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They may delay the delivery time every time; They may don’t respond to your email or telephone altogether. Uncooperative Chinese suppliers harm your businss: you probably will overshoot your deadline, your marketing plan will suffer, assuming you manage to finish an end product in the first place.

They’re probably drowning under a sea of orders from other clients, to whom he is willing to devote more resources and time. Even those purchasers never place bigger order than you. Why you are not the favorite one.

Courting your suppliers so as to constantly have top priority with you is an important subject that deserves your full attention. You need to be prepared to take a few extra actions so as to stand out from the rest.

1. The request for quotation (RFQ):

Needless to say, your RFQ is the most important part of the entire interaction between you and the suppliers; it defines everything that follows. Ideally, your RFQ should be simple, and it should quote things they already have on hand; the easier it is to meet your request, the better off you will be. In order to attain this simplicity, you should try to steer away from customization and unique requests as much as possible.

Unfortunately, you can’t always compromise when it comes to your RFQ. In these situations, it is important to tailor an RFQ that will be clear and succinct. Here are a few tips to follow:

  • When sending the RFQ, keep in mind the time of day in China. If you send an RFQ when it’s the beginning of your business day but the end of theirs, your request will be pushed to the next day. On the other hand, sending a request at the beginning of the Chinese day means that you will be pushed to the top of the pile of that day.
  • Be concise. Any unnecessary information should be left out.
  • Have a fixed template. A fixed template makes your order easier to process, especially once the manufacturer gets accustomed to it.
  • Be thorough. Let your suppliers know when you need your quotation, plus let them know the exact quantities you’ll be needing.
  • Let them know you will pay for any extra work, such as customization.
  • Inform them of any extra details you’ll need besides customization. This may include artwork which you have ready or packaging you want them to use.

2. Payment

This should go without saying, but here it goes: so long as your suppliers have delivered on everything as promised, you should always pay on time and in full. They appreciate punctual customers; a supplier appreciates anything that can facilitate his cash flow. Even if them were to sell you what you needed on credit, you should never abuse the leeway you’ve been given. Otherwise, they will remember your delinquency, which will affect all later interactions. So, in short, be prompt in settling your debts, and remember that establishing a history of being punctual can move you up the queue quite a bit.

With this logic, it’s not that much of a stretch to realise that being open to placing a deposit is even more favourable for your supplier. Deposits make them feel more comfortable with the transaction as well as display your seriousness about the whole exchange.

Having said all that, it is important to emphasise a particular point: never let your eagerness in establishing a strong transaction history affect the quality of the deliverables you receive. In other words, only once the supplier has satisfactorily delivered everything you requested should you fulfil your end of the bargain.

3. Patience

Realising that your suppliers are only human is important for your outlook: they are liable to forget you or overlook important requests, especially when things are hectic. Consequently, don’t be afraid to follow-up on your order.
A follow-up can be an excellent way to remind them of your order along with giving them the proper nudge to get started on it. Furthermore, should there be any problems, a follow-up will let you know of said problems. Don’t forget that the language barrier is problematic in and of itself, which is why you should capitalise on every opportunity for communication. Follow-ups can also convey a sense of urgency or importance to your supplier.

Having said all that, just be careful not to overdo it; too many follow-up requests can come across as over-bearing. This, in turn, could have negative consequences for the entire project. Also, always maintain utter professionalism in all of your follow-ups. Don’t let emotion get the best of you, regardless of how frustrated you might be.

4. Consistency

As you’ve probably realised, a lot of the advice here is based on building a history with your supplier. Yet, for that history to play in your favour, you need to be consistent across it. A template is pointless unless your supplier gets used to it. Maintaining a punctual payment schedule is pointless unless they learn to count on you. The bottom line is:

It may take a while to build a relationship with your supplier, but it is worth it on the long run.

In order to achieve this sort of relationship, you need to convey to them that you plan to stick with them for the long haul and that you won’t abandon them at the first sign of trouble. Over and above, visit their factory every once in a while and don’t be afraid to invest in your suppliers if you can afford it. This investment can be as simple as teaching them how to incorporate lean manufacturing, which will come back to you as cost savings down the road.

Undoubtedly, you could do more to gain your suppliers’ attention. Yet, the best advice I can give is:

Don’t think of your suppliers as independent entities but rather as offshore production facilities that contribute to your overall value chain.

Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee is the Co-founder of Asianconn. He writes about global sourcing trends and advise on Asianconn Blog. Kevin lives in Hong Kong and Nanjing, China since 2003. For further questions, you can contact him on Twitter and Linkedin.

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