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Unrealistic requests in China sourcing

by Jacob Yount

In China sourcing, a good way to hurt your credibility with factories and potential supplier partners is to make unrealistic requests.

Unrealistic requests exist because of various reasons:

Passion:  You strive to get the best possible conditions and results in your China sourcing tactics. In doing so, you tend to exchange reality for zeal.

“I can’t believe the factory won’t take this order for a whopping $300.00 profit!”

“Are you sure you won’t spend time and energy accurately quoting me this customized item when you have no indication that I’m even going to order?”

Trickle down:  Many buyers simply pass along requests from their buyers or the higher-ups without thinking, filtering and analyzing.

I’ve seen too many emails to my company or to factories that buyers simply forward their clients’ request.

It’s more understandable that a big brand would ask something that shows lack of China sourcing know-how, or the bigwigs in the ivory towers, but when importers position themselves as “China sourcing experts”, there is less excuse for this lazy tactic.

Good ol’ fashion ignorance:  Lack of understanding of the project and how things work. You need to ask yourself questions when sending requests to your factories and vendors:

“Is this a job the factory would want and that benefits them? Does the required effort justify the margin the factory will make?”

“Is my required lead time realistic? Could a factory produce in this timing and quality be what I expect?”

“Why should the factory do this for me? Am I one of their loyal accounts? Can they expect repeat business after all the smoke clears?”

So what? What’s the downside? You asked for something, you tried and didn’t get it.

No harm, no foul, right?

WRONG. It hurts your credibility with your vendor.

What’s the outcome of these benign but silly requests? Besides the factory rolling their eyes, how can this hurt my China sourcing?

Lack of a motivation: Bridges are burnt this way and capable suppliers become unwilling to serve you. Suppliers you wish were in your database and who would extend favor to you may now prioritize your requests to the bottom of the heap. Internet sourcing and quickie Alibaba quotes shouldn’t be license to burn bridges.

In China souring, vendors also use discretion and rightly so. Don’t give them reason to recoil or not take your production seriously.Tiresome:  In China sourcing, you want vendors to appreciate your inquiries and to be glad to they heard from you. You want to be seen as a partner and potential business. But if a buyer is always asking something that’s off-the-charts difficult or impossible or naive everything is a negotiation, everything is a struggle…who wants to deal with that?

Makes the supplier look bad: In China, there is this thing called “face“. If you are always putting your supplier in a position to say “no”, they don’t like that. They may accept the request, provide poor effort and substandard quality. Western buyer is then completely confused…

To sum it all up, you want the factory to have a reasonable hope that you are going to bring business.

In China sourcing, if you’re bugging out and asking all sorts of 4-alarm-fire request, you don’t look like a client who can bring an order because you don’t look like you know what you are talking about.

The factory expects buyers to have some general understanding of the basics of the item they are hoping to manufacture.


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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