Having your own business can be challenging and fulfilling at the same time. If you are still starting out, you would mostly do the legwork by yourself. These include getting a business permit and other necessary documents, creating your own business plan, and choosing the products or services you will sell.
On one hand, some entrepreneurs choose to sell products they made themselves such as accessories, art pieces, clothing, and many more. On the other hand, some look elsewhere to find products they can sell in their respective stores. For the latter, sourcing products to sell can be another challenging task to take.
Thankfully, there are different suppliers you can rely on when it comes to product sourcing. Some suppliers may be much near your business location, while others are located elsewhere around the world; say, China, for example.
China has become a business and manufacturing hub over the years. From electronics, automobiles, children’s toys and apparel, China can produce them for you. In fact, Apple (for their iPhones and iPads), Prada and Armani products are all made in China’s industrial factories.
Choosing to outsource your products in China can be a practical choice. However, you must also anticipate some possible problems, such as delays on delivery time or product inconsistencies (ex. different quality between the sample and the actual produced product). As a result, your business can be compromised, you won’t be able to get the best out of your money, and your relationship with the supplier can be ruined.
So how can you avoid these situations from happening to your business? Hire a sourcing or a purchasing agent. Here are some things you need to know about hiring a reliable sourcing agent.
Why hiring a product sourcing agent is a good decision
A real estate agent will help you look for the right properties according to your requirements and take care of the legwork and paper works. Basically, he or she will help you save time from all of the tedious tasks needed for property acquisitions. This is also the same as hiring a product sourcing agent.
For starters, a product sourcing agent (also called “purchasing agent” or “procurement agent”) is the one responsible with the entire process of product importations from China to your respective country. In other words, he or she will save you from the headache of sourcing in China or in any country for that matter.
Whether you are a first-timer or a frequent importer, hiring a product sourcing agent can be a good investment for your business. Here are some major reasons why:
1. He or she will help you look for suppliers with best price and product offerings.
While you can look for suppliers via online (ex. Alibaba), choosing the best among them in terms of quality and price can be confusing. By hiring a sourcing agent, you can find suppliers even those not listed in popular e-commerce sites. If you are importing from China, hire a Chinese-speaking agent for better communication with the suppliers (which most likely don’t speak English).
2. He or she will help you on follow-ups.
Following up on your orders in China can be tedious and stressful as well. A sourcing agent will help you ease that burden, and you can focus on your primary business activities.
3. He or she will be in-charge of quality control.
If you don’t have the time to visit China to check out the products yourself, let the sourcing agent do the task. He or she will be primarily responsible with product inspections and dealing with production issues on-hand before delivering the finished good to you.
4. He or she can reduce importation risks.
A reliable product sourcing agent should have years of experience in his/her field. These include having extensive knowledge in production, documentation, and other rules and regulations in product importation from one country to another.
How can I find a reliable China Sourcing Agent?
Hiring a reliable product sourcing agent can help you with your overall business. He or she will serve as your “middleman” for your product importation needs. It is important to reiterate that you should only hire the best sourcing agent if you want to grow your business. Here are some qualifications you need to look for an agent:
1. Excellent communication skills
Smooth communication is crucial for any business. That is why it is important to hire one you can rely on for his/her communication skills (including oral and written). If he or she speaks a foreign tongue like Chinese (which is a big help when dealing with Chinese suppliers), the person must also be able to properly communicate well with you in English. Hiring someone articulate and timely when it comes to communicating with you can create you peace of mind.
2. Knows what he/she is doing
If he or she has been in the sourcing/importation business for years, the person is most likely used to the twists and turns of the said industry. Likewise, a reliable agent should also understand your requirements so he or she can effectively communicate it with the suppliers.
Sourcing agents may vary depending on their expertise. For example, an agent may specialize in a specific industry like pharmaceutics, electronics, and consumer goods. In such case, choose the right agent that is knowledgeable in your line of business. More importantly, he or she should know the paper works involved in importation to prevent brushes with the law in the future.
Now you already have an idea what to look for in a reliable sourcing agent in China, it is time to look for one. Here are some tips in your search for a reliable sourcing agent for your business:
1. Establish a good working relationship with your supplier.
Some suppliers sell limited products at first. However, they would move on to procuring other items for their customers whom they have built a good relationship with for some time. Eventually, some suppliers may offer their procurement services to their clients over time.
However, this can be more applicable if you are dealing with a trading company than a direct manufacturer albeit with some pros and cons. For example, the trading company may charge you a little higher for the products because they’ll also procure them from another supplier. Nonetheless, this strategy can work as long as the supplier is a trustworthy one.
2. The Internet is your friend.
You can basically find anything on the Internet, including potential procurement agents. For example, you can Google keywords such as “sourcing agent China” or similar to that – and search through the results. Make sure to check online reviews to make a sound decision. You can also find sourcing agents through other sites, including e-commerce sites like Alibaba and freelancing websites like Upwork.
3. Attend trade fairs.
If you have time, you can check out different local and international fairs. Among popular trade fairs in China include the Yiwu Fair and The Canton Fair.
Hiring a sourcing agent can help you a lot in your business, regardless whether you are a first-timer or a regular importer. The above tips will help you find a reliable agent for your business.