Sourcing products from outside your home country, like China, is almost as difficult as starting a new business from scratch.
You have to find suppliers, research their manufacturing capabilities, assess their quotes, check samples, lead quality control, and ensure that the product reaches you and your customers on time. The only difference? You need to do all these steps in another country with people in a different time zone speaking a completely different language.
That said, the vast supplier base, lower cost structure, and technological advancements in China are too lucrative to give up due to these hurdles.
In this scenario, you are left with two realistic options. Firstly, you can look for a reliable supplier yourself. While not completely impossible, you need to spend a considerable amount of time identifying the suppliers and developing the products while taking care of any crises that might arise.
Or, you can find someone qualified to do these tasks for you while you focus on the part of your business that you are good at.
This is exactly where a China sourcing agent comes in. These people work as your representatives on the field, helping you find the right suppliers, negotiate production costs, evaluate quality control, handle documentation, and ensure that the products are exported on time.
How does a China Sourcing Agent help a Business?
As stated earlier, a sourcing agent is a person or an organization that works as the on-field representative of a business and buys source materials for them from where the buyer cannot reach.
That said, the conventional role of sourcing agent in China extends beyond buying raw materials and commodities. They are responsible for price negotiations and ensuring that there are no hindrances during the delivery process.
Here are three main reasons why your business might benefit from hiring a sourcing agent.
1. Find Reliable Suppliers and Source Products at a Great Price
The downside of China’s vast supplier network is that finding the right one (especially from a different country) is an extremely difficult task. Most of the time, a simple internet search at Alibaba or Made in China will not suffice as the sellers there are usually middlemen or swindlers.
The only foolproof way of verifying the legitimacy of a vendor is a factory visit. A local sourcing agent will already have a list of suppliers who can manufacture your product and knows how the factories in China work.
Even if they do not have a related vendor in hand, they can easily tap into their network and find you one at the earliest. Not only that, but they will also make sure that the local factories take your orders seriously and negotiate the price for you.
2. Bridge the Culture And Communication Gap
The cultural differences between China and the world have had their fair share in the limelight. Simply put, there will be times when there will be a communication gap between the buyer and the supplier due to language and cultural barriers.
To ensure that nothing is lost in translation, your orders will leave no room for assumptions. Even if you write everything down, someone who understands your requirements will need to monitor the production process to ensure that the final product matches your expectations.
A sourcing agent will be proficient in the local language and help you steer past the cultural differences. They will work as your eyes and ears in China and keep a close eye on the production line while you take care of the other important things in your business. For instance, they can ask you to increase your orders before a long holiday to ensure that there is no drop in quality and that your inventory lasts while the production is halted.
3. Alleviate the Risks Involved
Amidst a locked-down world with travel restrictions, there are several headwinds to outsourcing raw materials from China. Trade bans, for example, may sour the sentiment of such product sourcing, at least for certain parts of the world. However, most businesses will continue to rely on Chinese suppliers to boost their profits and grow their revenue.
A China sourcing agent knows the risks in the local business environment, meaning that the quality, cost, and delivery time is always on point. By having a Chinese legal entity, your company will be local in the country, and the factory will take the deals more seriously and comply with contracts if any.
Moreover, a seasoned sourcing agent will predict errors in-licensing and documentation that can delay delivery and ensure that every paperwork is in place. They are aware of the legalities of the import and export business and will help lessen the risks every step of the way.
Can You Do It Yourself?
One of the main criticisms surrounding a local sourcing agent is that, more often than not, they are hired by factories or charge a hidden commission. So, if and when something goes wrong, they may end up defending the factory, exposing you to more risk.
In the scenario that you want to do your own sourcing and purchase directly from the factories, here are some tips that might help you in the process.
- First and foremost, do not focus on the Free on Board (FOB) price as there will be several hidden costs involved. Ensure you and your team know how to calculate your shipment’s fully burdened cost after adding shipment duty and other expenses.
- Next, spend the time finding the right supplier. Preferably, opt for a supplier that already exports to a market similar to yours and is properly organized in terms of management.
- Finally, involve a person who knows the technical aspects of the product that you want to buy and understands the market prospects. Set up a quality control department that will define quality standards, approve samples, and conduct inspections from time to time.
That said, prepare for delays and legal issues if you are not familiar with the Chinese legal system and its nuances. If not, a China sourcing agent may just be what your business needs to gain an edge over the competition.