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What an unmotivated contact tells you about a Chinese supplier

by David Chen

Have you ever worked with a Chinese supplier contact who seems to be very unresponsive to your concerns? He might be causing you a lot of headaches but you had to continue working with him. The supplier had good facility and the product you were looking for. It was just very difficult to deal with it because of your contact’s lack of motivation.

He only provided minimal support when you ask specifically what you needed to move on. What was worse was that you had to remind him of the request if you ever wanted to get it done. He never thought of going one single extra mile. He said right to your face that you were the most picky customer he had ever served, when you asked him to redo a very tiny thing. What a nightmare.

This guy should have been fired by his boss but he was not. He was in this position for a longer time than you could ever imagine, were it a company in a comprehensible sense.

Beware, you are dealing with a problematic company. Such sort of behaviors could stem from multiple causes.

You are not the type of customer whose requirement is compatible with the supplier’s usual mode of operations. It causes the supplier contact to feel that it takes more sweats for him to support than the “normal” type of customers he deals with. A supplier who exports to Africa most of the time would scratch their heads when he deals with a customer from more developed world where he has to provide support in certification, labeling, customization, accuracy in wording etc.

The supplier does not provide the right incentives for their sales representatives. This would become a huge problem for the importer in the long run because he just could not get the needed support from an unmotivated supplier contact.

The factory/trading company you are dealing with is not well managed. A person without the right authority is assigned to customers. He is not able to allocate the resources in his company to support his customer and gradually he loses his patience to care his customers. You do not ever expect resourceful support from such a supplier.

Nepotism exists in this supplier. You could be dealing with the boss’s nephew who really does not need to worry about his promotion or job security. You could imagine that there is someone like him in the material procurement department, quality management team and anywhere in this company.

The behavior of an unmotivated supplier contact is a red flag. As an importer sourcing from China, one should take care to look for the causes behind it. Consider switching from the suppliers if you feel that the situation tends to continue and there is just no way to change their way of doing things.

David Chen is the co-founder and account manager at Sourcing Spectrum, a sourcing agency dedicated to helping overseas clients manage sources in China. Tips and information can be found at


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