Market agents – a special breed

An agent on the Durban Market recently made an interesting remark to me.

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“To be a market agent you can’t be human,” he said. Of course, he had his tongue firmly in his cheek. But it set me thinking about market agents and the role they play.

In my training classes, one of the subjects I cover is: ‘What is the perfect market agent, as seen by a producer?’ There’s a list of about 14 items defining what producers expect from their market agents.

I won’t bore you with every item because what is not revealed are the many ‘characters’ you find among market agents. That is what my friend was alluding to. You’ll find them all under the roof of a market – the full spectrum of humanity. I always enjoy the colourful ones who can turn a simple conversation into a load of laughs or intrigue.

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Agents – target of criticism
On a market floor there’s no shortage of ‘material’ for any person observant enough to look and listen. You soon learn, however, that as entertaining as some of the stories are, they have to be taken with a pinch of salt.

On the negative side, market agents often have to endure harsh criticism from both producers and buyers. Sometimes this criticism is justified; many times it’s not. Being the man-in-the-middle often means being the easiest target for an irate client. And irate clients are not always right.

We tend to forget that market agents have to be on the market floor very early every morning, which means living a different life to most other people. They also carry a great deal of responsibility, because they are acting on behalf of their producers. Most of them will go to any length to satisfy their clients; despite this, some will be on the receiving end of a verbal attack from a client from time to time.

Work at getting the optimal relationship

Producers critical of market agents would do well to seriously reflect on their relationships with these people. Choosing the right market agent is never easy. It takes time, and there might be one or two changes along the way before the producer feels comfortable with an agent and settles into a meaningful trust relationship.

On the plus side, when a relationship between a producer and market agent ‘clicks’ into an efficient, profitable arrangement, there is no more powerful business tool.