Chapter 25 – Take Notes and Which Questions to Ask

In Chapter 15, you were given you an overview of essential tools and materials to use during your Trade Fair visit. One of these was a large notebook with fixed pages. Loose leaflets or notebooks with perforated pages for easier detachment are not good because single pages can easily get lost.

Taking Notes

Can you imagine what will happen if one or two pages with vital information goes missing? Pure disaster!

During your meetings with your suppliers, you will notice that most of them are also using notebooks. You should make a habit of it.

I mentioned previously that it is not very convenient to use a notebook computer at Trade Fairs because there is not enough space at the tables.

It is also too time consuming to take out your notebook computer for every meeting. Remember you don’t have unlimited time.

Write down all vital information and the suppliers’ answers to your questions. At the top, note the date and staple one or more business cards to the notes. A second business card should be affixed to the catalogs that you collect. Usually the booth staff has already done this but it is best make sure.

Some companies have very similar looking catalogs and sometimes without the company name on it. Often the catalogs are printed at the last minute and are full of mistakes because there was no time for corrections.

Collecting Business Cards

Be careful when collecting business cards from booth tables. Sometimes other companies intentionally leave their cards or the card might be from a manager that is not actually attending the fair. Future communication with the person you spoke with will be impossible. Therefore, ask your meeting representative to give you the right name card. Also, ask if he or she will be your future contact person. This would be very helpful since personal contact has already been established.

If the representative is not your future contact, ask him/her whom you should be contacting instead. Knowing the name is vital because large companies often have dozens of marketing people working for them, divided in several divisions for different areas.

Write down the hall and booth number in case you want to come back for another meeting. This saves you time searching the crowded fair grounds.

No Representative

Sometimes products are displayed but nobody is there to sell them. If you ask around someone will probably tell you that the products belong to a friend and they are just doing him a favor by displaying them. In many cases, they cannot give you any additional information and you are wasting your time. If it was an exciting new product, you can bet nobody would allow another company to display the products for them.

The Questions

What questions should you be asking during meetings with suppliers? You want to at least ask the following questions:

  • What is your FOB price in US$?
  • What is your usual port of loading? They can sometimes offer you a choice of several ports.
  • Do you have your own factory, what is the name, and where is it located?
  • When was your company established?
  • Who are the owner(s)?
  • How many production lines do you have?
  • How many workers does the factory have?
  • What are your main export markets?
  • If the answer is Europe your next question should be: Which countries there?
  • Who are your main customers? Of course you are mainly interested in customers from your country but it would be interesting to know if large companies like Wal*Mart or Carrefour are buying from them
  • What is your delivery time during normal season and peak season?
  • Are you subcontracting part of your production and if so which parts?
  • Does your factory have its own injection machines?
  • Is metal punching done in house?
  • Is your factory ISO 9000 or ISO 9001 approved?
  • In case the quantity from your shopping list is not sufficient: What is your minimum order quantity per product?
  • What approvals does your company have?
  • Which certificates have been obtained?
  • Which laboratory are you using for your approvals?
  • What new products do you have that are not shown at your booth?
  • When can I see sketches, drawings, or photos of these new products?
  • Can you please e-mail me your bank details? You will need this to pay for the sample charges.

If the staff at the supplier’s booth can answer most of these questions, you can be sure that it is not a trading company. Even if they pretend, they will not know all of these details. I should point out that you should inform them what is on your shopping list before you ask all of these questions.

Give the Supplier Your Specifications

It is essential to provide your company’s specifications before asking for a price quote. You could try playing the hide and seek game by not informing the supplier of your requirements. I find that to be a great disadvantage because you will be drawn into lengthy negotiations later on. The supplier will tell you that his price was based on his own standard and anything additional has to be paid on top of the quoted price.

I consider the supplier correct about this. I believe it is part of fair play and you should consider that you may force the factory to lower the product quality by using cheaper materials.

Think about the lead paint tainted toys that were imported to the United States and had to be recalled in very large numbers. I do not know the real reason why cheaper but dangerous paint was used in the first place. It could have been greediness but it also could have been that the supplier was pushed too hard for a lower price that he could not achieve and was looking for a way out.

Economic Reality

Although China is a land of nearly unlimited opportunities, their factories cannot escape worldwide developments. With the price of oil now at US$ 110 per barrel and the US dollar at its lowest value in many years, factories will feel the crunch and have to adjust to survive.

Under such circumstances, it will be difficult for you to negotiate much lower prices because there is no more room for the factory to maneuver.

However, the good thing is that this will not be a disadvantage only you face because everybody will face the same problem.

Don’t forget to take product photos with your digital camera. Sometimes you may have to shoot photos from different angles to get it right. Digital photos are free and more is better.

You don’t have the opportunity to meet your suppliers in person very often. Take full advantage of it by collecting all the information available. It could become vital evidence if there is some kind of misunderstanding later.

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