Before all else, you should always find a trustworthy supplier. In our coaching program we teach this in depth, step-by-step, but for now, let’s use this nine-year supplier. This supplier is also a gold supplier, meaning they’ve been on-site verified – a very good sign of a supplier you can trust.
There are four ways to contact every supplier on Alibaba. You can click “Get Latest Price,” “Contact Supplier,” “Start Order,” or “Chat Now.”
Choosing “Get Latest Price” is a quick and easy option, but suppliers are less likely to pay personal attention to these requests. Choosing “Start Order” only makes sense if I already know I’m ready to order from this supplier, which might not be true if this is my first time working with them. “Chat Now” is a good way to contact the supplier directly, but time differences can make it difficult to coordinate.
For these reasons, I prefer to use the “Contact Supplier” option to speak directly with a representative. It’s similar to sending an email, but through the Alibaba site, and you’ll receive an email notification for every response the supplier sends you.
Template For Contacting Suppliers
Here’s the template I use to contact suppliers for my first samples. This is not the stage of building out a differentiated product but just testing the supplier's quality. Having a template message makes contacting new suppliers easier and more efficient. To make things even easier, you can copy/paste the message every time, or use an application called TextExpander that allows you to type in a short phrase which then expands to the full message.
I am interested in this product. What is the cost if I order two samples?
If I order the MOQ of this item, how much will it cost for you to ship it to me by express air and how much to ship it to me by sea?
Here is my shipping address:
After your greeting, you can easily add more specifics about the product you’re interested in. One of the advantages of having a template is that you can modify it effortlessly to suit every situation.
First Message Says it All
Explain everything in your first message. Don’t save the details for another message. Ask all your questions up-front, because the time difference will most likely cause a long delay between replies. Take the time to write a longer message and request more information right from the start, so you don’t spend 12 hours waiting for one question to be answered. Every delay is time you could be using to get your item up and selling.
Now, why did I express interest in two samples, instead of just one? I want to test one for durability by attempting to break it with a hammer, and the other, I’ll keep as a reference point for when I get my first custom sample.
Legitimate suppliers should have no issue with you requesting samples. You’ll likely have to pay a much steeper price for the samples, but the ability to verify the quality of the product and gauge consumer interest is invaluable.
When you’re ready to place a full order, Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) applies. Whether it’s 100 items, or 500, MOQ is the lower limit of items you can order. In general, purchasing a larger quantity will lower the cost per item.
I was once offered a $0.50 discount if I ordered an additional 200 items, and because I was just starting out, I thought $0.50 was ridiculous and penny-grabbing. But $0.50 can add up. If you order 5,000 of that item, with $0.50 off each – that’s $2,500! Don’t assume the supplier is just pinching pennies; you might be getting a better deal than you realize by upping the quantity of your order.
Always include your shipping address. The supplier will need your shipping address to calculate the cost of shipping, both by sea and by air.
Air shipping, especially for samples, is usually speedy, sometimes taking only three or four days. If you order a small amount of your product, and that quantity is already manufactured and sitting in a warehouse, it might even ship within 24 hours.
Shipping by sea is going to take a lot longer, but the advantage is that the cost of shipping by sea is significantly lower. If you order a large amount of your product, shipping by sea could save you literally thousands of dollars.
Keep this in mind when reviewing your expenses. You make money by tracking how much you spend, not how much you earn. A lot of little choices, such as which shipping method to use, can have a large impact on your profits.
A lot of suppliers don’t mind a bit of bargaining, as long as you’re respectful, polite, and not too pushy. It’s okay to say, “I’m looking for a long-term supplier relationship and am really considering working with you. Would you be willing to offer a $0.20/item discount if I order right now?” As long as you’re respectful, the worst they can do is say no.
Be As Clear As Possible
If you’re working with someone from another country, there’s a good chance English isn’t their first language. Be as clear, simple, and straight-forward as possible. Time spent clarifying miscommunications is time wasted.
Don’t forget: these are real people!
Just like you, suppliers are real people, working their real jobs. Treat them like human beings. Ask them how their days are going. It never hurts to be friendly.
One supplier I had worked with for over a year once offered me a $5 discount per item. I was unbelievably grateful. Building a friendly, open, trusting relationship with this supplier benefited me, because she knew I would continue to be a faithful customer and bring her more business.
So, keep these tips in mind when communicating and negotiating with suppliers on Alibaba. Make the most of the time and money you invest. Before you know it, you’ll be building passive income, so you have more time to focus on doing the things you love.