1. Get references and check them out – While this may seem simple enough, following this rule will help you eliminate about 90% of the potential trading partners you may find on sites like Alibaba or Global Sources. Ask the person whom you’re emailing with to provide you references of others in the US or Europe that they have done business with directly, who you can contact for a reference. It’s understandable if the supplier replies that they cannot tell you all of their clients’ names or brands they are making, but they should definitely be able to provide at least one or two references. When you check them out, set up a phone call instead of just a casual email. You’ll learn very quickly with whom you’re dealing. If the supplier cannot provide you with one genuine reference…run away and don’t look back.
2. Send in a 3rd party to perform China Supplier Verification – These days there are a whole list of professional firms in China who can provide you a detailed report by sending someone first hand to visit your potential supplier. You can usually get this done for less than $150 and let me tell you…it could end up saving you a fortune!
3. Request product documentation – Ask your supplier if they can provide you some documents related to their quality control, or product safety standards, and see what they come back with. You may ask for things such as a “quality control checklist” for the product in question, or for “lab testing documentation” showing that the materials being used in the product are safe and legal for your market of sale. If the supplier avoids this request, or has no clue what you’re talking about, don’t go any further. A professional factory or trading company will be highly familiar and responsive to such requests.
4. Go with your gut – You don’t need to be an expert in buying from China to know when you have a “bad feeling” about something. Feel strange that the supplier is asking you to make money transfers by Western Union? Is the name on their bank account different from the company or contact person’s name with no good explanation? Does the supplier seem to avoid your simple and direct questions? All of these are signs of a bad partner. Don’t rationalize an obvious lapse in professionalism because you feel you’re “locked-in” to one supplier.
5. Note the Quality – When you receive a sample or send someone in to check the goods, what is your opinion of the goods quality? Does the item seem “just not right,” flimsy, cheap or have some other malfunction? If a supplier is willing to send out a sample that has quality issues then you will definitely not get what you are expecting when you place an order. NEVER accept the excuse that “Oh, the sample is just like this but the mass production will be better”. That is the biggest joke in the book.
The above are critical first steps towards ensuring quality product, but after you have chosen the right factory, there is still more to do to help ensure you receive good product on a timely basis. Your next step is to lay the foundation of the business relationship by using a good supplier contract.