by Jacob Yount
Confirmations passed down the line from supplier to client should not immediately be taken at face value.
I learned a long time ago that when dealing with China, do not get too excited about good news and do not get let down about bad news. It can all change within the hour.
Importing from China requires further digging for an assurance of what’s confirmed.
To avoid the “Well, the factory told me…” syndrome, here are 6 tips on how to receive clearer confirmations from your China supplier.
Why your supplier answers the way they do will always add an element of mystery to your importing endeavors.
Many times, suppliers answer first and check later. This reason is probably the #1 culprit in faulty confirmations.
The sales contact you work with answers based on what they think the production line will say. They answer based on what they knew for last order last month. Or, they simply did not want to trouble the grizzly production line manager, so they made an answer up.
So how to remedy this?
One way is, if timing is not dire, inform the supplier to NOT ANSWER right away. Tell your sales contact that you understand they have to spend proper time discussing with the production line and research the answer.
If you want to make sure the supplier did not answer flippantly, tell them to go back and check.
“Take your time and please get a real clear answer from your production line”.
Do not settle for confirmations from your China supplier to look like chit chat or thinking out loud. If it looks like chit chat, then it probably is and is not a solid response.
Get confirmations in writing.
Make sure what the supplier sends you is not watered down with additional subclauses and hidden inside of paragraphs of wording.
Ask them to resend in one single clear line or comment.
Make sure the confirmation is detailed on the quote.
Make the sure the confirmation is on their invoice.
Instead of just accepting confirmations from your supplier at face value, make sure you have proof to backup the confirmation. Just as we were taught in match class…show your work!
Example: You ask the factory if they can finish the order 10 days earlier and they confirm it is possible. Have the factory show you proof of HOW it is possible?
What would proof look like? In this case it could be a detailed production schedule.
This many days for this process, this many days for this process, etc…
If the schedule looks “off” or rushed, you can probably bank on the fact they did not consider sufficient time.
Proof or showing a path can take many forms; mock-ups, scheduling, photos. Always ask for visuals or secondary information that can add strength to what they confirm.
Now the spotlight goes off the supplier and on to YOU as the buyer.
Avoiding moving full steam ahead on wrong ideas requires listening carefully to your supplier; i.e., reading and comprehending their emails. Too often confirmations from your China supplier will include information of what is possible and what is not. But the problem is clients overlook, ignore and basically do not listen.
Thus clients construct a fantasy scenario in their mind instead of working within the framework of what has been confirmed. Here the situation flip-flops; clients working only in the “ideal” and suppliers working in the “reality”.
Another problem with that is, because of communication difficulties and cultural issues, suppliers many times find it hard to bring you back to reality and clearly and directly let you know that you are going down a wrong path.
This is a hard one for a lot of buyers. They think if the supplier confirmed it, then that’s it and they must also be able to control all contingencies and secondary causes.
Similar to the supplier making confirmations based on the “ideal”, their confirmations are also tightly grounded within their own capability.
Example: If the supplier confirms they can finish the order 10 days earlier, that confirmation is based on the secondary vendor (material vendor), delivering on time. When the supplier confirmed to you the 10-day possibility, that does not mean they necessarily checked with the material vendor and if they did get a green light from the secondary vendor, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are able to CONTROL the material vendor.
Confirmations from your China supplier frequently change based on what the supplier perceives (right or wrong) as aspects that are out of their control.
Therefore, when your supplier confirms, consider what aspect they do not consider to be inside of their immediate range of control.
You may need to go back and do further digging.
Show your supplier the pay off in working hard to get a clear confirmation. Remind them of the importance of the order, the relationship you have together and that getting this right, will lead to more business.
Ask the supplier, “how can we make this work”. If making what’s necessary happen of utmost importance, avoid pointing fingers and putting all burden on your sales contact to do what you need, but make sure THEY know, that YOU know it’s a team effort.
You see, this final point of “working together”, leads to a reminder of making sure you establish longterm, quality relationships with your vendors.
If you are a fly-by-night customer, you can expect that confirmations you receive may be shaky and more idealistic than reality based.