When China suppliers give advice, it is not always done in a direct and obvious fashion.

This is why, whenever you receive emails, you need to ponder:

What the supplier is NOT saying.

What’s not being said?

This is the unofficial part II to “When Your Suppliers Speaks…Listen!

As always, with China, there is a tricky part.

The tricky part in this case, is the important info, the key detail you need to apprehend, is not always given to you, the importer/buyer/customer in a direct fashion but in a round-about sort of way.

What’s not being said:

Successfully working with China suppliers requires looking for what your sales contact in the factory is NOT saying. 

This takes many forms but I’ll attempt to give one scenario. Hang with me…

One from this takes, is whenever China suppliers are attempting to sway the client’s thinking from one direction to another. For example, the client selects a material that the supplier does not normally work in. Or it may even be a material that is NOT the best for the project (keep in mind I’m just giving examples):

The supplier gives a more passive explanation such as:

“We do not have this material.”
“We have never done this material.”

You see, the supplier’s advice is more passive. They will not tell you WHY they do not offer the material or why your suggestion is not workable.

Suppliers do not suddenly take it on themselves to become your educator on the whys, hows or wheretofores, they simply give you whatever explanation they want to.

It is common for China suppliers to say something that is irrelevant such as “we’ve never done this before”.

And maybe they do not specifically work in that material although it is workable.

But what they will not give you, in many cases, is a helpful explanation.

Therefore in this case, you would need to CHANGE DIRECTION.

-is this because the supplier does not understand the request?
-is this because my request is faulty and the supplier is correct in denying this material?
-is this because this particular supplier does not have an established supply chain for this material?
-is this because if we use that material then the supplier’s margin will take a hit?

Remember, skillful China importing and manufacturing requires back-and-forth. You cannot take first answers at face value.

If you come to a roadblock and want to find a solution with this particular supplier in question, then further investigate.

Ask the supplier:

“Do you reject this material because it will lead to a quality problem? Or do you simply prefer to not work in this material?”

“For this project, if you are interested in handling it, what material would you suggest?”

“Provide photo proof and samples of how you manufactured this before”

If the initially requested material is an ABSOLUTE, consider finding a solution to get the supplier to reconsider (in case their rejection was a cost or convenience reason and not so much a quality issue?).

If the rejection is firm, by all means, DO NOT push the supplier to proceed with the decline material.

The factory's main purpose, as they see it, is not to verbally walk you through the entire process. You will have to pickup on communication "nuance"

The factory’s main purpose, as they see it, is not to verbally walk you through the entire process. Pickup on communication “nuance”.

This is how projects end in disasters.

This is whenever the supplier’s:
“We’ve never done this before” = “If you proceed with this material, from us, this project will fail”.

But if you push ’em enough, they may eventually cave and you will wish they would’ve stood their ground.

If I’ve seen 1 case, I’ve seen 100’s of cases where a buyer pushes the factory to go a route that the factory initially tries to shy away from.

The buyer pushes.

The factory caves.

The project stinks.

If the factory says something weird or leaves something off or seems to be “trying to tell you something”, don’t ignore it.

Don’t consider it background noise.

Contrary to much belief, they know what they are doing.

As an importer, practice listening to what is said and what is not being said. As you adapt and improve in working cross-culturally, you may find factories to be more capable than you think.