The rewards from doing business can be great but if things go wrong you end up at the opposite end of that great scale. This is why I always promote that buyers, especially those new to sourcing from China take time to make an informed decision before making a financial commitment.

What sources can I use to find reliable Chinese suppliers?

1. B2B

Websites such as the Alibaba, Global Sources & Made in China tend to dominate this side of things and the accessibility for the services here make it really appealing. Sitting anywhere in the world communicating in real time with someone at a factory in China is pretty cool. So that bit is relatively easy BUT It’s not a sure-fire way to reliability as there are lots of con artists on there too. Don’t follow generic information, only follow real information even if it’s a bit rough around the edges. The crooks never post anything of much substance or anything that’s traceable.

Major Pro: Good companies will be happy to display a lot of information for you to weigh up. The convenience and speed of communication is a massive pro. Get images, videos, business licenses, test reports and product certificates quickly. Legitimate operations don’t have an issue sharing these things. In fact, they will be glad to.

2. Exhibitions

The bi-annual Canton Fair usually tops the bill and is an absolute must visit. The Canton Fair is very good for new product ranges, idea generation and add on existing products. If you are operating in a competitive market it is questionable how you can differentiate your business when accessing the same suppliers that your competition can BUT it must be said the benefit of this being the most economical way to meet multiple suppliers trumps the other arguments. The possibilities to find reliable suppliers at tradeshows like the Canton Fair are higher than online and you will gain the reliability we crave faster. Reasoning for that comes from the fact you have been able to meet people face to face. Just beware that you speak to a manager at least sales level and not just staff hired for the show. There are a lot of other tradeshows out there, try to find out the one suitable for you.

Major Pro: The face time is hugely important as it allows you to leave an impression on suppliers as someone they want to work with and gain as a repeat client. You can also touch the products, get a feel for the company and talk through various details which increases your ability to weigh up important details when finding reliable Chinese suppliers.

3. Sourcing Companies in China

There are now plenty of great options in this area. These companies bring western management and local knowledge to the table. If you are struggling to satisfy a requirement or prefer to spend more time servicing customers then utilizing the valuable resources of a sourcing company in China ticks the box. When finding reliable Chinese suppliers, it can be a great option to leverage experience gained by your fellow countrymen. The reliability factor should be already built in here but that’s not to suggest these sourcing companies are above the law. They should be able to satisfy the same questions who have raised to a random supplier on Alibaba.

Major Pro: These companies do this for a living. The mass experience built up within a sourcing company operating in China for 5-10 years can be of huge benefit. They rely on connections and trusted relationships instead of B2B platforms.

These are the 3 most popular routes to take, social media sites like LinkedIn are also becoming viable options. For the more traditional types among us always be on the lookout for an introduction from a trusted source, that could be someone you know already doing business in China, the local chamber of commerce, etc.


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