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Buyer sourcing approach: Read my mind and do it right!

By Jacob Yount

A large portion of sourcing and product development is tackled from the position of “Read my mind and do it right.” Ok, this is not literally said or even thought, but the practical actions of the would-be-buyer reflect this attitude.

This approach (if you want to call it that) to sourcing stems from the buyer

• not knowing what the supplier does not know and therefore what the supplier needs to know.

• not knowing exactly what they want. Yes, many times, overseas buyers approach a vendor and they really don’t know what they want.


Accustomed to Western suppliers and service

It seems the typical buyer, once they’re getting their feet wet and before they many importing scars, they are still used to how service and communication is on the home front.

A distributor who now starts going offshore ponders; “my local vendors were bending over backwards to provide me with the needed details, surely the Chinese supplier will do the same thing.”

The scrappy buyer soon realizes they are far from home whenever they cannot get an answer to their RFQ and when they do finally receive a response, it’s next to indecipherable.


Misunderstanding the supplier’s thinking

From my close to 15 years of working with China, I’ve noticed, from a cultural standpoint that not only will the supplier NOT fill in the blanks to what you haven’t provided, but each new buyer, each new contact to a Chinese supplier is as new to them as if they (the supplier) just entered the industry.

What the heck do I mean?

The supplier may have worked in their industry for 7 years. But because they’re getting a new inquiry for a new buyer they’ve never met and the inquiry and product specs have a slightly different tilt…then they might as well have been working in the industry for 7 minutes.

The approach from the supplier isn’t, “I’ve been doing this for 7 years, let me guide this buyer into the land of detail and guide them to closing the deal”.

It plays out in clunky service, giving you 5 no’s before you can get to a yes and they tell you “they’ve never done this before.” To my perspective, it’s one of the great conundrums of China sourcing; they want to make a sale, but they don’t know HOW to make a sale.


The world at my fingertips

The modern buyer considers options to be limitless.

“The sky is the limit and because sourcing portals exist, there are a bevy of suppliers simply sitting around, waiting to answer my questions, fill in the blanks and basically design this for me…before I even realize what I want!”

There isn’t much consideration in a limited number of CAPABLE suppliers. Notice the key word “capable”.

It’s overlooked that to develop a long-term and profitable relationship with a supplier takes time, not simply flipping emails around.

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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