Supplier Filtering

Even after living in China for more than 6 years I still often find myself struggling to come up with a good system to filter out the right suppliers.As each case is different and there are no fixed solutions or templates to this, but if you keep in mind fundamentals, then you will not go wrong.

So instead of making it all sound like rocket science, let’s try to simplify the whole process by asking ourselves the below questions. They will help you are finalizing a supplier with whom you are going to work. These questions can apply for Suppliers on Alibaba and other websites or those who you meet at exhibitions.

  1. Do you find professional and detailed layout on the supplier's Alibaba Page? Do they have their entire factory's Introduction, product pictures, product description? Are they specialized in any product category? if yes, then that’s often a good sign because traders normally deal with hundreds of products.
  2. Does the supplier have a Website? Even if they don't have one, they could not be called bad or unreliable suppliers. You need to research more about them. You can directly ask them why they don’t have a website. Some smaller suppliers don't want to spend the extra time and money on building a website because their Alibaba page gives them enough business.
  3. Sometimes due to language and cultural differences, most Chinese suppliers simply don't have much of a strong presence on social media platforms like Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter.
  4. Look for the supplier's contact and address information. Is their address part of an industrial zone where other factories are located? If yes, then at least you will get an idea that this supplier has a factory and is NOT a trader. Again, this is not applicable all the time as a few good suppliers on Alibaba show their corporate office address which is in the main city.
  5. Does the email address used by the supplier to communicate with you have their factory’s domain name or is it Hotmail/Gmail/QQ mail ID? Most big and repudiated factories normally use their factory’s email domain name address.
  6. You can ask the supplier if they have had any experience in selling to Amazon Sellers. If you need your goods for the USA, you can even ask them if they have shipped to any brands in the USA and whether they have all the certifications for this market.
  7. Ask them about their shipping process for Amazon FBA. From their answers, you will get a general idea about their experience level for this.
  8. What are the supplier's payment terms? Normally 30% Deposit & 70% balance before the shipping should be ok as it is the industry norm. If the supplier insists for 40% to 50% deposit then understand their reasons. In some cases, suppliers ask 100% payment before production, its best to run away from them.
  9. You can contact other suppliers who are near the supplier you want to do business with. You can ask the other suppliers about their pricing and then bring up your supplier’s name in the conversation. This could also help you get an idea about the reputation of the supplier you wish to do business with.

  10. How is the email correspondence with the supplier? Are they proficient in writing clear emails and easily understood replies? Are they polite and patient with your questions? Their English speaking and writing skills should be up to a decent level if they are doing business with European or South American Countries or other English speaking countries.
  11. How many years’ experience do they have in manufacturing the product and how long have they been an Alibaba Supplier? Again, a 1-year old experienced supplier doesn't need to be bad for you as some of these new suppliers sometimes are very good in terms of their pricing and quality and want to come up in the market.
  12. Does the supplier accept and agree on payment by PayPal & Trade Assurance? For new suppliers always work with an Escrow payment system and avoid direct bank transfers.
  13. Is the supplier welcoming your requests for future factory visits or product inspections? If they try to dodge or ignore these questions, then you need to stay on Red Alert always when dealing with them.

When doing your Sourcing for Suppliers & Products via the internet, be it through Google, Alibaba, Global Sources, Made in China, Exhibition websites, or even (translated). It’s always a good idea to use several different kinds of keywords to get you the best and fastest results.

Below are a few keywords you can input when searching for a product like “PLASTIC SPOONS”. You can interchange and play around with the keywords, as it just gives you a higher chance to contact all the potentially right suppliers for your product.

  1. Plastic Spoons (Obviously)
  2. Plastic Cutlery.
  3. White Plastic Spoons/Cutlery (assuming you need white).
  4. 1g White Plastic Spoons/Cutlery (1 gram is the weight of the spoon you need or you can put in more details such as size/dimensions/specs of your product
  5. Disposable Plastic Spoons.
  6. Plastic spoons + Amazon: At times you can find suppliers who specialize in making goods for Amazon sellers. Though of course, there always are pros and cons of working with a supplier who is already supplying to your competition.
  7. Plastic spoons + USA/Europe: Sometimes it’s a good idea to work with suppliers who are familiar with your market and understands the quality requirements, certifications, shipping process already.
  8. Plastic Spoons + City Name/Province: putting in a city or province name is at times very helpful in filtering out the kind of suppliers you need. Normally, the Guangdong Province is known for making higher quality products than Zhejiang Province. However, if you are looking for lower prices, then Zhejiang Province is a better bet. Yes, the Guangdong province supplier prices often are higher than Zhejiang but it is always better if you source a better-quality product. Also, a lot of cities specialize in making a particular product or product category. So just focusing on that city can speed up your sourcing process.
  9. Plastic Spoons + $1: $ means the price range you need your product for.
  10. Cheap Plastic Spoons: if nothing seems to work, you can try this as well.

So above are some of the first few basic things we can check when finding the right supplier. Hope this helps!

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