The best way to find a reliable supplier in China. Part 1 of 4

The next several blog posts will outline what I think is the most methodical, efficient way to find a reliable supplier in China: meeting a vendor in at a trade show in China, working with them on samples over an extended time and visiting and auditing their facility before you give them an order.

In a previous blog post I outlined the four ways people generally find China vendors which are as follows:

1.) Popular online B2B sites like alibaba

2.) Factory referrals

3.) Trade shows

4.) Overseas based China agents

As I said in my previous blog post, meeting anonymous vendors online is fraught with risk; getting referrals sounds great but in fact it is very difficult to do and may not always work out as you would expect ; and when you work with agents they pick the factories, not you ( in many cases these are factories they have close relationships with which can be either very good or very bad for you) . So that leaves only one option: to attend a trade fair in China. I believe that attending a trade fair is simply the best way to find a China supplier and put you yourself in full control of your China production, while substantially reducing risk.

The drawback of attending trade fairs in China is of course the expense. It costs $ 0.00 to meet a vendor on alibaba, but it will cost you 3-5 K to spend a week in China at the Canton Fair. Not surprisingly most cost-conscious small business owners choose alibaba. But in doing so they are assuming considerable risk. Giving an order to a vendor you met on alibaba but had never actually met in person is not unlike agreeing to marry someone you had exchanged emails with but had never actually had dinner with. It is not wise. Attending a trade fair in China, on the other hand, allows you to meet the people who are going to play a fundamental role in helping you build your business, your suppliers.

Meeting vendors in person allows you to discuss your product in depth with experts and most suppliers will provide you with valuable feedback. They may tell you ways you can improve your product or point out problems with your current design. You may have a good impression of some vendors and a poor impression of others but all of this will allow you to considerably reduce the risk of buying direct from China. Yes, it is an expensive trip. But over the long term if you find a vendor who you can work with, a vendor who can deliver good quality product to you as you grow your business, it may end up saving you a lot of money. Because you will be able to retain loyal customers who like your product and can depend on your delivery time and quality standards.

Here are the other posts in this series:

Part 4
Part 3
Part 2

4 thoughts on “The best way to find a reliable supplier in China. Part 1 of 4

  1. I have attended a few Chinese Trade Fairs in India… never any in China… at least in these fairs in India, the quality of the staff manning the stalls, I found absolutely hopeless… apart from the communication problem, they had no grip on the knowledge about the product that they were promoting….the best answer always was “NO HAVE..” … I do intend visiting China and do not know about the quality of these ‘screw driver masters..’ no other option but to invest in exploration…

    • I suspect that in India the people representing Chinese companies at trade fairs are in attendance for their English skills and not for their techincal knowledge. I am sure the engineers unless they speak good English just do not attend the international fairs. I have found in China that usually there are some really knowledgable people in the booths. Most of the times the owners of the companies are there and they can give you some valuable feedback on your products.

  2. Identifying a positive vendor to suit your business cannot be found out by checking out their good references or meeting them in Canton fair or any fair for that matter, The most ideal thing to do is to co-ordinate, discuss the details, exchange views about every aspects of business, products, import export etc. and once convinced with a vendor, its most important to meet at their office, Warehouse, factory, copy of trade references, Bank references etc. after getting convinced with their set up only then deal with smaller orders at the beginning and as time passes can increase on a larger scale.
    Procurement Manager.

    • Hi Shivan: Thank you for your comment. I completely agree with you on doing due diligence and if you read my other posts you will see that my belief in that part of the process comes through loud and clear. Remember, this is just PT 2 of a 4 PT blog post. The 4th blog post covers the last step in the process, inspecting the vendors office and facility in China. I personally do not believe you should give any vendor an order unless you had met them first. And the best place to meet vendors is at an established trade fair, like Canton, or Hong Kong or some of the other big shows in China.

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