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Global Revolution: Find the Right Overseas Partner

Dream of seeing your product in stores around the world? Unless you have years of ... ... you'd be wise to find some overseas ... ... your ... with foreign

Dream of seeing your product in stores around the world? Unless you
have years of international experience, you'd be wise to find some
overseas distributors. Otherwise, your unfamiliarity with foreign
business customs could stall your efforts.

The most helpful distributors will buy products from you, then
warehouse, distribute, and sell them to customers. They'll also handle
customer service. (Note: These folks are not always called
distributors. In Japan, they're known as wholesalers.)

Networking among trusted business colleagues is the best way to find a
reputable distributor. If you don't have many overseas contacts, take
heart. The U.S. government offers an alphabet soup of programs that
are designed to help small business with this -- and many of them
actually work. The U.S. Department of Commerce (
offers a wealth of resources through the U.S. Export Assistant Center,
the International Trade Administration (, and
the U.S. Commercial Services (

Want to research potential markets? Contact the ITA's Commercial
Information Management System (CIMS), which collects data that will
help you track down your target customers. Ready to pair up with a
partner? Call the The Matchmakers Service, offered by both the DOC and
the ITA. It introduces new export companies to agents, distributors,
or large retailers with an interest in their products. Similarly, the
Agent Distributor Service finds qualified distribution firms that are
currently handling products similar to yours. An ADS search will
generate up to six names of distributors who have an interest in
specific U.S. products. Smaller companies with bigger budgets should
also check out The Gold Key Program, which will introduce you to pre-
screened potential business associates, whether you are seeking an
agent, a distributor, or a joint-venture partner.

Uncle Sam will also help you nail down the details of selling overseas.
Trade missions, for instance, will help new exporters establish sales
and set up representation abroad at a low cost. The DOC's Export
Contact List Service generates a mailing list of potential importers
for your product from the agency's automated global network of overseas

Once you have found a distributor, how do you find out if it's
reputable. First, secure an in-depth profile on your potential partner
through World Trade Data Reports. You can obtain one of these reports
through the ITA. Next, use Dun & Bradstreet's Business Identification
Service (, which will provide you with a credit
report and other financial information on the distributor. Finally,
contact the U.S. Embassy ( in
the country in which you hope to do business and run your prospective
customer's name by them, just in case they know anything. You'd be
surprised at how willing they are to help.

Once you've qualified several prospective distributorsBusiness Management Articles, I recommend
that you meet with each one and decide who comes closest to sharing
your views on market penetration. Then you'll be ready to talk

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Laurel Delaney runs a global marketing, consulting and web content
providing company aimed at entrepreneurs and small businesses. She is
also the creator of the much-talked about "Borderbuster," monthly FREE
newsletter. She can be reached at or visit to sign up for newsletter.

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