Chinese Supplier Silence

No Questions or Objections from a Vendor:  Silence can be dangerous, especially in areas where the vendor should  have some questions.  Distributors frequently send emails to Chinese suppliers that are worded in sound-bytes and “thinking-out-loud” style wording.

You should read your own email and imagine you are receiving it from the perspective of someone who is using English as a second language.  Would you have questions?  Are you clear on what is being requested?  Is a Chinese supplier going to understand the term “his and her’s flip flops” or is it better to type it out as:  “1-set is 1 pair for men and 1 pair of women.  2-pairs per set”…you get the idea – if something can be simplified, then simplify it.  If something can be communicated, then communicate it.

In general, Chinese don’t use or treat email very seriously.  Email is like the land-line there.  In China, they went straight from no phone to a cell phone.  For electronic communication, many of them, especially of the age of the kids working in your supplier factories, went from no electronic communication straight to phone texts and QQ chat.  Email is not highly valued there.  In fact in many circles a fax is treated with higher regard.

Chinese supplier and the elusive follow-up, or lack thereof…

If the vendor hasn’t followed up with questions to clarify, chances are after you’ve waited a few days for the price, when you get it, it will be wrong or missing key detail.

In China, if a supplier is asking questions and even debating and giving you push back, keep pressing on.  The push back and even slight debate are signs the supplier is considering and paying attention to the project.  Even if a supplier says something is difficult, that shows they’re thinking and crunching the numbers.  A “no problem, no problem”, “yeah, yeah, yeah” supplier is the one you have to look out for.

Also, if English is not understood in an email, many times, this won’t bring up a red flag to a Chinese supplier, they simply skip it.  They don’t realize there was even something there for them to misunderstand, therefore they don’t even realize there should be questions!  It can be highly frustrating but what you need to do in your inquiries is assure you are being as clear and detailed as possible in your inquiries.

Simplify, simplify, simplify when it comes to communication

86 the corporate speak, slang and cutesy phrases.  Use point by point emails and be sure to focus on the KEY POINTS.  Over focusing on non-key information can also be dangerous.

Anytime you get frustrated and think, “well the supplier should have asked”, can you flip that around and say “I should have clarified“?  If you then think, “I’m the buyer, I shouldn’t have to do that”, my next comment would be “welcome to China”.

Share on LinkedIn15Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+2Share on Facebook0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Reddit0
  • How interesting! I’ve been thinking about some of these concerns because some of my readers are not native English speakers. I know I won’t change my blogging style because my target market isn’t non-native English speakers, but I keep the clarity concern in mind when responding to tweets or comments from some of those readers. That, and I just wrote a post about the importance of clarity…

    •  A lot of times, we’re not mindful of the background of the person to whom we’re speaking – whether in English or 2nd language, etc… In business, that “self centeredness” of communication can have adverse effects. 

      • Yes, it can. It’s one of my talking points when helping people to understand all that goes into communicating effectively. A lot of communication rests upon respect for the other person – even if you think you’re right.

  • Good points. 
    “A “no problem, no problem”, “yeah, yeah, yeah” supplier is the one you have to look out for.” >> so true!

    •  Thanks Renaud – appreciate the visit.  Have a great week!

  • There are interpreters, and then there are people who interpret culture. You sir can do both.
    Anyone who has to deal with China should be banging on your site for more…

    •  Appreciate the support, Billy.  A lot of it is looking for communication signals; which regardless of the circumstances, folks don’t know how to perceive what was said or in this case, what wasn’t said.