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Bring value & motivate your suppliers

By Li Zhang

The supplier is not the only party responsible in bringing value and clarity to the table.

Bring value to your relationships with your China vendors. As a new buyer and building new relationships, you face disinterest from the suppliers. This is especially true when navigating fast-turnaround quotes for the promotional product business.

A portion of Chinese factories have no interest or low motivation when it comes to tackling a promotional product inquiry.

In order to turn the tide on this view, let’s consider VALUE and MOTIVATION.

With any business, producer to service provider you want the people you contact to be motivated and value the potential business.

As a customer, if you’re just getting started in business, bring complex inquiries and are a demanding customer, factories won’t see you bringing value to them.

It’s a 2-way street. The buyer wants to see value from the manufacturer. The manufacturer, especially when dealing sight-unseen (offshore) wants reciprocation from the buyer.


Be prepared, Be professional

When you approach your potential supplier. Be prepared.

• Have a clear and understandable RFQ.

• Show potential for business.  Too many buyers telegraph to a Chinese vendor that they’re simply shopping quotes. How does this motivate a potential vendor?

• Respond to quotations and be prepared to guide your factory and give feedback. If you were constantly asked to quote a buyer or an industry that never responded, would you keep doing it? Don’t let your RFQ tell the vendor to work for free.

Chinese factories value give-and-take

When you contact a factory you never work with; they want to get to know you, just as much as you want to get to know them.

You do not approach a 2-way relationship by making a bunch of demands. Be professional and consider constructing supply-chain relationships. It’s not a numbers game.

Learn about your vendors.

Share information about yourself. Consider having the same “press release” style packet that you give to potential suppliers so they’ll learn who you are.


Build on previous successes with same factory

Too many promotional product buyers make it obvious that each order is a 1-night stand.

If you had a great order with one supplier. Consider how to build on that momentum and use that same supplier. Even the same product. Sure the same brand may not order that same product again, but can you tweak that same product and use it for a different brand?


Be reasonable with timing requests

If timing is urgent then be all the more prepared. Also be reasonable with your timing requests.

Know that lead times your factory gives you, although we all hope they’re in stone, are subject to 3rd party mistakes, weather and normal China obstacles.

During urgent time requests, a supplier will value when you, the buyer, are all the more readily available with specs, confirmations and….payment!



Be quick with payment. This is a key to solving many service problems from vendors. Obviously, use wisdom and all points of control to assure your quality is good, but when it comes time to make the payments, as per the agreed upon terms, then do it.

See 5 habits of successful promotional product importers.

Li Zhang has worked in international manufacturing and exporting since 2003. She has served global brands such as Bayer, Coca Cola and Warner Bros. Her background is in design and engineering. Li is a native of Jiangsu Province and currently finds herself back and forth between Suzhou, China and the USA. Contact Li at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or find her penning manufacturing thoughts at her blog.

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