Business in many cultures (China especially) is not transactional as it is in many Western cultures. It is relationship based. Once you have selected your finalists you need to meet them face-to-face. If you are going to use an agent, a face-to-face meeting is also recommended (and this is another reason why trading companies that are incorporated close to home can save you a long trip out of the gate).
One of the most effective ways of meeting suppliers is to schedule a trip to a trade show where you can meet several factories all in a single location. This will save you time and significant expense.
Find out from the suppliers you have selected as your finalists what shows they will attend and you may get lucky and be able to meet the majority at the same show. Make sure to contact all of your finalists attending a show beforehand and set up appointments with them for private meetings as well as scheduling a factory tour (especially if they are somewhat close to the event locale). Check to see who will be attending the show from the factory. It is very important that you develop relationships with not only the sales staff (who are most likely the people who have been in contact with you thus far) but also with plant managers and ultimately the owners.
[custom_frame_left][/custom_frame_left] If you do attend a show, do not expect to do much more than meet some of the staff and see a good cross section of the product they are selling. Most new and innovative product is not displayed at trade shows (especially in China where there is a high level of paranoia, and for good reason, that innovation will be stolen if showcased). Furthermore, many of the people who are manning the booths are often temps or hired help for the show and have limited knowledge of the product. Don’t rely on promises or pricing offered at shows either as they are often thrown out as bait to generate as much traffic or leads as possible. The true pricing will be negotiated later.
If you are thinking about using a trading company or agent in some capacity to help you with your purchases, it is a good idea to get them involved in the process as early as possible. One of the services we offer to our prospects and clients is to walk shows with them and help not only with translations, but also with setting up appointments with qualified factories, organizing and scheduling booth visits, and offering technical and product specific help as needed to facilitate the sourcing process.