Your distributor or agent in the Netherlands: how to find the best one?

Start with exports to The Netherlands

The Netherlands are a logistic import and exports hub for Europe and Amsterdam is an important junction for internet traffic and financial services. Apart from the Dutch language, English is commonly spoken and the country is open to doing business with foreign companies. Setting up a legal entity is relatively easy. The Dutch are rather direct, and expect their counterparts to be the same.

Looking for a distributor in the Netherlands?

Most of the people live in the Western provinces, also referred to as ‘Holland’ or the ‘Randstad’. The infrastructure is excellent, this makes that travel distances are limited. This means that you can cover most of the market from one location or (for retail) you only have to set up shop in the major cities.

Finding an agent or distributor requires a clear offering and to-the-point communications. The decisive part is getting to the right person first by phone, which is still difficult to do in English. Therefore translated introductory materials and a Dutch intermediary will be essential. Once you have a meeting, you can do further explanation yourself.

Alliance experts can find the right agent or distributor within 6 to 8 weeks

Alliance experts helps companies with entering new markets profitably. In the Netherlands we have 5 senior business development specialists each with their own expertise, such as retail, technical industries, IT, agriculture or biotech.

We have a clear and structured approach to find the best partner

We first want to know what kind of partner you are looking for. Based on your information, we make a long-list of 15-20 potential partners that fit your description. After your approval we find the right decision maker, approach him or her personally and share your business profile with them. This mostly leads to 3-5 companies who are suitable as your partner and interested in working with you. Once we have found these companies, we plan your meetings and accompany you during the first visits.


Netherlands’ vital data points

Population (million) 17,000,000
GDP (billion USD) 907.05
GDP per capita (USD) 52,331
GDP per capita PPP (USD) 61,285
Purchasing power per dollar, compared to the USA 91%
Surface area (sq km) 41,543
% of population living in urban areas 91.88%
% of GDP added by agriculture – industry – services 1.66% – 17.8% – 69.75%
Ease of doing business index (1 = best, 189 = lowest) 76.1

Business opportunities in the Netherlands

The Dutch are globally renowned for their technological expertise leading 60% of the Forbes top 2000 IT companies to set up shop in the Netherlands. The likes of Microsoft, Huawei, Intel, Google, IBM and Infosys have presence here owing to a hospitable tax structure and a highly capable workforce.

Although Netherlands’ foreign direct investment (FDI) slowed down in 2012, it picked up the trend in 2013 and has been improving since then. The country today presents  opportunities in many sectors, the most significant being:

  • Agroindustry
  • Metal and engineering products
  • Electrical machinery and equipment
  • Chemicals
  • Petroleum
  • Construction
  • Microelectronics
  • Fishing

What are Netherlands’ top export commodities?

  • Machinery and equipment
  • Chemicals
  • Fuels
  • Foodstuff

Other notable areas for which the Dutch are famous include:

  • Design in architecture, fashion, furniture, and lighting
  • Information technology – online and mobile applications and games
  • Traditional products such as flowers and legumes
  • Infrastructural components including the production of bridge harbours, dredging (hydraulic engineering, water resources management, maritime structures, coastal and river engineering, and flood risk management)

Netherlands’ political and economic structure

The Netherlands enjoys a constitutional monarchy system in which the head of state performs a vital role of uniting the parties, but he has no political power.

When you are in the Netherlands, you will need to take note of its national holidays such as King’s Day, Liberation Day, Ascension Day, Pentecost, etc. Sports is also an important part of the Dutch culture. Soccer, field hockey and volleyball are the most popular in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands is an open market with a developed infrastructure and communication system. The political situation is also stable, and the legal system is transparent and effective. The government also has a lot of support for foreign businesses. With tax rate lower than the EU’s average, the country is an attractive destination for international businesses. A complete marketing plan will help you understand the country and formulate your international expansion strategy.

Out of the population of 16.8 million people, 90.5% stay in the city. On average, Dutch people earn $27,888 per year, higher than OECD’s average ($25,908). The income distribution is pretty even, although it is notable that people in the western part are more well-to-do. Furthermore, senior citizens are also wealthier thanks to accumulating their assets throughout their life. 74% of people from 15 to 64 are employed. This is better than the OECD’s average of 65%.

What do you need to know about Dutch business culture?

In the Netherlands, people earn status and respect through study and work, not through their age or personal network. Therefore, everyone in this country is treated according to their earned status. This status depends largely on their creativity, ambition, drive or the aesthetic value of their product or design. There is an increasing tendency for the Dutch to connect and network either via social media or in real. In fact these days, their status is defined by their social reach and network.

Dutch people tend to consider all risks and consequences in everything they do. Their directness might be considered impolite in certain cultures like in Asia. Likewise, the Dutch are uncomfortable with extreme politeness.

Video: Doing business in the Netherlands: cultural aspects of a meeting



What are negotiation tactics in the Netherlands?

  • People in this country are excellent time-keepers. You need to be punctual for meetings. If you are late due to unexpected circumstances, you need to call ahead and inform your Dutch counterparts.
  • Dutch people stick to the agenda, and usually, a time-keeper will be assigned to keep everything on track.
  • They will want to listen to everyone’s opinions. Hence, the decision-making process can be long and complex.
  • To establish the initial relationship, it will be better if you get introduced by a third party. The purpose of the meeting needs to be clear.
  • Meetings should be planned two or even three weeks in advance.
  • During meetings, you are expected to be honest and share what you think. Dutch people will also share their opinions freely and directly.
  • Don’t get alarmed if you are asked how the meeting or negotiation is going so far, in the middle of a business interaction. Respond by saying that things are surely different in their country and you are willing to understand how they work.

How much is the contract worth in the Netherlands?

When you have received the contract, it will be appropriate to send them a letter of confirmation. Once everything has been discussed, your Dutch counterparts will expect you to abide by the formal contract. Regarding any changes or alterations in contract post signing, there needs to a compelling reason as a contract is valued greatly in the Netherlands.

What is Dutch legal system?

The Netherlands’ law system is based on civil law, governed by the Dutch Civil Code. The Dutch Code of Civil Procedure contains information about rules on civil procedures. When entering a contract one ought to accurately state the duties and responsibilities of the vendor party and the quality control methods.

Apart from which you need not be too aware or exercise precaution regarding the law related to contract or matters to do with conflict resolution. The Netherlands abides by and supports the rules of the Vienna Convention on International Contracts. Hence, the legalities of Switzerland, America and England are accepted here.


The Netherlands can be a perfect starting point for your business in Europe, or a further extension. Although in general you will not find too many obstacles, it is useful to have a local specialist advise you on the ways of doing business. This will speed up your market entry.

Contact me to assist me with my market entry in the Netherlands!

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