How to Find the Best Overseas Supplier

With the Australian dollar at an all-time high, sourcing goods for sale from overseas has never been more attractive. The internet has made finding and connecting with overseas manufacturers and traders much easier but the process remains complicated and importers should take care when dealing with overseas parties. These are the key steps not to miss when you set out to find an overseas supplier.

1. Research and Sources

The internet is a great place to start as it gives you virtually unlimited reach in connecting with potential overseas partners. However, you need to choose your suppliers with caution for the same reason. There’s no way of verifying the information supplied to you unless you visit suppliers in person or make thorough reference checks. You may choose to do these further down the line, and well before you start getting organised with the other elements of your business like warehousing or storage options, such as pallet racking.

An alternative to doing the research yourself is to get a manufacturing agent to locate and liaise with overseas suppliers for you. If you want to get to know your suppliers personally, you’ll probably prefer to do this yourself.

Other than using search engines, wholesale market sites can very useful for connecting buyers with suppliers. Trade associations and groups can provide you with useful information. Trade shows and exhibitions are excellent places for connecting with overseas suppliers. If you have a specific country in mind, try their embassy, chamber of commerce, or local business representative groups for some names or lists. Comprehensive supplier lists can also be purchased from research companies.

2. What to Look For

Once you’ve done your research, compile a shortlist of potential suppliers to contact. You should double check that you’re dealing with the supplier directly, and not an agent who adds a surcharge to the product.

Tips to keep in mind when compiling your shortlist:

  • Your familiarity with the country.
  • Your ability to communicate with the supplier.
  • Whether Australia has any special trade agreements with the country that will impact or benefit your business plans.
  • Their experience and pricing.
  • Physical location and shipping costs.
  • Current levels of trade, as higher volumes means that other local businesses have successfully traded with that country.

3. Connecting with Suppliers

Once you’ve narrowed down your shortlist of suppliers, it’s time to contact them. Send an introductory email or give them a call to set up a mutually agreeable time for a discussion. You’ll get a chance to have your questions answered and request product samples.

Some common issues to cover are pricing, minimum order amounts (which can be important if you need to make provisions for storage in advance, such as shelving systems for your warehouse), shipping arrangements, other costs, product guarantees, quality, and warranties. Written quotations with a clear statement of the terms and conditions are a must. Before settling on a supplier, you should also check product samples for quality and test it in a typical usage situation.

If you don’t plan to visit their site in person, you should try and verify the supplier’s credentials independently. For example, you can try contacting their other clients for information about their experience with your supplier. Never sign an agreement or pay your supplier without first conducting adequate independent verification. Take your time in negotiating good terms and finalising your agreement.

4. Maintaining a Good Relationship

Maintaining a good working relationship can be more difficult than it sounds when it comes to cross-border partners. Other than the tyranny of distance, there are cultural issues and different business practices to keep aware of. Where applicable, read up on the cultural and business practices of your supplier’s country to avoid misunderstandings or unintentionally giving offence.

5. Getting Support Along the Way

Finding a supplier and a deal right for your business needs can take time and patience. Get professional advice if you have any doubts, and never rush into an agreement if you have unanswered questions.

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