If you need support in analysing or developing the French market, it’s important to make the right decision by recruiting a professional. But have you thought about the limitations of standard solutions?
Your salesperson has a thorough understanding of the company and its products; you trust him/her, but his/her travel expenses are high, especially when meetings are cancelled or postponed. French customers are more willing to trust suppliers who they see very frequently. Culturally, personal contact is very important. Regular contact is also a way to beat the competition.
Furthermore, you need a good command of French, since your French contacts will sometimes have little command of English; their communication will be restricted to very basic, technical matters. Communicating in French will allow you to negotiate more effectively and obtain more detailed information.
Finally, different approaches to work can give rise to mutual misunderstanding and waste time. Knowledge of different cultures helps smooth out these differences.
This is an investment: it means hiring a recruitment firm and a law firm to draw up a French employment contract and manage your payroll and social security contributions.
However, France’s rigid labour laws make it difficult to adjust working hours to suit business requirements. The choice is full time or nothing. A decline in workload, a change of strategic focus or an efficiency problem can force you to lay off your employee, which is complicated and can become expensive: the employee could challenge your decision before an industrial tribunal.
At first glance, this is the cheapest solution. An agent knows the market well and is only paid for the contracts he/she wins.
However, since an agent is only interested in short-term sales within his/her area, he/she will not be a team player within your sales team. In the globalised markets in which we operate, he/she might not inform you of opportunities that fall outside his/her area.
Finally, the status of sales agent is regulated in France. An agent owns his/her customer relationships: since he/she is not required to provide you with any customer contact details, if you terminate your contract with the agent, you lose contact with your customers. Furthermore, a sales agent is entitled to commissions on the business he/she has won, even several years after his/her contract is terminated.