The importance of sending your China vendors samples when asking them to quote.

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I have said this many times before but the best way to get an idea of your “true” production cost is to send the vendor an actual physical sample of what you are asking them to quote on. Product descriptions and images are helpful in giving vendors a general idea of what you want them to do and depending on the product in question may get you pretty close to the “true” production cost ( in some cases it will not). But there is just no substitute for sending the vendor an actual physical sample.

Sending vendors actual physical samples is a good idea for the obvious reason: the vendor can see immediately what you are asking them to do, something that is not always apparent from a photo and desc. But there are two more very important reasons why you want to send your potential vendor a sample:

1.) Seriousness of purpose. Sending a vendor a sample tells them you are serious enough about your inquiry that you are willing to spend $50.00 to send a package to China. Vendors are very busy people and they are probably asked to quote on multiple projects every week. If you throw a big project at them and ask them to quote on it they probably want to make sure that before they invest considerable time doing so you are serious about it. In fact, I have such a project now. It is a huge printing project and I have been reaching out to vendors with just specs and images (because of my customer’s budget and the sheer scope of the project he cannot afford to send samples to any but the most promising vendors. Perfectly understandable). Although my specs are very comprehensive – down to the gauge of paper and type of printing – I have already had six vendors ask me to send them some samples. I think they are looking at the QTYs – which are not huge – and telling themselves that before they do all the work that is involved they want to see how serious I am. So I have had to go back to my customer and advise him that we really need to send vendors something just to show them we are serious. I would add here that in fact one way I tell how serious people are when they come to me with a project is when I ask them to send be a sample. When they do send one I know they are serious in their inquiry.

2.)Respect. When you send vendors pictures and descriptions only, you are asking vendors to do a lot of work. They have to translate everything for engineers and then explain things to people and ask you for instructions as they build your quotation. Depending on the product in question it can be a laborious and very timely process. If, on the other hand, you give them a sample, they don’t need to translate anything. They can show the product to an engineer and there is immediate understanding. When you send them a sample you are telling vendors that you respect their time and want to help them out.

Of course it costs money to send samples to China while it costs nothing to email your vendor and attach some pics. But you should see that as one of the added, but necessary costs of doing business in China.

Sampling is such a critical part of the product development process because it tells you a lot about your vendor and also about your product design. I have written at great length on sampling. Here are some of those posts.

Paying for samples
Working with your vendor on product design
An overview of the sampling process

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