There is a belief in the West that Chinese companies are competing very hard for your business and you’ve just got to send a mass email out to get a dozen competing responses, fighting to make your product.

The reality is very different. Chinese companies are often overwhelmed with emails from importers who (most of the time) are not serious buyers and will never place an order. Why spend hours dealing with impersonal emails that in most cases are just for price comparison? 99% of emails to Chinese companies are just that, and they know it.

The best way to make first contact is with a detailed and targeted email to the company. Then make a follow up call within a few days to confirm that they have received it and are dealing with it.

Here are eight tips to make sure that they pay attention to you when you make the first approach:

#1. Know your product

If you are approaching a manufacturer directly, they will pay more attention if you have a very detailed product specification. If you have clearly spent a lot of time doing your research before making the initial approach, they are more likely to give you the respect that your approach deserves. A general email covering just a few points is going to get little attention.

If you know the product well, they are also more likely to give you a better quote too. The more competitive you seem, the more likely that they will wish to compete for your business.

#2. Tell them your order volume

In your email, set out the numbers of units in your order as a whole. If you don’t they will quote for an MOQ (minimum order quantity) that could be significantly different to what you seek.

You may want much smaller quantities than they are willing to make, for example, and that will be off-putting for them. By being upfront from the start, so you should be able to find the right match more quickly.

#3. Specify compliance requirements

You should cover the legal and regulatory requirements for the goods in the country (or countries) you will be selling to. Some factories aren’t set up to meet these, while other factories will do it all the time and be better able to deal with your requirements.

#4. Stand out from the crowd

There are three essential requirements for a factory to consider you immediately:

You are ready to buy right now

You have the capital to buy at least the MOQ immediately

You have great “repeat potential”

Many factories operate on wafer thin margins, so the prospect of repeat customer is very important. You can make this look possible with your detailed product knowledge as well as having a professional company website with a business address. They are far more likely to do business with a company than an individual.

If you have done business with China before, say so in your opening gambit as this will signal that you know how things work there.

#5. Follow up

Give them a call within a few days of sending the initial email. In the West, this may seem impatient or rude, but in China personal contact is more important than “cold, impersonal” emails. The call will help them remember you and, in their eyes, start forming a personal relationship as you work on the product together.

#6. Communicate their way

Consider getting an account with QQ Chat, which is one of the best means of working day to day with Chinese businesses. An English version can be found here. As you build your relationship and get into the detail of the deal, you can get a lot of things done on QQ Chat. Many companies will also have Skype among other services.

#7 Visit China!

If you can’t afford to travel and spend time in China speaking face to face, then what are the prospects of you investing in the product and having it delivered to your home country? Businesses in China still hold great stock in face to face meetings.

#8. Work in their time zone

Consider working on Chinese time one or two days a week. If they can get an instant response from you during their 9-5 routine, then they will feel a lot more comfortable working with you. You will have invested a lot of time and money into this project, so it can be worth your while working around them too, as they are playing a significant role in your new business venture.

In Closing

Getting products manufactured in China is not simple.

There are factories, trading companies and sourcing companies, and either one might be right for you depending on your circumstances.

When you do work with Chinese companies, you are building a business relationship, not buying products off-the-shelf. In a good relationship, you need them and they need you. It’s not about dictating terms or demanding compliance, it’s about working together.

But you can make it work. Find the right company, give them a compelling business proposition, and treat them with as much respect as you expect from. That’s the way to do business in China.


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