Good Buyer Discipline in Importing

  • Good buyer discipline and habits lead to successful importing.

Success in China sourcing doesn’t happen in a vacuum but comes from good discipline. Consistent habits stack on top of each other like building blocks, forming an experienced buyer. Shoot, besides China sourcing, this whole discipline concept works in many walks of life.

For the sake of this blog, let’s look at it from a China buying perspective.

We’ll call this current post part II to: 5 Habits When Working With Overseas Suppliers

Learning from Mistakes

Timing is a part of it but not the only thing. In fact, a person may have been importing for 15 years but if they don’t learn from their mistakes, they function the same as a 2-year offshore buyer.

The savvy buyer looks at the way the wind blows. They think to themselves, “I remember a previous situation and if I do this, then this will possibly happen”.

Learning from mistakes includes applying what works and rejecting what doesn’t work when dealing with offshore vendors. This buyer, for example, remembers the last time they pushed a process and received less-than-quality product. This time, they remember to slow the process down and check in between phases.

Discipline in  Communication

Buyers that walk the path of success keep consistent discipline in communication.

They’re not hot and cold when it comes to sign-offs, responses and updates. The hot and cold buyer creates an atmosphere of surprise and surprise is something to avoid in China sourcing. Hot and cold buyers are the kind that email heavy for a few days…then disappear. They then come back demanding new answers and info and then poof gone.

The supplier doesn’t know if this buyer’s going to order and lack of building trust over communication, bleeds into order quality.

Remember, whereas the bulk of your work as an importer is done from abroad, your written communication is a major part of how your vendor comes to understand you and your projects.

The discipline importer creates routine in their vendors’ minds. The vendor says to themselves: “This is what this client expects. We should present this type of item to this customer.”

The successful importer, combs back through previous communications or chat threads to make sure everything was correctly understood the first time. There’s not a constant need to ask the supplier to repeat something.

Thoughts and Actions on Pricing

Whenever this isn’t your first rodeo and you start learning in’s and out’s of importing, you are disciplined in the area of pricing. A few thoughts:

  • The disciplined importer learns to manage their expectations. They know that with China, you’ll get what you pay for. The inexperienced importer seems to think there’s some sort of magic where really low pricing somehow still garners acceptable quality.
  • Experienced importers learn to analyze pricing and know if the supplier’s price contains the entire request. It’s poor discipline to get elated over a “great price” and then run with it, only to learn later that your vendor didn’t include this, this and that. Strive for the discipline of dissecting the quotations you receive.
  • It’s a good discipline to slow down once you receive a quote. Discuss the quote with your vendor. A high price doesn’t necessarily mean the vendor is over-priced but could mean they misunderstood the request. Don’t miss out on a good vendor of an initial high quote.
  • A Team Leader to Overseas Suppliers

    Part of these price talks and all of this talk of discipline comes when an importer graduates from simply “a buyer” to a team leader. They start to view the supplier as an extension of their own operation.

    An importer becomes a team leader.

    They inspire and motivate.

    The discipline importer creates routine in their vendors’ minds. The vendor says to themselves: “This is what this client expects. We should present this type of item to this customer.”

    Service improves and suppliers place a more watchful eye on orders once this kind of trust and sincerity takes affect…and this comes from discipline.

    Deals Calmly with Info

    As buyers grow (now graduated to “team leaders”), they approach problems from a more results-oriented fashion instead of an emotional-based approach.

    They learn that when it comes to dealing with China, you don’t get excited about good news and you don’t get upset about the negative news. Things change on a dime in China. You’ve got to dig a little deeper and ask questions.

    A calm importer, when they hear from their vendor that the deliver time is “no problem”, they don’t just blindly believe, but ask the vendor to show the path on how they’ll achieve this. They check, they compare, the prove.

    When production problems are evident there’s not finger pointing and ad hominem but the discipline adrenaline kicks in. That burst of energy that first thinks about “saving the order, minimizing loss, finding the fountain of the problem, getting everything on right track”.

    “Later, we’ll ask why…if it’s really necessary”

    Typically the importer who exercises discipline, knows the “why”…after all, it is importing, which crosses paths with cultural differences, various mindsets and low-cost employees. Part of the discipline is understanding who you working with.

    It’s offshore, it ain’t Kansas.

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