Let's say you found a supplier that you like on Alibaba, an involved process on its own. But the emails you're getting back aren't clear and don't really address your issues. You sit there, scratching your head, wondering why. You know how to write a clear, detailed, and professional email. The problem is you don't know how to write an email to somebody in China.
If you don't do it right, there's a chance that your product isn't going to come out the way you would like. You would have to go back to your supplier and try to explain your specifications again and pay for the costs of rebuilding your product and getting it reshipped. It's inefficient, costly, and your business may suffer.
To help prevent this from happening, check out these three essential tips to communicate with suppliers in China! These tips are lessons I have learned myself while working with suppliers overseas.
1) Write in short paragraphs
Remember that the Chinese salesperson on the other end of your email does not speak native English. If you write in long paragraphs, this could confuse them and lead to multiple problems.
The Chinese are particularly focused and direct, and they do not have the patience for an extended essay form. That kind of writing is not found to be prevalent in their business culture.
In fact, the chance of the supplier reading your message at all becomes slimmer than a skinny latte.
Let's say they do read the extra-long paragraph. The supplier is probably only going to respond to one or two parts of your ten-part message. The way the Chinese are trained to read in school is one section and one block at a time. The essay style is foreign to them.
Long paragraphs are also a waste of your time. There are only a couple things you need to find out about your supplier before you decide whether invest any more time with them or not. Asking if they can send you a sample is irrelevant at this point. First of all, ask if they can they build the product for you.
2) Use basic English
Chinese nationals do not grow up speaking English, so it will take them longer to read your message. This means they're prone to overlook details and misinterpret something if you do not make it crystal clear. Also, don't use contractions.
Just as you serve your customer by making the sale as convenient and easy as possible for them, you should strive to do the same with your supplier. You should treat every interaction you have with every person along your journey as you would a brand new customer.
I know all these things are important, and you want them answered. But if you want to be effective and want the product built the way you need it, take the time to break it down and simplify it to the things that matter the most. That is: Can they actually build it for me?
Notice in the good example how:
- I wrote in simple English. Your supplier's native tongue is not English, so make it as easy for them to read as possible. Otherwise, you'll waste time going back and forth, having to re-explain yourself, or they simply won't answer the question they don't understand.
- I did not do an elaborate introduction. No "I'm a multi-million dollar company" and "I have over 200 employees". Chinese suppliers are not impressed by these. And if you're new at this, they don't care. Keep it simple and clear.
Pro tip! Chinese sales representatives for suppliers understand typical supplier and shipping lingo like MOQ, specs, trade assurance, DDP, freight forwarding, trading companies, etc. All of this is familiar to them, so don't worry about simplifying those.
In your early days of negotiating with suppliers, you are probably going to struggle to understand all the jargon involved. Knowing all of these will give off the impression you know more than you do which will increase their trust and help you negotiate better. For a free tool breaking down the most common terms used in shipping when talking with suppliers, click here.
This will increase the supplier's respect for you, build your credibility, and give you more negotiating power.