That is an extremely important chapter because if you talk to the wrong people you will not get the best results, even if the rest of your Trade Fair preparations are close to perfect.
Making First Contact
It should be a straight forward task making contact with the companies you previously contacted from your home country. You should have the name of your contact person and will know whether he or she is attending the Fair.
Unfortunately, not every person at a supplier’s booth is the person you will be communicating with in future. Just grabbing some of the business cards laid out on the tables does not help much either if you do not know who they are from.
Recall in Chapter 15, I discussed exchanging business cards and the hierarchical customs of the Chinese. The same applies to meetings during the Trade Fair but it is somewhat less formal because time is money and the next visitors are waiting to be seated. Therefore, make your visits efficient and professional. Small talk is something you probably do not have time for, nor do the suppliers.
About Trading Companies
In my eBook How to Import Products from China More Successfully I explain the pros and cons for working with trading companies.
There will be a lot of trading companies at the Fair and you cannot easily distinguish trading companies from manufacturers right away. Familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of doing business with trading companies before deciding if you want to do business with them.
Both sides have their merits and you have to ask yourself what is more important to you.
- Easier communication for you with a single contact for several factories
- They usually have a better showroom for product selection
- They are experienced in dealing with customers from different countries
- They sometimes invest in their own tooling and therefore have their own products
- Their staff is more proficient in English which makes discussions and negotiations easier
- Their prices are less competitive because you have to pay for their service
- They may not be able to present you with the latest products because they do not want to take the risk of being first
- They will try directing you to certain factories that they have trade agreements with
- Solving claims with their help may prove more difficult due to their relationship with their factories. Since they have projects for other customers, the factories may be more important to them than your business.
Getting to the Manufacturer
In some cases, you are forced to work with an export agent simply because the factory does not have an export license or does invest in extra marketing personnel.
It is not a surprise that you will find many suppliers offering the same products because the products are part of their general trading business.
If you want to buy your products directly from the manufacturer, you will have to find him first and it could be that he does not have his own booth at the Trade Fair.
Several times, I have found the manufacturer present at the booth but shielded from contacting potential customers by a smart trading company staff member. These are usually the professional sales people, fluent in English and trying to attract your attention. The small guy in the background that does not speak English is the real show-master, controlling the business and most importantly he has the money.
Talking to him is actually more important than listening to the “smart guys” that know exactly what you want to hear from them. Unfortunately, you cannot talk to the business owner at this moment but you can collect his business card and can come back with one of the interpreters that are available for hire through the Trade Fair operators.
Interpreters sometimes can do wonders if something of importance has to be negotiated and the language barrier stands between you and your supplier.
Wrong Exhibitor Names
Quite often, you will find the names on the exhibitors’ booths confusing. For instance, a booth showing the name “Guandong Footwear & Animal Products Company” may not have any shoes on display but shows vacuum cleaners instead. That happens because some companies sell their booth allocation to other companies.
In the next chapter, I go further into how to find out who is a manufacturer and who is a trading company or an agent.