How to source from China: Why use a sourcing agent or buying agent in China?

TK Wang

For a small business, the benefits of moving production or supply to a low-cost region like China are clear. What’s not always crystal is the best path forward. Doing it yourself is possible, but many underestimate the challenges and engaging the services of an expert is worth considering. Enter the mighty sourcing agent. 

Here we’ll dive into some of the reasons why you should consider using a sourcing agent or buying agent when sourcing products from China. Full disclosure, I’m a sourcing agent!

Local knowledge

Let’s face it, China can seem like a daunting and mysterious prospect, and starting the sourcing journey can feel a little like walking a tightrope with a blindfold on. A sourcing agent helps turn that rope into a bridge, and closes the cultural, technical and language divide. 

Having someone on your side that speaks the language and understands the business culture is a big advantage. Poor communication and misunderstandings can result in more than just embarrassment, and local knowledge will help you build strong, trusting, and long-lasting relationships.

Find the best manufacturer or supplier

Is there a more important decision to make in the sourcing process? Nope. Finding the right supplier or manufacturer puts you on a path to success, and a sourcing agent can make this path a lot smoother. They will do the due diligence for you, removing the hassle and making the process transparent and low-risk.

A good sourcing agent will be able to validate a new supplier, or audit an existing one, so you know exactly who you are working with.

This will give you peace of mind at this crucial stage in the process. We’ll dive a little deeper into supplier and manufacturer prospecting in another post that’s Coming Soon!

Source from the source

Using a sourcing agent will help you avoid the hidden middleman. B2B marketplaces like Alibaba are rife with middlemen (and middlewomen, come on it’s 2020!) and it isn’t always apparent that you’re not in direct contact with a supplier or manufacturer. 

As well as harming your ability to get the best price, this can cause problems further down the track. Having direct contact with your supplier makes it a lot easier to remedy any issues that might arise.

Negotiate like a boss

Do you like… good deals? Of course you do. Knowing how to appropriately and effectively negotiate will not only help you get the best deal, but also ensure all parties are on the same page when it comes to the details of the contract. 

Finding you the best deal and negotiating the terms of a contract are where a sourcing agent really comes into their own.

Communication is key

Success when sourcing requires the establishment of clear lines of communication. A super sourcing agent can be your on-call representative whenever you need to liaise with a supplier, manufacturer, shipping agent or other party. Not only will this save you time and potentially a lot of money, but it enables you to fix problems efficiently and effectively.

It’s also worth noting that if you’re based in New Zealand and sourcing from China, you’re in a different time zone. Epic Sourcing is based in Auckland, but we have a team in China. So, we can communicate with your supplier or manufacturer regardless of the time. A good sourcing agent will get on the phone for you so you don’t miss dinner.

Problems solved

It’s almost inevitable that you’ll face some hurdles when you start down the procurement path. A sourcing agent’s job is not only to solve these problems, but also anticipate them before they arise. 

Let’s say you receive your first sample and it’s not what you were expecting, a sourcing agent can work with you and the supplier to make sure necessary adjustments are made. Problem solved, with less hassle.

In a sourcing squeeze? Let’s chat.

Support at any stage

Perhaps you’re a procurement pro and already sourcing products from China. A sourcing agent can step in and help streamline or manage the process for you. 

Maybe you need an audit for your chosen manufacturer, or help finding the best shipping option? Perhaps you need advice regarding customs documentation or import regulations? A top agent will be able to support your business at any stage.

For a visual representation of the sourcing process, head over to our Services page

Finding the right sourcing agent

Not all sourcing agents are created equal and engaging the wrong one can cause serious problems. Make sure you ask for references and see if you can talk to another client that has used their services in the past. If possible, meet with them in person. 

Anyone can call themselves a sourcing agent, so it pays to find out as much as you can about the person before you enter into an agreement. Look for a sourcing agent that puts a premium on transparency, and is clear up front about how they price their services. Epic Sourcing for example operates on an hourly basis, with no minimum requirements. We believe this removes any conflict of interest and is the most transparent option for businesses looking to engage our services.

We also offer a FREE initial consultation. You’ll find our booking form over on our Home Page.

Conclusion

For small businesses looking to move operations to China, a sourcing agent is an option worth considering. Tackling the process on your own is certainly possible, but if you do decide to go this route, we recommend spending some time doing research. Put together a detailed plan and approach each stage with care. For a useful breakdown of what you should consider before you start, check out this resource on the business.govt.nz website.

10 tips before you import

If you’re in New Zealand, and want to have a chat with a local sourcing agent, book in a free consultation with me, TK! I love sitting down with passionate creators, entrepreneurs and small business owners.

For more tips and tricks on the sourcing process, head over to the Epic Blog. We’ll be adding much more content there in the coming months, so stay tuned. 


Better sourcing everybody!