The Import Agent plays a major role in the international importing business. Many
companies require the services from someone who can assist them in acquiring raw
materials, semi-finished or finished goods from countries abroad. Through the use
of an Import Agent, the company can find the appropriate supplier much more efficiently
than if they had to conduct the search on their own.
Starting Out as an Import Agent
One of the benefits of starting out as an Import Agent is that it has minimum startup
costs. In fact, many Import Agents start out of their homes. You will need some
basic office equipment such as these items below.
Outfitting a home based Import Agent Business:
Computer with Internet access and some of these software: Contact Management Software
such as ACT!, Accounting Software (such as QuickBooks, Peachtree Accounting or Simply
Accounting), Word Processing & Spreadsheets (Microsoft Office), Graphics Software.
Fax, Printer, Office Furniture
Essentially, what you are selling is your knowledge, expertise and supplier connections
to your client. That’s why startup costs are minimum.
The Skill Set and Role of the Import Agent
To be a successful Import Agent, you will need to develop proficiencies in the following
Import and export processes, rules and regulations of the country that you are exporting
from and the country that you are importing to.
Product and Industry expertise of the areas that you wish to represent.
The politics and cultures of different countries.
How payments and financial transactions are made from a global perspective.
The role that the Import Agent plays may vary.
In addition to acting as the intermediary in bringing the supplier and the company
together, the Import Agent will likely need to process the order at customs and arrange
for shipping. This commissioned based activity is usually paid at around 5%.
Import Agents can take on a much broader role fulfilling multiple requirements as
a full service agency. This includes not only processing the order through customs
and arranging for shipping but also obtaining quotes from potential suppliers.
Some Import Agents may even warehouse the goods for the company.
As the levels of responsibilities increase, the commission goes up accordingly.
Types of Import Agents
The type of Import Agent is based on how the person gets paid:
Commissioned Import Agent - Acting as an intermediary, the Import Agent receives
a “commission” (usually based on a percentage) for a sale to a company.
Retained Import Agent - In this case, the Import Agent is paid a fixed amount to
represent a supplier to sell its goods over a fixed period of time.
Seven Import Agent Tips
As an Import Agent, you must consistently add value and deliver exceptional service
to your customers. If you don’t fulfill the needs of your customers, they can just
meet on their own leaving you out. You will then have lost business. Here are ways
to add customer value:
You deal directly with the overseas supplier. This relieves the burden from the
company that you are representing in your home country.
You arrange for shipping, processing, payment of the order. You almost become another
employee to your client.
You track the shipments and get an accurate arrival date for your client. You help
your client to continue to have adequate supplies.
You ask for favors from the shipping company to get a shipment arrive earlier. This
is huge if your client needs the goods faster.
You can arrange for pickup of the order at the port of entry and deliver it to your
client's warehouse facilities. Your client can concentrate on other aspects of his
or her business.
You may be able to offer your own warehousing services. This is manageable for you
and convenient for your customers if the inventory is small.
You may be able to offer credit to your client if you have established relationships
with the manufacturer. Convenience such as credit is just another way to keep your
customers for a long time.
Keeping some or all of these things in mind will help you become a successful Import