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In China sourcing & order control, a follow-up can be…

By Jacob Yount

During your China project and order control, systematic contact with your supplier, brings a world of results. Right importing from China (or any developing nation) is proactive and calculates possible scenarios.

I’m a big proponent of the “follow-up.”  A follow-up, though, like everything else needs to be done in the right way.


In China Sourcing & Order Control, A Follow-Up Can Be…

…a way to remind your supplier.  Just because something was previously said or confirmed, doesn’t mean the point is still lingering in the forefront of your supplier’s thinking. In China project control, your follow-up is a way to reiterate previously confirmed points.

…what puts the right nudge on your supplier to get the quote or project moving forward. This is sort of squeaky wheel getting the grease concept. In project control, you have to stand out from other buyers and projects that are all vying for the vendor’s attention. This is especially if you are a smaller-end customer.

…a way to get answers. Because of language barriers while buying from China, there are times in your order control communication that the supplier doesn’t realize you are waiting for info. If you want to avoid this, give a clear call-to-action, but you still may have to follow-up.

…what defines importance.  The key points are sometimes lost in the hustle. Or, the key points are seen differently from both sides. Your follow-up, done in a deliberate fashion, is what keeps areas of focus in the forefront of the supplier’s thinking.

Purposeful. Deliberate. Repetitive. Communication in Project Control

…what stops a wrong production move. The follow-up can be the just-in-time block that stops your supplier from taking a wrong move. It frequently happens; the suppliers says in an email they’re going to do a certain thing. The client doesn’t carefully read the email and doesn’t reply on time. The supplier proceeds in taking incorrect path. Read your emails from suppliers as soon as you can and don’t brush off their words. If something looks fishy, don’t think it’s something lost in translation.

…motivating to a supplier that’s waiting. Your follow-up here can be what gives the supplier that 2nd wind to keep waiting and not give up on the project. Remember, they do have other business and other things guiding their focus. If your project is on a brief hold, keep the supplier motivated for your business. Your follow-up is an indication to the supplier that you’re still in the game.

…a way you catch an email that was missed. Remember that in dealing with China, it’s not uncommon for an email not to be received. Via your follow-ups, you can find out if an important piece of communication was missed by either side. “Did you get my last comments?”.  “This is the last update I received from you, is there anything new?”.

In your China business endeavors (or any endeavor for that matter), keep balance. The follow-up, although required, has a down side.

…lopsided. You may find you’re communicating more proactively than your supplier. Expect this starting out with a new supplier. Remember to train your supplier if you work with them long-term. Tell them the kind of communication you expect to receive.

…too often. Following up too often can be detrimental to the project. It can throw off the supplier’s focus, it can make them nervous and then they just rush through the job to shut you up. Avoid unintended consequences in your project management.

…too emotional. No matter what the supplier does, avoid emotionally-charged language. Err on the side of professionalism.

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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