Buyers frequently rush out quote requests to their suppliers as if structure or readability have absolutely no importance. Here are 10 questions to ask numero uno (you!) before emailing your RFQ to your China or offshore vendor.

It’s as if being as vague as possible in an important RFQ is ok, because, “hey, the supplier should get back to me as perfectly as possible.” But the old adage garbage in, garbage out applies to your China sourcing.

If you don’t place importance on your own quote request, the vendor is less likely to place importance on the price quote…or is less likely able to provide an accurate price quote.

1-  Does the supplier have a point of reference on who I am or why I’m contacting them?

Does the vendor know you? If not, provide a brief explanation on who you are, who your company is and why you are contacting them.

If you found the vendor on Alibaba or at a trade show then let them know.

There’s a misconception that because a vendor is in China and exports, then they answer any and all emails without some sort of point of reference.

But if you receive emails that look fishy or that lack “oomph” do you necessarily reply?

Basically, you want to give your vendor a reason to prioritize your request.

2-  Did I clarify the name of the item?

When buyers send an ambiguous request with an image, no product name or description and simply say, “Can you quote this?”, they’re starting down a dangerous path.

Imagine the scenario:

Client says, “Can you quote this?”

Supplier says, “Yes”.

They quote, price is confirmed and sampling is initiated. Client receives the item and it’s a different item than they expected. Why?

The supplier’s interpretation of “this” is different than client’s interpretation of “this”.

Being overly brief in your supplier communication leads to errors.

If you’re contacting a scarf vendor, don’t just say “scarf” but give your product a name:

  • That’s descriptive. If it’s a wool scarf, call it a wool scarf. The supplier may be producing 10 other lines of scarves at the moment in different materials.
  • Give it a name that you and the supplier will use between you throughout the project. If the supplier uses weird English and calls it something weird, don’t keep using that term. And at the same time, don’t give a complex name that only you and end-customer would understand.
  • The name should be something that will ultimately go on shipping documents and not cause confusion with freight forwarders or customs.

3-  Do my attachments need clarification?

If my attachment is for point of reference of shape, then let the supplier know. If the attachment is NOT for reference of another aspect then let the vendor know as well.

As per the question on naming your product, also name your attachments. Give it a name that’s beneficial to the understanding of the item. Sending an attachment to your supplier with the name “DSC_2062” isn’t helpful to anyone.

Also remember you can use basic software to add red lines to point to something or add text on an image to further point your supplier to what you’re trying to show. On a basic MacBoo it’s doable on the Preview program.

4-  Did I provide expected specifications so the quote is as apples to apples as possible?

Did I include a clear technical description of the product? This may include but not limited to:

  • Size of the item: If you have measurements you want your vendor to follow, then give the measurements. If you give English system measurements a super awesome client will convert to metric system…just sayin!
  • Weight of the item: Consider how many items are priced on weight. Also from the weight of the item, you’re also giving an indication of quality and durability, thus the supplier knows even more how to quote.
  • Material: Many times, the supplier cannot determine the material by looking at a reference image. Inform the material and what grade of material, high-end, low-end, etc…
  • Color:  If you can get PMS specific, then by all means, do so. Remember and make provision though for the fact that once a factory applies a certain color to certain materials, it changes the appearance of the color. So therefore for that material you may need to go up a notch or 2 on the Pantone card to land where you want to land. Does that make sense?  Here’s more on color confusion in China manufacturing.

5-  How do customers use the item? How is it distributed?

If it’s a giveaway item of an expected life span of the baseball season and not much beyond, then let the supplier know this. Again, this is a quality clue and a quality clue is a price clue.

How’s the item sold? Amazon or shelf?

If the item is sold retail and is expected to be for higher-end clientele, then detail this fact.

This is what I call “life after manufacturing.” The more you can let your vendor know about what will happen to the item, the better. This gives the vendor (especially if they’re responsible) insight into important aspects to consider.