A good Buying Office, Sourcing Agent or Purchasing Agent plays a very important role in doing safe and smooth business in China, especially when you’re placing a large order: Sourcing and Verifying qualified suppliers, Quality Control, Loading Process Supervision, Warehousing, Shipping Support, Business Risk Control, Legal Contract Support and After-sale service etc. However, It is NOT easy to find a right one. If you don’t make an informed decision when selecting a buying office or purchasing agent you might end up losing a lot more than the commission or service fee.

What is a purchasing agent and why do I need one?

A purchasing agent could be an individual, a group of team or a company, helping companies overseas to import from China. So sometimes buying office service can also refer to ‘purchasing agent’, Buying Office service will be supported by a team of experts in each field: sourcing, verification, procurement, quality control, business risk control etc. A good agent can be an extremely valuable asset in your overall product procurement strategy. Here are the main services offered by your qualified ‘buying office’ or ‘purchasing agent’ in China:

I. Keep sourcing new products and suppliers.

II. Verify, inspect or audit existing suppliers.

III. Price negotiations and Supply Chain Management

IV. Draft formal Purchase Contract (Business Risk Control)

V. Quality Control Management

VI. Shipping Support and Loading Process Supervision

VII.Customs Clearance Support

VIII. Attend any professional trade fair on behalf of the customers and obtain the latest market information or trend in their industry in China. 

Any other service, say, order follow-up, biz guide, after-sale service support etc, can be available upon request.

Dealing with Chinese suppliers is very time consuming. Working with a qualified Buying Office or Purchasing Agent can save you much time, cost and energy etc in China. For example, 80% of the suppliers you met online or at local trade fairs might be a typical trade company while the local sourcing specialists can go to the real manufacturing bases to find out some qualified factories for you in person. Apparently the factory price is much more competitive than that of the trader’s anywhere on the globe, by this way you can save more cost in the business.

China is a huge country with more than 1.4 billion people, there are countless individual agents and more than 35000 professional purchasing agent companies based on official data in China as of Nov 1,2020. Most of the sourcing service companies are located in coastal areas like Guangdong, Zhejiang, Fujian etc. No matter whom you are going to work with, the first step is to verify their business license or identity card before you sign any agreement.

How to choose a right buying office or purchasing agent from China?

Here are my tips for your reference, we will focus on 5 important things: 

I. References

Trust is very important among any international business worldwide, especially for long term cooperation. The best way to check out their qualifications and obtain trust is simply to call their current client from your area or other countries. Some unqualified agents will refuse to offer client details but most of the reliable agents will offer references to get trust from their potential new clients. Do remember to ask your agents for at least 3 client references and check them out before working together. 

II. Manufacturing Bases

Do not forget to choose a right sourcing or purchasing agent who is near to the manufacturing base ( industry cluster) of your industry.

In China, almost every city has their pillar industry and each product has one or several manufacturing bases. Say, if you’re buying fireworks, you can simply go to Liuyang city, which is called ‘Home of Fireworks’ or ‘Capital of Fireworks’, where there are more than 400,000 people directly or indirectly engaging in this business in China. ‘Liuyang-made’fireworks account for 70% of China market and 50% of global market at present. Another three famous manufacturing bases for this product is Liling, Hunan and Shangli, Wanzai, Jiangxi, these four manufacturing bases are near to each other. This is the same situation to most of the products in China. Your agent’s proximity to a certain industrial cluster can certainly help out when things go wrong during production. It may also cut traveling and transportation costs.

III. Verification 

As I mentioned just now, it is very important to check out their credit and qualifications first before cooperation. As far as we know most of the sourcing agents do not have export license in China. 

Ask them for their Identity Card Copy if your agent is an individual and ask them for their Business License copy if they a company, check them out with local officials or third-party verification service company first before formal cooperation.

IV. Kickback Issue 

Kickback issue does exist in some businesses, esp among some individual agents. When you are working with an individual purchasing agent, they may choose the supplier based on the kickback amount and will not protect the client’s interests in China sometimes. While for some professional purchasing agent companies, they may have strict counter-measures on how to avoid ‘kickbacks, say, their staff has to sign an anti-kickback agreement with their company and the suppliers during any sourcing activity in China, this is why you’d better work with a purchasing agent company instead of an individual agent. Of course, this is an issue of management and it is very hard to eradicate‘kickback’but some well-known agents may have lot of experience to avoid it. 

The client is also suggested to ask them for the measures on how to avoid‘kickbacks’from the suppliers in China. 

V. Quality Control Management

 Ask them enough professional questions regarding the coming orders in China.Many sourcing agents are also lacking expertise about quality control in overseas markets.

Keep in mind that in the end, you are going to be held financially responsible if your products turn out to be non-compliant with the relevant standards. Importing from China can be a completely different story depending on the product. Some products are very complicated (i.e. machinery ) while others a fairly easy to get right (i.e. facial tissues ). So the client is suggested to work with an agent who has a team of professional quality control inspectors.  

If they are able to satisfy you from above five aspects, then you can feel assured to work with them in China. We are also a professional business service company and we have served more than 2,000 clients from over 80 countries and areas on the globe so far. You are welcome to visit us in China !

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