Your China factory sales contact, the person you communicate with on a daily basis, is an extremely important person in the supply chain.
Do you want to:
a- Intimidate them and make them feel small?
b- Throw a ton of complicated info and jumbled communication to them to confuse them?
c- Equip and empower them to be better partners, thus improving the efficiency and quality of your inquiries and mass production?
Obviously, if you answered “c”, then win you the China Sourcing Award for the day. But many buyers seem to choose “d”, all the above. It’s like a Jekyll and Hyde scenario.
When things are going great, then things are really going great and in their emails to their sales contact, the client is all “you are an awesome supplier, we really love working with you!!!!”.
But when the first sign of adversity creeps in, the client folds like a $2 suitcase and starts screaming via email “how could you do this to us!?!?” and starts changing vendors faster than they change underwear.
Successful buyers are prepared for give-and-take when dealing with Chinese factories. Especially when the buyer is new to a factory and expects to grow with the factory, you have to be willing to accept the bad with the good in the beginning stages.
This why so many buyers never get out of square #1 in their sourcing and assume there is an unending fountain of suppliers they can continue to exhaust. These types of buyers continue to go around the same mountains over and over and never reach the top.
Sort of a China sourcing bad dream.
When importing from China, equip their China factory sales contacts.
Equip them with INFORMATION that gives them what they need.
This motivates your sales contact in the factory. This will encourage them. In some ways, you are training your sales contact.
When you start buying from China with any form of frequency, consider yourself as an unofficial Production Manager. Although you are not standing in the factory you need to ignite your “visualizer” and start seeing yourself in the factory.
Consider the sales contact as your gateway to discussing with the production line.
Many of you have spent time in factories and have seen the differences and distances between the sales offices and the production lines.
Keep in mind that your sales contact is not the factory and the factory is not the sales contact.
This is an actual living, breathing person who works inside of the factory. They are only a slice of the factory and you want them to do a better job on your behalf inside of that organization.
Your China factory sales contact is the gateway to the production line. This is who, in a sense is going before the rest of the factory staff and representing your case. Your sales contact is up against quite a bit of competition with other orders, inner company inefficiencies and baggage.
If you are a new customer to a factory, they may assign you to the young and timid sales contact.
Or you may be in the hands of a sales contact who handles a lot of inquiries and their is tension between that person and the actual production line (Many aspects of a Chinese organization are like the reality show Survivor and nobody trusts nobody).
1.) Provide evidence and fact-based inquiries
Give the information, specs, evidences to the sales contact, just as if you were there, in the factory, speaking to the production line.
Via clear communication, equip your sales contact for their in-house work. Give it to factory contact so they can translate and discuss with the production line or person in charge of pricing as clearly and as effectively as possible.
2.) Be as clear and precise as possible in your emails. More visuals, less words
The benefits of properly crafted emails are manifold.
An incorrectly worded email can lead to what is perceived as a high price quote.
A loose email from a buyer can lead to an entire shipment produced incorrectly.
3.) Be professional in your communication
Avoid emotionally-charged language. Avoid being hot and cold. 1 day it’s asap everything and this is going to be the biggest order in the universe and then…you disappear for 2 weeks. If a project falls through, let your supplier know sooner than later and keep lines of communication open.
4.) Transparency on timing
If time is on your side, let your China factory sales contact know this. Otherwise, by default they may think they are being rushed. This is especially common in the promotional product industry. Give your supplier a time frame and it does not hurt to remind them to take their time.
5.) Give Incentive
Be a client that rewards diligent and hard working supplier sales contacts with business. If they are working hard, providing competitive quotes and producing quality orders….try to stay with them. Avoid shopping them out too much.
If it’s a good supplier but you do not sell too much of that item or that line, try to add more of that product line into your sells. This may sound whacky, but build some of your clientele base off of your supply, instead of trying to scramble and find an adequate supplier for every need.
6.) Be honest on possibilities of an order
Give your sales contact incentive in your language that this is a real project and close to an order. Many buyers send inquiries to their China factory contacts and the wording is more or less “hey why don’t you play with this inquiry…we may get something out of it, but it doesn’t look likely”.
Looks real motivating, huh? Your China factory sales contact may be young but they were not born yesterday. An inquiry that looks like it’s a shot in the dark will be prioritized low or will get a sloppy response.
If the inquiry is not very likely to lead to an order, but you want to quote anyway to keep your buyer happy, then let your supplier know “this is important, but not urgent”. Ask them to do you a favor by providing an semi-accurate price quote and then you, on your side can estimate and fill in the rest of the blanks.
It’s favors like this that make it important to establish strong ties with your China factory sales contacts (ie asking for a quote that you know may not succeed).
To get the factory (organization as a whole) to care and manufacture accurately, be sure the China factory sales contact cares.
Keep this sales contact motivated and send them clear glimpses of your vision…along with actual orders of course.