export associations to stay abreast of the business, network, and get leads. Additionally, an export agent may spend a significant amount of time studying export laws and creating contracts and invoices for his clients.

To become an export agent, a person may train himself by reading books about the business; some may take courses or go to work for established exporters in order to gain experience. In most cases, a person who wants to start this business also needs business licensing. He usually needs an office or at least a space to work and keep records as well. This doesn’t have to be a commercial space, however. Many export agents work from home.

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Discuss this Article

anon355951
Post 16

Does anyone know where to find a database of sales agents in fashion/luxury for Asia/China?

anon351156
Post 15

If you are Canadian you should look at CIFFA for proper training and certification. I just passed my exam today for this at Eastern College in Halifax with their Supply Chain and Logistics course. It is the first of it's kind here.

anon348634
Post 14

I am a fashion buyer for a couture store and am now looking to become an independent buying agent. Can anybody tell me what is the approximate percentage the agent charges from the exporter.

anon316481
Post 11

Can anyone tell me how do I earn a commission without setting up the company? I'm an individual that had linked two companies for a business deal. My problem is should I put the commission that I won in the final price? If so, how? Or, should I set up an agency company under my name and create a legal binding contract that both companies should pay this price for my company as a commission fee for each transaction. I'm afraid that they would meet directly in the future without using me as the middleman.

jameschan6
Post 10

There are no hard and fast rules on how an export agent conducts business. In the end, it depends on the unique arrangement between an agent and the manufacturer.

I began exporting American-made products to Asia in 1981, when I got a job as China Area Manager and later International Sales Promotion Manager for a Fortune 500 company in New York City. This is my 32nd year of hiring and managing sales agents for various U.S. manufacturers and service providers. Exporting is a profitable but challenging career.

A good export agent has to be a good sales person and a good judge of human character. The rest is practice.

ImExExpert
Post 9

The best way to get started is to learn as much as you can. There are many business schools and colleges that offer education and certification courses. You will also need a website and an email associated with your website. Nothing screams "unprofessional" more than approaching a customer with a free email account.

Most of the importers and exporters I work with work from home, and that is very acceptable. Get a good office phone with an international calling plan. The government has many resources available to help American businesses enter the global marketplace. You can work as a commissioned sales agent. The company you represent pays you a commission as you have agreed upon, but make sure you have a binding agreement in place that discloses your commission and how and when you get paid.

anon290751
Post 8

Can anyone help please? I'm helping as middle man for someone buying items from China, and have added my commission to the final price. How do I get my commission paid, and when?

anon286696
Post 7

Who pays the export agent?

ALevine
Post 5

@Animalz - If you're mainly dealing with Chinese companies, would that require you to work through the night (assuming you're based in the U.S.)? That's another thing to think about. Working at home is great, as long as you put in the required hours and keep in mind that different time zones mean variable work times.

LTimmins
Post 4

@smartypants - You've already posted some great info on becoming an export agent! It definitely helps to speak a foreign language, since that is one of the main barriers which lead to companies requiring a middle-man. One way to get started is to research products that are in high demand in your area and find reputable companies to deal with. There are quite a few sketchy organizations out there, so stay safe. If you check around online, you can find several trade export magazines. They're a really helpful source for the latest exporting news and buying trends.

Animalz
Post 3

@smartypantz – You’ve done a lot of research. Nice explanation. I’m a sales agent with an import export company. It’s my job to get trade leads from foreign companies. I speak fluent Chinese, so I get a lot of leads from China.

My job is to basically call Chinese companies and see if they would like to export any of their goods to the USA. When I find interested companies, I give their contact information to my employer’s trade management department, and they work out a trade deal.

I’m mentioning this because you and parklinkz both said you want to get into international trade and work at home. I do my job from home, and I love what I do. I get paid commission on every lead I get that turns into a contract. I make very good money.

If you’re interested in getting into the business, I think starting off as a sales agent is a great way to do so. You’ll gain experience that will help you when you go into business for yourself.

smartypantz
Post 2

@parklinkz – I’m looking into import export agent training myself. I also want to do what you’re looking to do. I live in the middle of nowhere, so I’ve been looking into how to do this from home, too. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

For beginners like you and me, it’s best to import goods from another country to your own, instead of exporting them. It’s best to start part-time, and you need good communication skills. If you only speak English, you’ll need to deal primarily with large and medium sized companies, because most of them have employees who speak English, even if they don’t live in an English-speaking country. The smaller companies usually don’t have any English-speaking employees.

If you’re importing into your country, you don’t really need any certifications. A business license is a good idea, though, especially for tax purposes. Also, having a business name on your stationary and emails makes you more creditable.

After you set up all that, start contacting foreign companies. Start by making small deals, then scale up to larger ones as you gain experience.

I hope that helps you out. Good luck!

parklinkz
Post 1

Can anyone tell me exactly how to become an import export agent? I would prefer information that tells me how to do this from my house. I live in a big city and office space is ridiculously expensive. How do I get certified and licensed?

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