So you have researched countless niches, searched through months of eBay data on Terapeak and filtered down your choices to a few potential products… and it’s now time to head to Alibaba and find some suppliers!
BUT, maybe you’re a new business, just starting out on eBay, and this is your first time importing?
You don’t have any experience dealing with wholesalers in the UK, never mind factories and suppliers in China… Plus this is your first order as a sole trader, so will suppliers even speak to you!? Do you meet their MOQs?
If any of these worries sound familiar to you, then you are not alone! I receive many emails every week from entrepreneurs just like this, who have done most of the hard work, but get stuck when it’s time to actually contact suppliers and put their order together!
And that’s what today’s article is all about.
I want to help you, by giving some tips on how to contact suppliers on Alibaba and how to properly present you and your business. More than that, I’ll also give you some templates that you can adapt and use yourself, to make this process as easy as possible.
But let me first start off by saying that really, there is nothing to be scared of. Suppliers in China are, generally speaking, much easier to deal with than wholesalers and distributors in the UK. As long as you are respectful, sound fairly serious (you don’t want to come across as a complete newbie/amateur!), and meet their requirements – then you have nothing to worry about.
It’s not like with some branded items here, where distributors will only deal with bricks and mortar sellers, who have been in business for decades – not at all! Chinese suppliers are generally very fair and keen for your business, as long as you present yourself well.
So without further ado, let’s get to it!
The first stage when contacting new suppliers on Alibaba is of course the initial contact/message. I personally usually prefer to use Alibaba’s live chat for this, simply because it’s easier to speak to many suppliers quickly and you don’t have to wait for a reply.
When using Live Chat on Alibaba, try doing it early in the mornings (6AM-8AM, GMT) while it’s still business hours in China. This increases your chances of seeing most sales reps online. Of course, many companies on Alibaba have live support working 24/7, to cover Worldwide time zones but I have found that in early mornings there are higher chances of getting someone to talk to you.
Some of my students prefer to simply send an email to multiple suppliers, as that way you will receive replies back to your email and though it takes a bit longer, it is easier to keep track of everything.
Either way, that just depends on your personal preference, and the message you use will be very similar regardless of how you’re contacting them.
From my years of dealing with suppliers in China, I have found that this is a perfect starting template:
My name is Andrew Minalto and I am searching for a reliable supplier of [product XYZ]. I came across your company in my research and wanted to get some further information regarding your [minimum order quantities, FOB pricing, and also the possibility of OEM packaging].
So could you please get back to me as soon as possible with the above information? My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you and hopefully placing an order with your company.
And that’s it!
Simple, polite, and to the point – which is all you need.
Of course depending on what you’re looking for and if you have any specific requests, you can alter the email slightly; the key is to ensure you ask for all the initial info that you need in order to evaluate a supplier. This will not only save you time, but it is also makes you seem more professional and like a serious buyer, which is helpful later on.
Here is a real life example of this “template” in use:
And here is the email reply that was received back in less than 12 hours:
So, as you can see, from one email we were able to get a full product and price list (which included information on MOQs) as well as details about OEM packaging. No need to go backwards and forwards for days or weeks on end, if you are clear and concise in your opening email, you can get all the information you need in less than a day!
And really that is the no.1 goal of the opening contact. You want to get all the important information that you need in order to decide how to proceed. Of course you have to tailor this slightly based on your individual requirements, but I’m talking about info like:
- Sample Availability and Pricing
- Payment & Shipping Methods
- OEM Options
- Manufacturing Lead Time (especially important if it’s a custom product)
Just use the opening contact template, and then proceed from there, and you’ll find it’s incredibly easy to get all this info!
Here’s a further example from an eCommerce Magnates customer who recently contacted me to ask for help approaching suppliers on Alibaba, after he’d had some trouble with UK and European distributors being uninterested in dealing with him:
(click on images to see in full size)
I hope this illustrates that really there is nothing to worry about at this point, and rather than this being a week or even month long process that some people drag it out to, it can be done within an hour or so!
So what next?
Well generally once you’ve found a supplier who passes all of your filters (check out this guide if you need some help with actually finding the right suppliers: http://andrewminalto.com/alibaba-scam-exposed/) and you’ve contacted them, and their pricing and everything else seems good, it’s time to get some samples!
Again, don’t be put off by this as all good suppliers are happy to provide samples (if they’re not, then you should take that as a sign to keep searching).
At this point, I will usually follow up with an email along these lines:
“Dear Ms Yip,
Thank you for your email.
I have gone over the information you sent, including the price list, and we are happy to go ahead with an order from you.
However, we of course would like to get some samples first to test the quality before moving on to our real order, so can we please arrange to have samples for products X, Y and Z?
I look forward to hearing from you.
This is a very straightforward email and basically all you are doing at this point is reminding them that you are a serious buyer and are not just looking to get free samples/by-pass their MOQ – that’s why I mention the future, “real” order.
Usually you will receive a reply confirming the cost for those samples and details on how to make payment.
*Note – sometimes the samples will be free (you just pay for shipping) but sometimes they won’t be. There is no one set rule for this and it really depends on the factory and the value of the products etc.
All of this is very straightforward and simple (no real supplier will refuse to supply samples before you place a real order).
Now after you’ve got samples and tested them, you’re pretty much ready to move forward with arranging a factory inspection and getting ready to place a big order.
However, as I always stress to my 60 Day Blueprint customers, it is a lot safer to slowly increase your order amounts, until you are completely satisfied and sure of the reliability of your new supplier.
But how do you do this if your ‘safer order’ amount is below their MOQ!?
Well, one thing that I’ve learnt in my many years of importing is that the MOQ is negotiable! Yes that’s right, most suppliers are more than happy to lower their MOQ by as much as 50%, especially if they feel there’s a possibility of further orders from you in the future.
And that’s where our last email template comes into play – how to get any MOQ that you want!
“Dear Ms Yip,
We have received and tested the samples you sent and I am happy to say that the quality of the products was up to the standard we need to be able to use you as a supplier.
We are now ready to place an order of higher quantity, however to meet our quality control and rules for purchasing from new suppliers, we would like to order 200 pcs, rather than our usual amount of 500.
That way, we can test everything at a higher scale and also get feedback from our retail customers.
Once this order is complete and as long as everything goes well, we can then use your factory as our primary supplier for all future orders.
Please get back to me as soon as possible so we can arrange the order details.
And believe me when I tell you that many times more often than not they will be 100% happy to sell to you at a lower MOQ.
As in essence you’ve ‘flipped the script’ and instead of you trying to prove yourself to them, they are trying to show you that they’re a reliable supplier.
Also, the fact that you have had some previous contact with the company (getting samples, arranging a factory inspection etc.) really does help in this regard as well, as they view you as a serious buyer who has conducted him/herself professionally up to now.
To save money on international payment fees when paying your Chinese suppliers, you should consider companies that specialise in overseas money transfers as you can get better exchange rates compared to typical providers like banks or PayPal. With companies like TransferWise, your money is always converted at the mid-market exchange rate, making them up to eight times cheaper than banks when paying international invoices.
Setting up the payment is simple as well. You sign up for a free account, set up your transfer by entering your supplier’s bank account information and state what currency you’d like to pay them in and then fund your transfer. Options include bank transfer and debit/ credit card.
Whilst they may not offer payment protection like PayPal, they’re FCA regulated and so are kept to the same stringent regulation as a bank and keep your money secure. For more details and an overview of my experience with them, check out my review here.
And that’s pretty much it!
I receive a lot of messages asking specifically about the wording of emails when contacting suppliers from Alibaba and I hope that today’s article and the templates will help you with this! If you need help with other aspects or importing from China, then please take a look at some of my other guides, such as:
- How to Import Products from China
- REVEALED – The Best Products to Sell on eBay
- Alibaba Scams Exposed
- The Top 10 Scams on Alibaba
And as always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below and I’ll answer your personally.
Otherwise, until next time!
All the best,