More and more importers realize the benefits of a sourcing agent; however, they do not know how to qualify a good sourcing agent. In my opinion, below 4 points are the most important areas you need to focus on.
1) Communication: Fluent English, High Efficiency
A good sourcing agent must have a strong command over English in both writing and speaking and should be able to communicate with you smoothly by phone and email. Smooth communication is the foundation that helps develop cooperation and seamless workflow.
Ability to communicate fluently and confidently in English also reflects that the agent can be trusted to carry out his tasks efficiently and with ease. On the other hand, if your sourcing agent’s English is weak, it will only cost you time as you will have to communicate your requirements time and again until he understands them correctly.
A good sourcing agent must also be highly efficient and prompt in responding to the emails. There is a time difference between China and most countries. China is 12-15 hours ahead of the US and is 7-8 hours ahead of Europe.
Usually, your questions will not be answered until the next day. If your sourcing agent never responds to your emails and messages after work or on weekends, they are not a good fit.
2) Understand your requirement
In addition to knowing English, it is also essential for the sourcing agent to be quick in understanding the precise requirements of his clients.
For example, if the product is complicated and you require a little customization with the material or redesigning some parts, the sourcing agent must be able to understand your requirements so that he can convey the same to suppliers.
They can communicate with the factory on behalf of you according to your product ideas. If your sourcing agent can’t understand your real need very clearly, then it will take more time to modify the product back and forth.
3) Professional product knowledge
There are two main types of sourcing agents, and you need to choose an appropriate sourcing agent according to your own needs. One, those who assist in finding a particular kind of product, such as drugs, machinery, etc. and the others are who specialize in finding products of daily use for consumers.
Sourcing agent who specializes in finding suppliers of a specific type of product needs to have a good understanding of the products and relevant professional knowledge as well. Customers who come to procure such products are professionals with sound knowledge of those products. The knowledge and experience of the sourcing agent should at least match his customer so that he can understand client requirements and deliver the same.
The agents who deal in all kinds of products have an extensive network of cooperative factories and suppliers. So, they can find the best suppliers for the products you want in a very short time. If you open a supermarket in your country and need hundreds or even thousands of different categories of products, the procurement management can be challenging. In this case, sourcing agents that specialize in providing all kinds of products can prove to be an asset.
4) Professional import & export experience
Any good sourcing agent must have a good understanding of the legalities and paperwork involved in import & export. This includes the process of import & export, certificate and document requirement, licenses, etc.
The agents should also know about international transportation. They should have an understanding of what kind of products can’t be transported by air or by sea, or what type of compliance certificate is required for air transportation. In addition to this, the sourcing agent should have knowledge of patents to avoid potential inconvenience while importing.