A misconception seems to be that if the supplier is operative, has a website, an Alibaba page, then by default they must be interested in all inquiries. Learning to gauge a potential China supplier’s interest will help you save time and headache in your initial RFQ stages.

One of the largest complaints I hear from new buyers or even experienced buyers that are starting a new product or product line is the lack of response from potential vendors in China.

  • I sent out 10 emails and didn’t get a reply
  • The supplier answered but it was really half-hearted and missed the majority of my point.
  •  The supplier just said, “that’s not our product”!? But I know they could produce that item…
  • …that sort of thing. Why does it happen?

    Too much scatter shooting

    Suppliers are not naive to a general email that was obviously sent to many vendors. Many times the email addresses no specific person and it’s in canned language. This doesn’t really excite the China supplier’s interest.

    Also, the industries are somewhat connected. In the promo and retail product industries, buyers frequently contact with trade companies. 5 trade companies may all quote from the same factory.

    Then everyone knows they are chasing the same dollar…or yuan.

    Initial email vague

    If the initial RFQ is vague and misses key points, then the supplier may breeze by it.

    Consider, if your initial inquiry is ambiguous, that requires the supplier to formulate questions, reply back in English and attempt to determine what’s being asked.

    Does your request look like you are asking the supplier to invest a lot of time and energy into the project and maybe they will hear back from you?

    In low-cost manufacturing, Chinese suppliers are not known for investigating and establishing facts. Give them what they need so they can focus on their own strengths, ie quoting and making your product.

    Initial email shows large investment from supplier

    Along these lines, perhaps your initial inquiry is not vague but it shows an overabundance of detail. Your inquiry has request after request for the supplier to tackle.

    There are questions, directives and needs. To a supplier who doesn’t know you from Adam, why should they tackle it?

    “Do a lot of work and then we’ll call you”. 

    Does your request look like you are asking the supplier to invest a lot of time and energy into the project and maybe they will hear back from you?

    Too many client requests appear to be requests for free research. How’s that for maintaining a China supplier’s interest?

    Generally unappealing to China supplier’s interest

    If your request is demanding and possibly culturally offensive, go ahead and chalk up your entire attempt as an operation in futility.

    When compared with current, in-hand business, a demanding, potential client that’s abrasive from the get-go  will easily get lost in the shuffle.

    No relationship established prior to inquiry

    After writing this, I think I saved the most important point for last. Hopefully you’ve read this far. Far too many buyers do not establish a relationship with a potential Chinese vendor….BEFORE THEY NEED IT.

    Is this timing consuming? Possibly.

    Is it tedious? You bet.

    Will it pay off? If you want suppliers to know you and grow with you as vendors it will.

    Spend time sending personalized emails to potential vendors; asking key questions and discussing your related industries.

    Send a PDF that designed specifically for Chinese vendors. No corporate-speak they would ignore, but easier English that describes your business and offshore manufacturing goals.

    Invest in the trip to China or a trade show.

    Treat them, basically like you would hope a new buyer, from a different country, that you have never met, would treat you.

    Wild idea, huh?