Three Steps to Find your Partner: 2. Develop a list of Potential International Business Partners, Distributors or Agents.

In our first step, we created the profile of our ideal international partner. The profile includes requirements regarding such criteria as financial strength, market access, technical expertise and cultural fit. Our second step is to develop a list of potential International Business Partners.

As part of the ideal profile you have also determined whether you want to work with an agent or a distributor. This choice has also influenced the criteria of your ideal partner. If you choose for a distributor you will obviously have significantly higher financial requirements for instance. You may also require they have a service department.

Finding Potential International Business Partners


Your Country’s Trade Promotion Agency

A good place to start looking for a distributor or an agent is your country’s foreign service. Your country most probably has a diplomatic presence in the country you want to sell into (if not, make sure to find out why: it may be a very strong indication that you should not be selling nto this country – for reasons of political stability, embargo’s etc…).

Most countries diplomatic missions want to support their home country companies with exporting goods and services. Obviously there is only so much they can help with, but two area’s where these diplomatic missions can help with are market research and finding of partners.
Links to several government websites that promote Foreign Trade

Market research is often expensive, especially when you need to research a very specific niche. Even when you are looking for more general data, research can still be expensive. But a particular Government’s Trade Department may have decided to invest in the purchase of a trade study or database and make the data available to companies that can benefit from access to the data.

These types of market studies sometimes include the names of comanies active in your specific market. Certainly the kind of information you are now eager to get.

Government Trade missions often have access to large databases of companies in the country you want to sell, and can search for companies that come close to the ideal profile you created in the first step.

Other, Equally Useful Avenues

But there are several other places you should go look for potential International Business Partners:

  • If you already have customers or potential customers in the traget market, contact them and ask them from whom and where they would prefer to purchase your products from. Chances are your customer’s requirements of the ideal vendor has much in common with your list of criteria for the ideal International Business partner you are looking for.
  • Plan on visiting an industry Trade Show in the country you are targeting. If there is such a show you will have a chance to learn about your competitors, the distribution channels that serve your market and you’ll have a chance to meet some customers. Unfortunately, chances are that not each country hosts a show that targets your industry. Often there is only one such show per continent.
  • Find the trade associations in the target country, that align with your company’s products and services. Contact them and ask them for advice. They are typically well connected and know the market you target inside out.
  • Research your competitors. Sometimes companies list their foreign partners on their websites. You may want to consider making contact with these partners: maybe they want to jump ship, or add you as a second vendor.

I suggest you make a list of potential International Business Partners with 5-10 candidates. You will want to compare this list with the criteria you developed describing your ideal Partner, Distributor or Agent. We’ll explain how you can go about this in Step 3, and whittle the list down to 2 or 3 candidates, then make a final decision.

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