By Jacob Yount
Many importers and would-be buyers attempt to plough through overseas sourcing without actually understanding their own requirements.
They may have an idea they want to manifest into reality. This buyer spent long hours watching Youtube videos and now want to start their own private label.
Perhaps they’re working on behalf of another company and they’re a middleman.
They landed a job and now they’re boldly trekking forward.
Another option is this confused buyer works in a company as sort of an account rep and they were tossed into the fire without proper training. Either from the company or self.
But whatever their role in the project, there’s a class of buyer that’s perpetually befuddled and bewildered about what they’re commissioning an offshore factory to perform.
Doesn’t sound safe does it?
When it comes to China and offshore manufacturing, be able to articulate your requirements
Here’s a good rule of thumb.
If you send it, understand it. Make time to discuss it with your buyer.
If they send it to you, understand it. Make time to discuss it with your supplier.
Let no document change hands without your clarity on what it contains.
Avoid words and phrases passing you by in which you are completely clueless. If you are starting out in your importing, you may have to be more vigilant than others.
Constantly googling and asking others and checking chat boards…”what does this mean? Help me to define the context of this term”. You become an attack dog on making sure proper knowledge is in the forefront of your thinking.
Imagine you’re actually walking into the office of your supplier.
Would you carry a thick stack of documents under your arm, walk by their desk and let it fall with a loud thud?
As the supplier looks up, all they see is the back of your loafers and hear you saying, “Let me know if any questions”.
You have to prepare to discuss
I think a large chunk of buyers try to minimize communication.
This is a good thing in and of itself.
But they try to minimize the necessary communication.
All sent documents, requirements, designs, should have some form of discussion.
It may be a 3 minute conversation going over a general outline.
A certain project may require a 2 hour Skype chat to hash everything out.
But don’t let your default mode be passive. “Let me know if you have any questions,” is passive.
“Let me know what time you want to discuss this packet of specs and requirements”… now that is the way to go.
Don’t be afraid if the supplier peppers you with questions
A lot of buyers get hot under the collar and perturbed when the supplier starts letting the questions flow.
They get uneasy, sweat beads pop out on the forehead.
Then they sort of blurt out, “Can’t you just figure it out?!”
This is not good.
The buyer asks them to make something.
Sometimes from scratch.
But really deep down they want the vendor to offer all sorts of options and scenarios.
In other words, spoon feed them.
As you schedule discussion time over requirements with your vendor be prepared to:
- take a list of questions.
- don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know, I’m going to verify all of this and get back with you asap”
- another good phrase: “if I don’t have an answer to that question, are you able to provide options based on your past work?”
- If you’re working for a company or another buyer, have your higher-up or your client ready to answer questions. Don’t be afraid to bring questions within your organization. Any client or superior who doesn’t like answering questions isn’t worth their weight in salt.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or find him on his blog.