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Module 3 - Choose Your Supplier

3.6 Contacting Suppliers

Awesome, you now have a short list of international and/or local suppliers which you’re going to make contact with to begin the initial negotiation. But we’re only halfway…

You have not been able to completely fill out your Suppliers Sheet yet. To do so, you’ll need to contact your potential suppliers to obtain that missing information.

You should get as much information as possible from the suppliers. Don’t worry though, we’ve got a comprehensive list of questions for you in a sec which will help complete all of the necessary Suppliers Sheet columns. Read through this section fully first, then come back to do the steps one at a time. We don’t want you to miss anything.

Here are the 5 steps for contacting suppliers:

  1. Get into the right Mindset, You ARE a Professional
  2. Send an Email and Make the First Contact
  3. Make a Phone Call and Get all the Information You Need
  4. The 20 Things You Should Discuss When Contacting Suppliers
  5. Complete Your Suppliers Sheet

Step 1: Get into the right Mindset, You ARE a Professional

To find the best supplier for your product, you need to have the right mindset. You may not be on top of the world yet, but like a running champion who from the very first step has the absolute conviction that he will win this marathon, you also need to believe in your business. You need to be a professional, you need to believe in you. If you don’t, how is your supplier going to?

Try to put yourself in the shoes of a supplier.

They have tons of people reaching out to them from around the world, trying to negotiate terms. Just like you, they’re trying to build or grow a business, and they’re looking for stable, recurring customers to supply product to.

If you can understand this, empathize with the supplier, and communicate with them in a way that they are going to trust you, and WANT to do business with you, you’re going to have fun finding suppliers and building relationships.

When you contact your supplier, here are 6 things you need to communicate:

  • You run a professional, legitimate business organization
  • You know what you’re doing
  • You are a high value, long term customer
  • As long as you work well together (meaning you get along), this isn’t going to be a one time order, and they’re never going to hear from you again
  • You’re reliable, consistent and around for the longer term
  • You pay on time, every time (always research your suppliers business and be cautious of sending payments to new suppliers)

Believe in yourself, and you will convince the suppliers you contact.

Pro Tip: We know it can seem a little daunting to contact suppliers, but they are just business people as well. Refrain from mentioning that you are new, and this is your first FBA product. Instead refer to it as a new line you are adding to the company portfolio, which will explain why you need such particular information.

Step 2: Send an Email and Make the First Contact

Ok, so you’ve worked on your inner dialogue. You’re a professional. Now it’s time to make contact!

The first step to finding a new supplier is to reach out and email them.

What should you send on your first contact? This is a crucial piece of communication, and we’ve developed an email template that encompasses the 6 criteria above for you to use in your first communication.

The below email template is a hook for the supplier that you mean business. However, at this time you’re just talking a big game, you aren’t actually ready to order yet. So don’t worry, you haven’t missed a step. Take a read and see if you can pick out the 6 criteria we mentioned above.

SAMPLE EMAIL TEMPLATE

Dear Sir, Madam,

My name is [NAME], and I’m contacting you on behalf of my company, [COMPANY NAME]. Our company sells [FILL IN WHAT KIND OF PRODUCTS YOU SELL OR WANT TO SELL] on Amazon, and we’re interested in expanding our product line to include [YOUR PRODUCT]. We are interested in building a long-term relationship with you as a supplier if it makes sense for both of us.

However, we have a concern with starting with a large volume first order / [OR USE ALTERNATIVELY:] [QUANTITY] units MOQ listed on your company page. We are ready to move forward with this product, but seeing as we haven’t worked with you before, we would like to start the relationship at a unit count of [QUANTITY, FOR EXAMPLE: 1,000] initially, and move up from there. If you can accommodate our request, we would like to talk more about moving forward with an order.

What’s the best phone number or Skype account to contact you to discuss this order?

We look forward to hearing from you.

Respectfully,

[your name]

[company name]

[website if available]

[phone number]

Feel free to amend this template to your liking and needs. But make sure you come across as a professional. If you’re new to this, and you haven’t sold on Amazon, this may feel unnatural. Act the part anyway. Suppliers don’t want to take a risk on a newbie who doesn’t treat selling on Amazon like a business and who may only order one time. Act like the successful sellers act and you’ll start to get the results that successful sellers get.

Pro Tip: Starting out, it’s tempting to mass mail all of your potential suppliers with the exact same email, but we recommend that you contact each supplier one at a time. This allows you to address their MOQ, their exact product, and negotiate based on your terms.

What’s the next step after you’ve sent the email? There are 2 options here:

  • The supplier does not respond: then you’ll just have to knock on the door again. They may just have missed your email. Go ahead, contact them once more.
  • The supplier responds: Bingo! Pick up the phone and get back to them immediately to show them you’re serious.

Step 3: Make a Phone Call. Get all the Information You Need

Once you receive a response, it is best to get on a phone or Skype call to move things forward. As we asked for phone contact information in the email template, you should now have their number.

But wait a minute, do Chinese suppliers even speak English? Yes, most of them do. Generally, we don’t find language to be an issue as most foreign companies who private label products. This is the game they are in: they are already dealing with other buyers and have therefore established sales staff who speak English.

But…but…can’t I just send them an email again?

No. This is where your mindset comes in. Be a professional. Take a deep breath. Jump up and down in your room while playing the biggest ego building hip-hop tune you can find. Whatever works for you to man-up, to get yourself ready to give your supplier a call.

Here’s why you should absolutely call your suppliers, even if it makes you uncomfortable:

  • It allows you to get a feel for how they operate
  • It allows you to establish a relationship
  • It’s easier to negotiate
  • It’s easier to build trust
  • It’s more likely they will treat you as a person, instead of a number
  • You will quickly weed out illegitimate or fake companies who you may not figure out are bad over email until it’s too late

So what are you going to do?

CALL your suppliers.

Don’t worry about what you’re going to say: below you will find a list of 20 questions to discuss with the supplier. They will be the one doing all the talking.

But what if they should ask you anything about your business? No worries: you can simply repeat what you said in the email.

Our company sells [FILL IN WHAT KIND OF PRODUCTS YOU SELL OR WANT TO SELL] on Amazon, and we’re interested in expanding our product line to include [YOUR PRODUCT].

You may have to reach out to 10 or so suppliers to find the right fit. Don’t try to take the easy way out on this one. It is crucial to the long-term success of your business that you do your due diligence and find the best supplier possible for your business.

This is especially important if you might want to sell your business to an investor in the future! Few people will buy your future revenue projections if you have an unreliable supplier.

Step 4: The 20 Things You Should Discuss When Contacting Suppliers

Here are some of the pieces of information you should gather along the way with your communication (email and phone) with the supplier:

  1. Where is the supplier located?
  2. What is the exact name of the product you’re ordering and what’s included?
  3. What are the product specs (size, weight, shipping restrictions) that you are ordering?
  4. What will be the dimensions of the product within its packaging?
  5. Can the supplier provide the modification you would like to differentiate your product?
  6. Do they have a product catalog they can send you?
  7. Can they private label the product with your brand?
  8. How does their private labeling process work?
  9. Does the supplier have labeling, design or packaging capabilities?
  10. What is the minimum order requirement (MOQ)?
  11. What is the cost per unit? This will be referred to as your cost of good sold (COGS) before shipping to Amazon’s fulfillment centers.
  12. Does the supplier provide quantity discounts?
  13. Can the supplier provide some quality inspections (QA) such as FDA reporting docs or certification?
  14. What is the lead time of production? Meaning, how long will it take to get the product ready for shipment to Amazon’s fulfillment centers once they have processed your order?
  15. Can you pay extra to fast track your order?
  16. Do they offer multiple shipping options? What does the supplier suggest as the best way to ship your product to your home marketplace? Air or Sea?
  17. Do they provide credit and/or allow for credit card payments?
  18. What kind of payment schedule do they require? Are you required to pay the full order price upfront, or can you pay part upfront, and the rest after shipping?
  19. Do they sell their own white label? Often manufacturers will undercut you on price (or warranty) making it very hard to compete.
  20. What information will they require from you, and when?

And of course, anything else you can think of, especially things which you know are important (or key details) for your product that you came across when doing your market research.

Step 5: Complete your Suppliers Sheet

You’re going to be getting a lot of information back during these calls, so it’s important to record everything in an easy to use manner, which is why we’ve got so many columns in your “Suppliers Sheet”.

So, go back to your spreadsheet to score products in the “Suppliers Sheet”. Fill out the empty cells for each column during your call. Below is a set of questions to ensure you cover each column during your conversation with the supplier.

At the end of the call, your goal is to have the following fields in the “Suppliers Sheet” completed:

  • Weight (update if necessary)
  • Dimensions (update if necessary)
  • Restrictions
  • Modifications
  • Catalog
  • Labels
  • Packaging
  • Unit Price (update if necessary)
  • MOQ
  • Unit Price
  • QTY Discount
  • Estimated Shipping Costs to Amazon Fulfillment Centers
  • Quality Inspections (QA)
  • Lead Time
  • Fast Track
  • Shipping
  • Payment Options
  • Upfront Payment
  • White Labels
  • Comments
Repeat the call process with the next few suppliers so that you’ve got a good selection to choose from when it’s time to make your final choice.

Now It's Time To Choose a Supplier!

You’ve gathered all the information you need to make an informed decision on which supplier best suits your needs. Let’s pick one!