What to Ask Suppliers

22.08.2017 |

Episode #4 of the course Fundamentals of importing physical products from China by Damir Serbečić


Hey, it’s Damir with another value-packed lecture!

Today is a BIG day.

Finally, it’s time to start talking with suppliers!

This stage is very important because now you have an opportunity to ask about everything related to products and the ordering process.

At first, it is a good idea to have a list of questions prepared in advance. However, once talking with suppliers becomes routine, you’ll probably remember the most important ones.

Good communication is KEY for long-term relationships with suppliers. If you can’t communicate your needs clearly enough, you’ll end up with the wrong products. This is especially important if you intend to customize products.

While talking with suppliers, take notes about the following:

• How do they respond to your questions?

• How fast do they respond?

• How is their English?

• How do they solve problems?

• How do they understand your needs?

• How often are they available for questions on Skype, TradeManager, etc.?

Here is a list of the most important questions you should ask every new supplier, regardless of the industry:

• Do you have X product and will it be regularly available?

• Can you customize product X as per my requirements? (In case you are customizing it.)

• What are the product material specifications? What are the product dimensions? (Feel free to ask any product-related question, such as thickness, colors, etc.)

• Are there any associated fees with printing my own brand on the product? (Important if you are doing private labeling.)

• What is the price per unit based on X number of ordered products?

• What is the minimum order quantity for product X?

• Do you offer samples? Which payment method do you accept for samples?

• What is the average lead time? (Is there any way to speed it up? Can this timeframe be shortened/tightened up at all?)

• How does the ordering process work with you?

• Can you show proof of certificates [if needed] for products that need additional approvals, or that go in or on human body, as well as for baby products or pet supplies?

• What type of packaging do you offer? What are the dimensions and price? Can you provide me with some example images?

• Can you please provide packaging template files [dielines]? (So your designer can customize package design.)

• Have you shipped to [destination country]? Were there any specific customs requirements based on your experience?

• IMPORTANT: (Based on your preferred shipping method) Can you please quote me with and without [sea/air] shipping? (This question should be asked when you have roughly determined the number of units you are going to order. Make sure you know the name of destination sea port for sea shipping and destination city for air shipping. You’ll learn more about shipping methods in upcoming lectures.)

• What are the payment terms? Which payment methods do you accept? Can I pay 30% in advance and 70% immediately before the shipping? (More about payment methods in an upcoming lecture.)

• Do you accept Alibaba Trade Assurance?

• Are you comfortable with a third-party inspection company coming to your factory to double-check the products before you ship them?

Feel free to expand the list and note down every answer!

However, these questions are a must whenever talking with new suppliers.

I highly suggest that you talk with multiple suppliers so you can evaluate them based on their answers.

That’s it for now!

In the next lecture, we’ll discuss the process of ordering and analyzing product samples. This will be very exciting!

Talk to you tomorrow.





Recommended book

The One Hour China Book: Two Peking University Professors Explain All of China Business in Six Short Stories by Jeffrey Towson, Jonathan Woetzel


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