“How To Source Your Private Label Product In China, Without Getting Screwed By Alibaba Suppliers.”
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Interview with a Sourcing Agent in China – THE 10 Questions You Need to Ask
If you’re serious about importing from China, to do it right, you will know you need an excellent Sourcing Agent in China.
That’s because Sourcing Agents are the only way you will get the best prices, discover the most reliable suppliers, and ensure that your made in China goods are top quality. Sourcing Agents will also save you a lot of time.
Sourcing your first product from China can take you anything from 40 to 150 hours. However, if you use a Sourcing Agent, you can reduce that time commitment to just a few hours.
Who doesn’t want more time, money and better products to sell on Amazon? So how do you find the right Sourcing Agent, for the smoothest, most worry free China wholesale imports?
Since moving to China in 2013, I’ve worked with over 100 China Sourcing Agents, and I’ll tell you now, finding the right Sourcing Agent for you isn’t as simple as it sounds. It’s possible. But you always need to make sure that you ask the right questions, every time
That’s why today I’m revealing to you, my 10 must ask Sourcing Agent questions.
1. Experience is Everything
When approaching a new Sourcing Agent, the first question you should ask is how many years they’ve been in the business. It’s simple, the more experience they importing products from China, the better.
If you’re just starting your Amazon FBA Business, working with a rookie Sourcing Agent would be suicide. Make sure you go with one that has more experience.
To get a good idea of their previous work, ask them their past clients, how many people they’ve worked for, and how many products they’ve successfully sourced from China.
2. Product Category Proficiency
If you’re looking up, “how to import products from China?” you should know your product inside out. If you don’t, come back to this page when you do.
Whatever you’re sourcing, whether it’s electronics, child care products, clothing or furniture, there are certain things that will be unique to your product category. You should know your product, and the same should apply to your Sourcing Agent.
Before you agree to work with anyone you need to be confident that they have experience in your product category.
When discussing terms with potential Sourcing Agents, make sure you know which product certifications your manufacturer is going to need, and which requirements your product will need to satisfy. Don’t tell the agent what they are. Ask them to tell you. You’ll be able to then use your expertise to assess whether they are able to source a product that’s right for you
A Sourcing Agent that specialises in your product helps you. That’s because they will have a database of manufacturers in your product category, and can help you quality control the product effectively.
3. Bundling Samples for Success
Before settling on a Sourcing Agent, ask whether they are are able to bundle your samples for you.
This means that they are able to arrange for all of your samples to be sent in a single package to you, reducing your sample shipping costs significantly.
Even if you’re working with a Sourcing Agent, to find the right product you will still need to review a lot of quotes, consider a lot of simple samples and customised samples. Your Sourcing Agent should understand this is an expensive process, and that bundled samples will make the whole process a lot cheaper and easier for you.
If they are able to bundle samples for you, it will save you money, time and help ensure that you get a better product out of the door straight away. However, to get this service you need to ensure that you’re Sourcing Agent is willing to provide it BEFORE you agree to work with them.
4. What’s Their Sourcing Process?
Ask them straight up what their sourcing process is. This includes everything from how they will find you a reliable supplier, help you quality control products, establish contracts with your manufacturer, and help you get your products shipped from the Chinese supplier to your Amazon distribution centre.
Hearing in detail how they will handle the Sourcing Process will help you scrutinise their ways of working, and figure out whether they are legitimate.
It gives them the opportunity to explain everything to you, giving you more time to conclude whether you are comfortable working with them
Top Tip: A good Sourcing Agent does much more than find a supplier for you. Make sure you understand every aspect of supply chain, and how your Sourcing Agent will support you during it before you commit to working with them. Your gut’s a really good indicator here, so use it.
5. Where Do They Look for Suppliers?
If you’re thinking about sourcing a product already, you’ll know that there are no end of suppliers on an endless number of platforms.
Top Tip:Sourcing Agents with a bespoke list of suppliers will normally get better prices for you than those who do not.
6. Spotting the Difference Between Trading Agencies and Manufacturers
They do not own their own manufacturing facilities. Instead they operate as middlemen between you, your Sourcing Agent and the actual factory. This often means higher prices, less control over your product, and a higher probability that something will go wrong.
Your Sourcing Agent should be able to tell you whether a given Supplier is a Manufacturer or a Trading Agency.
When you’re testing out their services, make sure you ask them how they identify Trading Agencies operating as Manufacturers. If you’ve already conducted some research and have a shortlist of suppliers, ask them to advise which are Trading Agencies and which are Manufacturers.
Take a look at my advice on how to spot Alibaba Middlemen, and compare your results against theirs.
If you have any doubt after this process, they’re probably not the right Sourcing Agent for you.
7. Reliable Suppliers
If your Sourcing Agent’s worth their salt, they will be able to recommend whether suppliers are reliable, or not.
Ask what they look for in a good supplier and how they know whether the company they are recommending to you is someone that you can trust.
Consider their answers carefully. If they do not have a clear plan for working out whether suppliers are reliable, they are probably not the right Sourcing Agent for you.
8. Check if they’ve Sourced for Amazon Sellers Before
Be blunt. Ask them directly whether they’ve sourced for Amazon FBA Sellers before. It’s important that they have experience sourcing for Amazon suppliers.
There are different requirements when selling different products on Amazon in different regions. There are also nuances to shipping and labelling that your Sourcing Agent needs to be aware of, if they are going to work well with you.
If it’s your first time, always make sure you go with a Sourcing Agent with previous Amazon experience. If you don’t, you’re putting your product and Private Label Business at serious risk.
9. How Much Do They Charge
Cheaper is not always better.
In my experience, Sourcing Agents charge anything from 1% to 20% of the total order cost as commission.
Although 1% sounds great, it isn’t. Unless you have an enormous order (and if you take my advice, your first order should not be large), then it’s just too little and your Sourcing Agent probably is not right for you.
However, if they’re charing 20%, it’s just too much. While some Sourcing Agents are better than others, if you spend 20% on your agent, you will make little to no profit from the discount they secure for you.
I’ve found that the perfect rate of commission for Sourcing Agents is around 5%. Try and find one that’s within this price range.
Remember, while Sourcing Agents will often secure you a discount of 20-30%, it doesn’t happen every time. So you need to be confident that their fee won’t be eating into all of your profit straight away.
10. Order Agreement and Quality Control in China
Sourcing Agents are Chinese locals, who specialise in importing products from China. This is why they are much better placed to arrange your Order Agreement with your chosen supplier than you are.
I’ve always found that it’s best when the Agent can arrange this on your behalf, so when you’re deciding on a Sourcing Agent, make sure that they can and will provide this service for you.
Finally, you always want to go with a Sourcing Agent that can arrange your product’s final Quality Control in China.
Your final quality control should always happen in China. You should never do your final QC when your products are delivered to your door. It’s poor practice, and I’ve seen so many people get burned by it. That’s because, if something goes wrong, you’ll have to ship your products back to China. Assuming the supplier will make amends, it’ll take months for your product to be redelivered.
It’s just bad practice.
That’s why it’s vital that your Sourcing Agent agrees to do your final QC in China. They’ll review your products before they ship, assess the quality, and send you pictures of the goods. Giving you the confidence you need for your product to ship.
Trust Your Gut
Now you know exactly what you need to ask your Sourcing Agent, there’s nothing to stop you getting your product sourced.
However remember, it’s always important to trust your gut when agreeing to work with a Sourcing Agent. Even if they satisfy all of the criteria, if something doesn’t feel right, move on and find an agent that you are confident in.
Have you ever used a Sourcing Agent before? Which questions do you normally ask them to sound them out?
Share the knowledge and share your Sourcing Agent secrets in the comments below!