Sending specs to suppliers in China via digital medium, ie email and documents, is the focus of this post.

Consider if you walked by your supplier’s desk and you had a stack of unorganized, messy documents.

Would you think about carelessly tossing the documents in a untidy heap onto the supplier’s desk and before the supplier is able to voice a response you say, “quote me asap” and scurry off, expecting the quote to come back to you in a precise way? Of course not, right? You wouldn’t do this in person.

So why when sending specs to suppliers in China, do importers do the exact same scenario…but over email?

Properly format your RFQ (request for quotation)

Whether your RFQ is on an excel file or in the body of the email, properly format your inquiry.

Avoid blobby paragraphs, unnecessary internal corporate speak that is only going to add clutter and be as precise as possible in your language.

You’re already dealing with the obstacles of culture differences, language barriers and cross time zone communication to name a few. The vendor may be prone to not carefully reading emails carefully and fully considering the scope of what you are requesting. 

Don’t add to the confusion by sending to your vendor an unprofessional jumbled inquiry that lacks credibility.

Utilize bullet points, bold headers and communicate in a most important to least important format (upside down triangle format).

A sloppy inquiry leads to sloppy quoting and this undoubtedly puts you on the path of wasted time, frustration and worst case, sloppy quality.

You see how these things start working in conjunction with one another now – sloppy inquiry, sloppy quote.

If your inquiry is crystal clear and full of the necessary detail, the chances are still fairly high that there is going to be some clean up, back-and-forth and mistake finding in what the factory turns in.

Avoid vague language and think in terms of sufficient evidences.

What is sufficient evidence? It’s similar to “presenting a case before a judge” or making a presentation. You want to back up what you are requesting with fact or evidence.

It’s not “the more the merrier” and going overboard but sending specs to suppliers in China should be precise and to the point.

Instead of saying “red”, you give a pantone number range and images to support.

Instead of saying “quote something cute”, you attach labeled images and inform the vendor the images show the look and calibre you hope to achieve.

Instead of saying “make this bigger, this should be smaller”, you give precise measurements (perhaps in centimeters!) or detailed mockups showing the measurements. 

Avoid as much as possible trying to DESCRIBE what you are thinking, but SHOW what you want.

When sending specs to suppliers in China, sufficient evidence is communicating in terms of specific materials, measurements, pictures, numbers. It’s speaking matter-of-factly, not roundabout.


Again, it’s not the more the merrier. The more random photos or drawings do not lead to a better quote.

In sending specs to suppliers in China, include attachments, ie visuals, for a purpose. Ask yourself, if you are sending an image, “what is the supplier supposed to learn by seeing this?”

Does the attached image or document contradict something in the body of the email?

Does the image show one quality but you are describing a different quality? Thus the need to accurately inform the supplier WHY you’re showing that image.

Remember when sending specs to suppliers in China, that if there is an inconsistency found between your wording and an attachment, the supplier may very well just choose the most convenient route without running the difference by you. This could be detrimental to your quote AND mass production quality.

Be sure you root out inconsistencies in your presentation (remember, evidence!)

If you’re sending a PDF document that has important details mixed with corporate mumbo jumbo that may be important somewhere, but not to the supplier, show the supplier where to focus, “pay attention to pages 2 and 3 and do not focus on the rest”.

Also and this should be obvious, but when you send attachments, properly label your images and documents. That’s more professional than having to say to your supplier, “Refer to image DSC00011”.

Sending specs in waves

As you avoid “the more the merrier syndrome” you also want to give your vendor time to digest info.

If time allows and if your RFQ is complicated or wordy, try to cut up the RFQ in two waves.

Send the supplier the first-half of the most important detail in one wave.

Ask them to read it carefully but do not quote yet.

Ask the vendor to contact you after reading everything.

Inform the vendor that after they read and if this is something they think they can handle and are interested in proceeding to the next steps, to get back with you. You’ll then, provide the 2nd part.

This method is a bit more drawn out, but it helps to assure what’s sent is digested and it allows for a discussion stopgap in the interim.

Discussion on what is sent

Speaking of discussion; more RFQ’s should be allowed time for discussion. If there’s a good relationship with your vendor and you’re able to discuss via phone or chat room, make time to go over the inquiry before the price is provided.

It could be something as basic as going over the inquiry, line by line with your vendor and providing more context to your expectations.

You’d be surprised how elaboration and reiteration, line by line, can make make production go smoother.

A slower, well-paced RFQ is better than frantic production band-aid fixes on the back end.