Why suppliers don’t respond to sourcing requests?

From our experience, when looking for new Chinese suppliers in a sourcing project, most of them don’t respond our enquiries, or respond very late and can either compromise the project, or delay it significantly.

What could be the reasons and how to increase that answering rate?

In this article, we will explain the process in SAOS and where come from this situation that every people doing business in China had to manage.

I. The sourcing process of SAOS

Usually, we start a sourcing project with a long list of suppliers. On client’s request, we identify a significant list of manufacturers, and eventually traders who can make the requested product. For new suppliers (not in SAOS database), we use B2B platforms like Alibaba, Global Sources, Made-in-China and other sources like customs data, social networks and search engines. When a potential supplier has been spotted, he is recorded and contacted for a first pass check.

So we start to contact the suppliers by email. In this round, we can get nearly 10%-20% email reply.

After that, if the supplier doesn’t respond, we call him by phone. A direct contact is general more efficient; the relation is less impersonal than emails, and our request is also less likely be considered as a spam or as a spy.

II. Why the answering rate is as low as 10-20% by mail? Can it be more efficient?

There are two cases.

First: the supplier has not received the email: • Some email addresses are invalid • They do not use that email often • The contact information on their website is not correct • Our email goes to spam directly according to their email setting. Some suppliers receive a lot of emails every day and they do not want to receive email with many attachments. Another explanation would be the email is too big.

Second: the supplier neglects our email: • Our email greetings is “Dear supplier”, some suppliers may consider it is an advertising mail, so they will discard it. This is the reason provided by about 30% of the suppliers when we check with them. • We send 5 attachments to suppliers for inquiry, each file is very long. Suppliers feel there are too many content for them to read. They think a normal inquiry are just contain the product description, quantity, where is the target market and so on. Some of them are no interested by filling the RFI/RFQ, they are too busy to consider a new request, even when more than 10 million yearly pieces are considered. • Error searching. It happens that the supplier information on Internet is misleading and he is actually not doing the products we are searching. • Technical limits: Sometimes the product is hard for the suppliers to manufacture, they do not have enough capacity to make such products, and they are not interested to extent their business, yes it happens!!! • Because of poor English ability, some suppliers cannot understand our clients’ product description and other attached files well. They think our information is too complicate for them. We experience this situation even with suppliers having exporting already for many years. • Trust issue. Because of first contact, some suppliers may think we are spying on them. Or they have met some companies doing sourcing project like us, as the result was negative, they try to avoid working with this business model.

There are various ways to improve that sourcing step, like phone call (in Chinese preferably), use another email not seen as spam, find another contact, used instant messages from Alibaba, Wechat, Skype or QQ. With our experience in sourcing activities we apply various solutions to increase the hit rate and meet our customers’ expectations.


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