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Adding punch to your inquiry in the quoting process

by Jacob Yount

When quoting directly from China, there are things you can add to your inquiry to motivate the supplier to provide a more accurate and professional quote. Adding punch to your RFQ means a more motivated supplier. A more motivated supplier means less mistakes…and we all know that less mistakes on the front end lead to less possibility of disasters on the back end.

This is an unofficial part II to the recent post “Watering Down Your Inquiry in the Quoting Process“. That post showed how to water down your inquiry; not getting any supplier motivated enough to handle your request. And if the supplier does handle the RFQ, it may come right back to you riddled with mistakes.

You want to make your inquiry look promising. You want the supplier to look at your inquiry, see a professional buyer and most importantly, have the hope of doing business together. Many RFQ’s that buyers send to Chinese suppliers basically say, “Please invest a bunch of time getting this together, but most likely nothing is going to come from it…and if it does, I’d be surprised. By the way, we need it asap”.

In the promotional product business, where many Chinese factories don’t have the greatest desire to serve, your inquiry should say, “We have a fairly exact idea of what we want, here are the details, let us bring you some business”.

Realistic quantity scales: If you need pricing by quantity scales, have a reasonable number of scales. Have 2 scales if necessary but no more than 3. When there are a multitude of scales in your inquiry, you’re saying to a Chinese factory that you don’t know what you want and that you don’t mind them doing additional work in helping you to not know what you want.

Just because your buyer requires so many options, doesn’t mean you must require the factory to provide the same service. Have the factory give you the 3 scales and then for the remaining scales, professionally estimate the price for your buyer.

For example, instead of 2,500 / 5,000 / 7,500 / 10,000; ask the factory for the 2.5/5/10k and if your final customer requested 7,500, you should have sufficient wherewithal in your business to provide that quote based on all other factors. If you want to play it super safe, give the same price for 5k that you do for 7.5k. Remember, overseas business is different than local supplying; A Chinese factory’s prices (whether right or wrong), for the most part, are not cataloged and almost every time, they’ve got to go back to square #1 to determine prices.

Solid details: “Quote us something cool”. That doesn’t hack it when dealing with the source. Be sure your inquiry is loaded with visuals, examples, links, etc… Let the supplier see as much as possible. Look what Renaud Anjoran says from the Quality Inspection blog article “How Chinese Suppliers will Understand Your Requirements“:

“At the very least, you need to concentrate your requirements in one document. Don’t send some info in several emails, with updates by Skype, and so on.

Also, the salesperson shouldn’t have to translate big blocks of text. She would probably summarize it in any way she can, and the result wouldn’t be pretty. Go visual. Use many photos. Videos might be OK, but remember that is blocked in the mainland.

Keep updating the same document, and make sure it can be understood by the production staff without much effort.”

Keep a bullet-pointed mindset when dealing with China. Use simple English. This isn’t a time to show how much corporate lingo and industry speak you know.

Proactively include what you may need: Avoid sending a vague inquiry the first time only to come back a 2nd time with 10 more add-ons. Accurately consider your project and what you may need for the Chinese vendor to offer you in your quote. Go ahead and consider the different kinds of print that may be necessary, consider the logo placement, or the different materials that you may want to offer to your end customer. Be as thorough and as inclusive your first time around. Don’t expect the supplier to know what should be offered.

Here’s a tip; the more often you quote and add on to the same inquiry with a Chinese vendor, the more you are compromising detail and exactness. It’s like suppliers only have enough “exactness” in them for a few tries. The more and more you touch back on the job, the less serious they take in providing details.

Stay hot on your inquiry and in communication: Let the supplier know you’ve received their quote and are working on bringing them the order. Even if the project dies down or goes to another vendor, be professional and let the supplier know. This lets them know you’re human and you treat them like humans. This motivates them to try the next time there is a potential job.

Be loyal: Keep a few quality suppliers close by and do your best to grow them as partners. Let them know you are doing that and to do so means more than just telling them over email (every buyer tells them that). Close some orders with quality vendors even if you have to give up a *gasp* a thousand bucks. Think long term. Importers complain that suppliers don’t think long term, but it’s the same thing on the importing side. Quit always shopping around for a cheaper price.

Offer to Pay:  Is that a typo? No, it’s not. Offer to pay for your samples, be willing to make your deposits and balance payments without having to cause the factory to beg. You can be a small and even an annoying customer but all of that is overlooked by a Chinese vendor who finds the customer to be prompt with payment. Prompt payments cover a multitude of ills. (Obviously, be sure your supplier is producing correctly..that goes without saying).

In conclusion, don’t only water down your inquiry, but make your inquiry professional and show that you’re a buyer, whose inquiries lead to orders. A motivated supplier is a good supplier.

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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