Once you’ve established contact, due diligence is paramount. Is the person you’re speaking to really who they say? LinkedIn is one of China’s few social media sites. Every sales representative or business development professional who deals directly with international clients should have a verified profile. You can also visit the company’s website. Does it look professional or amateurish? Do you see it as a professional brochure? Don’t be fooled into believing that badges are “trusted”, “accredited”, etc. These badges are easily copied and purchased elsewhere. Is there an address registered for the company? Google the company name for any news or information about it.
Next, go online with them using Skype. Ask them to demonstrate their products using the webcam. WeChat, an app that is popular in China and other social media platforms, allows you to continue the business conversation. If they sound trustworthy, it will be based on their Best China Sourcing Agent tone and gut feeling. Attending trade shows is the best way to meet your suppliers and see their factories and offices in person. Face-to–face interactions are more productive than emails and phone calls.
The Canton Fair or the China Import and Export Fair in China is China’s largest trade show. It is held in Guangzhou twice a years and features almost everything, from electronics and automobiles to consumer goods and gifts to clothing and medicine. There are other regional trade fairs that specialize in specific categories, like gifts and consumer products. They often have lower prices, smaller suppliers and can accept smaller customisable orders. ChinaExhibition.com offers a complete listing of all upcoming tradeshows.
Keep in mind that not everyone at trade shows is a manufacturer. Some are trading businesses, often wholesalers or retailers. They will accept a lower MOQ, but prices are more expensive for trading companies. In contrast, prices will be higher when you deal directly with manufacturers. However, they will require a MOQ commitment.
It is worth the opportunity cost of not visiting suppliers But you’re right, I hear that you said “I don’t even have the time!” I also have to take Natalie to her next week dental checkup.” It’s your enterprise, and you should take the time and find trusted suppliers that can supply the goods you need to continue to be in business.
There might be Chinese trade exhibitions in your home country but they will be less frequent than usual and there will be fewer suppliers. The smaller marketplace may not offer a complete view of the products on offer. If you restrict your business efforts by sending out emails, making phone calls, and chatting online, I don’t think you’ll be able to achieve much success. Face time is key. Remember that your competitors might be there if you don’t have the face-to-face time.
Although you may not be able to book the next plane to meet one supplier, it’s important to remember that you won’t do so. You should time your business trip to coincide, for example, with a major trade exhibition in Hong Kong. Next, fly to Shenzhen, where you can meet a few suppliers. You could also spend a week visiting Guangzhou and then relax at The Canton Fair.
Here, you will also need to brush-up on geography. China is roughly equal in size to the United States. Furthermore, the flying distances between Shenzhen-Shanghai, two Chinese industries powerhouses is the exact same as that between San Francisco (Arizona) and Tucson (Arizona). Forget about making a cross-country drive. You will need to carefully plan your meetings, visits and activities in each city before you move onto the next.