With initial quote requests you send your vendor in China, you set the course for success or for a path of inefficiency.

Here are a few ideas to tighten up quote requests in China sourcing.

When you send a price request, avoid coming off in a “chatty” or casual manner. Quote requests should be viewed as something official. You want the supplier to take your requests seriously and this starts with your professionalism in the request itself.

Reaching across seas and time zones, to get a price for a project, should not be a stream of consciousness!

Your brief should not look like something that’s just coming off the top of your head. If you come off rambling and stumbling, that gives the supplier immediate signals that aspects are not certain or nailed down.

Mr. Chen,

So, I got back with the brand manager and we’re thinking that we should quote blue color version bag instead of the white color, although they like both! So maybe we need to do a sample of the blue? How long do samples take? We need them by the 25th so we need to order soon. Oh and we need the blue to be dark but not too dark and not a light blue. By the way the price is a bit high so let us know if you can lower the price. They like the higher quality and I told them this is possible with the same price. Do you have a higher quality?

Client was not happy with the logo. Can you make the logo look cooler?

This is a very real example of how emails look everyday coming to China suppliers. These emails come from companies who position themselves to their buyers as experts in offshore sourcing! Scary, huh?

The supplier is going to miss key detail and not get the entire point of what your asking. The Chinese vendors, who are reading English as a second language, will miss a percentage of what’s being said in that stream of nothingness.

Avoid vague language and rely on photos and evidence.

Don’t rely on descriptions of a color, but give EVIDENCES of a color. Give a PMS color (this is Importing 101, but still missed every day) and give images of how you want the PMS to look.

Remember that Pantones look different on different materials, so make provision for this.

Minimize emotional language whether good or bad.

Client is unhappy, we are disappointed, these are super cool, this looks awesome…86 all that. This is business, not high school and in international business it loses all of its meaning.

Avoid wording such as “the client is not happy”. Detail the factory on what needs to be changed. The happiness level of a certain person or department is not on the factory’s interest list. They are more concerned about information that is centered on what they do…which is manufacturing.

Instead of discussing emotions, a more effective approach would be: “See the attached PDF file. We’ve marked up the item to show problems areas and our comments on what needs to be improved”.

You don't have the advantage of face-to-face meetings with your vendors. Lean heavily on the side of clarity, evidence and professionalism.

You don’t have the advantage of face-to-face meetings with your vendors. Lean heavily on the side of clarity, evidence and professionalism.

Working with a factory in China is the same as “making a case”. Whether in front of a judge or some kind of approbation board, you want to make your case with evidence and facts.

Here’s a secret; in low-cost manufacturing for the retail and promotional product industries, the factory mainly wants YOU to do the design and development, they do the hands-on manufacturing. Period. They are not there to outsource your creativity department.

Perhaps I’m being cynical, but this is what I’ve experienced.

Finally, and this may be stating the obvious, but use email:

Quote requests (RFQ) should only be sent via email instead of an Alibaba message window or a chat service such as skype or QQ.

Email allows you to lay the inquiry out in a more coherent and viewable manner. Via the chat windows, there is more chance for the supplier to miss key points. If email is not your thing or the supplier’s thing, you can also professionally lay the inquiry out in a Word doc and send as an attachment.

Then when you discuss the quote with the vendor, that’s when the chat window comes in handy