Will the Supplier Know What You Mean?

One wrong word from the buyer side can confuse the supplier and throw off an RFQ.

Think about your inquiry like you are working at a control panel and whenever you send a request for quotation to your supplier, it is like you are pushing buttons in a machine.

Hitting the wrong button leads to wasted time that comes in the form of incorrect quotes, samples and poor production. Also, add to the mix loss of time and loss of motivation from the factory.

The thing about this machine, it does not warn you that you pressed the wrong button.

Similar to suppliers and their communication.

Suppliers will seldom come back and tell you that something seems amiss about what you requested. They will just move forward on wrong detail and quote incorrectly.

“Mr. Smith, you asked for material B, but typically when we quote this kind of item, we use material A.”

The supplier does not consider that you worded the RFQ incorrectly. It does not cross their mind that you are using a general term interchangeably with the correct term. It is sort of a to-do list mindset.

Typically, suppliers start off with a few assumptions when receiving your quote request:

-The client knows what they want.
-The client is an expert in this field or else they would not be sourcing and quoting this product.
-The client says what they mean.

Be cautious in your choice of words.

Axe from your vocabulary and thought pattern the concept of, “Well, the supplier will know what I mean.”

This is a frequent occurrence I see from importers. In attempts to be detailed and give a professional RFQ, they will use incorrect words, frequently the general terms you hear in laypersons wording of a product.

They will say rubber when it’s technically a silicone or  TPE.

China manufacturing mistakes can sneak up on a project and before you know it...chomp! Wasted time, bad product, missed date.

Mistakes can sneak up on a project and before you know it…chomp! Wasted time, bad production, missed date.

The client stated “leather” and now the supplier spent an extra 4 days quoting genuine leather and the price is astronomical because the item in question is usually manufactured with a PVC or PU (faux leather).

Perhaps clients miss putting the needle on the old records? For some reason, whenever something is polyester, they love using the term vinyl…

When you want an elastic band, do not say “spandex” – that will cause the supplier to scratch their head, look long and hard and then quote a weird item.

Ways to avoid?

-Simple can be better:  Be precise but not overly precise. If a physical sample is on the table, forget too much description and simply say “same as sample”. Let the supplier figure out the material. Many times, what we call something in English and what they call something in English is 2 different words.

-Ask the supplier to recommend the material they most frequently use for this type of product, of course keeping in mind other contingencies (market and price points). Be sure to let them know what quality level you want to achieve.

-Spend time looking on other Chinese vendor websites and finding similar items to see what English words they use or how they describe it. Typically they will describe with simplified and practical terms that other suppliers incorporate into their English vocab.

Caution should be the rule in your RFQ wording. It is not something to be done with a flip casualness but also not something with a strict rigidity. Precision does not always mean “the more the merrier” but can be something succinct and simple.

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  • You write: “If a physical sample is on the table, forget too much description and simply say “same as sample”. Let the supplier figure out the material.”

    This approach might work, but make sure to get the supplier to say how they call it, what its technical specifications are, and how to check them…
    I remember a supplier saying “but your sample was in polyester” when we requested polyamide. Sometimes the touch & feel is tricky.

    • Thanks Renaud. You make a good call on making sure the suppliers informs the material and all parties can give further “green light” and record what material is incorporated.

      My main concern for the sake of this post was whenever a buyer DOES NOT KNOW the material, it’s better to the let factory call. We had sort of an opposite case recently where buyer sent sample and informed material. The material spec was different than physical sample but what they wanted was the same as sample.

      The supplier used the spec sheet as the foundation and the sample as guide (as per what was confirmed) and you know the rest of the story… Supplier knew what material the sample was in the sample but when by “letter of the law” did as per client’s instructions and wrong sampling produced. It can go either way but YES, as you said, whoever calls it, let it be noted.

      Thanks again for the visit.

      • Wow yes I see the big mess that can ensue… Makes sense.

  • Thanks Renaud. You make a good call on making sure the suppliers informs the material and all parties can give further “green light” and record what material is incorporated.

    My main concern for the sake of this post was whenever a buyer DOES NOT KNOW the material, it’s better to the let factory call. We had sort of an opposite case recently where buyer sent sample and informed material. The material spec was different than physical sample but what they wanted was the same as sample.

    The supplier used the spec sheet as the foundation and the sample as guide (as per what was confirmed) and you know the rest of the story… Supplier knew what material the sample was in the sample but when by “letter of the law” did as per client’s instructions and wrong sampling produced. It can go either way but YES, as you said, whoever calls it, let it be noted.

    Thanks again for the visit.

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