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Take every enquiry as an opportunity to develop relationship

by David Chen

When you have a potential order to place, remember to consider it as a good opportunity to develop supplier relationship. The suppliers in China have a lot of enquiries sent from prospects around the world, some are taken very seriously and other regarded as junk. Enquiries getting better attention will be attended with responsive support while some buyers only get inefficient or even irrelevant replies.

There are a few automatic filters on the suppliers mind, clarity of business requirement, his company’s chance of winning the business, size of the order and sincerity of the prospect in attitude, track record of the prospect. With ourselves put in the shoes of the suppliers, which would grab more of our attention if we receive the below two enquiries?

Enquiry 1:

Dear Sir/Madame,

My name is Edward Jordan, and I work as a procurement manager for Excellent Gadget Inc from the US. My company is looking to develop a private label power bank product in China and would like to start with 500 units as a trial order and increase to 2,000 in subsequent orders.

I came across your company in Cantonfair and I would like to request a proposal of your most up-to date unique models that range from 10,000 to 12,000 mAh.

Our plan is to become the exclusive seller of one or more of your private models for our mutual benefits. We look forward to your reply.

Edward Jordan
Excellent Gadget Inc

Enquiry 2:

Dear Sir/Madame,

I will buying 5,000 power banks, please send all of your models and pricing. I need the lowest prices and all specification.

Obviously the first enquiry would catch more of your attention and you would provide the most accurate information to him and will allocate more of your working hours to provide continuous support to this prospect until the deal is close and will proactively seek deeper cooperation with the potential customer.

For all businesses, competent suppliers are very important resources and the relationship with such suppliers is the company asset. Among a long list of techniques to develop supplier relationship, selectively sending the right enquiries to the right candidates is a starting point tool that sourcing professionals utilize skillfully to their benefits.

Most likely new supplier is less patient and know about your company less than companies who have done business with you in the past. You would prefer to send them enquiries that are more defined so that the preliminary communication does not have to be too much back and forth. However you may not want to send very critical orders to them because just as the new supplier does not  know about you, you do not know the service and quality of them in the beginning. You would select to send new enquiries that are more likely to close your existing business or your internal purchases. This way, the new supplier will be very motivated in your requests and in the later communication and the following order, you and the supplier will get to know each other as a foundation for future cooperation.

Suppliers with existing relationship with your company would be much more patient and supportive to less defined enquiries. They are more willing to proactively guide their customer through the development of new business. Furthermore orders that are critical success factors for your project or customer relationship should go through them because they have proven their reliability in the past. Enquiries that require a lot of support and development should go through your existing suppliers.

As your supplier base grow in numbers and complexity, you should develop your own stable set of criteria so you can allocate your scarce resources, the potential orders, to the continuous development and maintenance of your supplier relationship.

David Chen is the co-founder and account manager at Sourcing Spectrum, a sourcing agency dedicated to helping overseas clients manage sources in China. Tips and information can be found at

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