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7 soft skills needed for sourcing China suppliers

By Jacob Yount

In sourcing China suppliers, every importer should make use of these tools. No, I’m not talking Black & Decker but soft skills needed for better supplier sourcing and navigation.

7 Soft Skills for Sourcing China Suppliers – Firm Up!

Have these tools in your arsenal.

Patience: Be slow to react. Remember, in China sourcing, don’t get immediately happy over good news or immediately discouraged over bad news. Information in China can change on a dime.

When sourcing China suppliers, be patient with their actions. Suppliers, because of culture differences, can say and do weird things…at least from your perspective.

Don’t lose patience and become emotional.

Product Knowledge: You should have sufficient knowledge of your own product.

When sourcing China suppliers, a supplier will ask questions and will need for the buyer to fill in the blanks. If you are unable to answer questions, it makes it all the more difficult for the supplier to work with you.

People Skills:  Not necessarily being able to light up a room, but having an understanding of people.

Supplier sales contacts are people.

Factory workers are people. Having an understanding of WHY people do what they do, will help you in knowing what may happen if you make certain decisions with your order.

As an importer, are you motivating to your supplier counterpart or do they dread handling your projects?

Projects that are a dread lead to bad results.

Communication: A wise importer takes initiative in communication. They do not wait for updates but obtain necessary information.

Many new importers lament why they do not receive answers from the 5 suppliers they contacted.When sourcing China suppliers for a project, effective communication leads to swifter and more thorough answers.

Always expect some back-and-forth, but with this communication tool, you decrease going around the same issue over and over.

Discernment / Ability to Analyze:  A China importer whose tools are sharp is able to look at information from a new supplier and determine if it’s credible.

In China sourcing, what’s not being said is just as critical as what was said.

The sharp importer can discern if this supplier is able to handle the project and not simply because the supplier “said they could”.

Foresight: An importer who has foresight knows what will happen next with a certain supplier.

“If I choose this supplier, here are the pros and here are the cons. Here are the possible problems that may arise, therefore, I need to make provision for this weakness. This supplier doesn’t seem to be able to achieve a fast delivery, so I won’t bring them my most urgent jobs”.

Organization:  Not having this tool makes all the other tools obsolete. Having organization lets you keep the suppliers’ capabilities in your sight.

Organization means knowing what supplier was able to offer what.

If you rely only on the supplier to be organized, what happens when that supplier falls through and you have to change vendors? All records and data are no longer clarified in your own files. I’ve seen too many importers rely a vendor to be their database of knowledge instead of creating their own mount of knowledge.

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There seems to be a misconception, especially with new buyers, that the buyer is able to act and function in any sort of manner and whatever errors, poor service and bad quality that results is solely the fault of the supplier.

When you have these soft skills in your tool belt, sourcing China suppliers is no longer throwing noodles on the wall to see what sticks, but becomes a real process out of which you will benefit and gain more knowledge of your business.


Jacob Yount lived in China from 2001 to 2012, during which time he started JLmade. He is now based out of North Carolina in the US and his home office is still in Suzhou, China; manufacturing and exporting branded merchandise, promotional products and retail gifts for distributors worldwide. Contact Jacob at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or find him on his blog.

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