Many importers know the importance of using a China sourcing agent but feel frustrated to find the right one. In this article, I want to share you the key factors which good s commonly possess.
1) Local Office in China
Sourcing agents are expected to be your representatives in China – your boots on the ground and the reason you don’t need to fly to China regularly or spend time and money setting up an office there. An agent with a local presence will be able to quickly find you a reliable supplier. Their local staff will also negotiate prices with the local factory owners, resulting in better pricing.
China-based sourcing agents bring several other advantages. They will be able to steer you away from unreliable suppliers or scams. Once they help you finalize a supplier, they will take care of the documentation, draw up payment terms beneficial to you, help you assess and approve samples, conduct in-process quality checks and resolve problems that happen during production, do pre-shipment quality inspections. Again, to do all of this reliably and efficiently, they have to be present on the ground in China.
2) Excellent Communication Skills
Many stories have been posted on internet about the communication challenges western businesses face in China. These are not just related to the fact that China lies in a different time zone or that its people speak a different language, but also to its cultural quirks. A good sourcing agent will not only be familiar with Chinese, but also be acquainted with the country’s cultural differences, allowing them to guide you through the minefield that these differences can be for importers.
A good sourcing agent will anticipate that this may happen and spell out all your requirements to the supplier to ensure that they have completely understood your requirements.
3) Experience in China Sourcing
Experience is especially valuable in sourcing because of the risks involved. If you are a small to medium enterprise, sourcing from a country halfway across the world from you is a risk – with both your money and your reputation on the line. If your consignment is delayed, for instance, it will not only affect your inventory but also upset your customers, hurting your revenue and reputation in the long run.
Hiring an experienced sourcing agent – one who has been in the business for at least 10 years – will protect you against these risks. These agents have several advantages:
They will usually have a bank of reliable suppliers they have worked with before, allowing them to quickly identify a supplier who can give you exactly what you need when you want it.
They will be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of these suppliers. They will know, for instance, which supplier to pick in case your product needs further development, or which one to pick if it is imperative that your product has a super smooth finish.
They will know what you need to do to protect your IP rights in China.
They will be able to anticipate what can go wrong with lead times. They add extra days or weeks to lead times, for instance, because of local disruptions caused by festivals such as Chinese New Year.
They will know what HS codes to put on your consignment, protecting you from expensive and frustrating delays that incorrect shipping codes cause.
Such agents will also be able to tell you if your expectations, say, with regard to quality, are too high, or whether your design is too ambitious to fulfill technically. This knowledge will save you time and effort.
4) Know the Products You Want to Manufacture
There are millions of products you can source from China. It will be difficult if not impossible to find a sourcing agent who is an expert in all of these industries. But what you can do is find a sourcing agent who is an expert in the process used to manufacture your products.
For example, if you want to manufacture outdoor ovens, look for agents who specialize in these manufacturing processes and is familiar with stainless steel, aluminium and plastic materials. Also, the agents should have clear understanding about packaging regulations, if you are based in Europe, they should try to decrease the usage of non-recyclable plastic and use eco-friendly materials. These experts know the ins and outs of all related processes and be able to steer you away from potential problems.