How to Communicate with Potential Suppliers?

If properly managed, sourcing from China can bring good profits, however, it’s crucial to work with good suppliers, or the whole business could be a disaster. This is a tricky process. In this article, we will advise you how to identify and communicate with potential suppliers.

1. Drawing your ideal supplier profile

Ask yourself a few questions:

Do you need a supplier with strong engineering capabilities (to develop new products)?

Do you need them to have a wide range of designs that you can choose from?

Do you want them to focus on low cost? Or on high quality?

How big should they be? This is a very important criterion. If your orders are not big enough (over 20K pcs per order), you might need to work with a sourcing company that will place your orders in a medium sized factory and follow production closely.

2. Go to online B2B directories and/or trade shows

If you can get the opportunity to go to a trade show (Canton Fair, HK Sourcing Fairs, and so on) that deals with your product category, go there. Ask a few open questions, the objective here is to eliminate any supplier that doesn’t fit with your ideal profile.

If you can’t physically get to a trade show, you will need to use B2B directories. Beware! They function like the yellow pages (suppliers who pay more, get their products featured more prominently). There is not as much effort to avoid listing bad apples as you might think.

Make sure you look at the information inside the profiles, to target only those suppliers that correspond to your ideal profile.

3. Motivate potential suppliers to respond to you

Most suppliers get too many inquiries and need to choose which ones they respond to. Here are a few tips to get their attention.

The first message should be short, less than 8 lines if possible (including the product description), and with a VERY CLEAR call to action (“get back to me if you want more information about our needs”).

If you have a product specification sheet, share it with them and get their feedback. You should expect them to ask questions about manufacturing, like material specification or, if they don’t accept your tolerances, etc., if they say, “it’s fine”, this is not always a good sign.

And then… Follow up fast in responding to their questions, and finalize your screening process within 5 days. After that, your inquiry, in their eyes, will have gone cold.

If possible, call them (most of them have a Skype account — it allows you to make calls for free if both parties are connected). Show that you are a real businessman and that you are investing your time to get to know them.