Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Keep Your Cool_Part II

People make the low cost goods that you use.  The goods are not made by machines, although machines are involved, but by people.  Many overseas buyers are surprised when they come for factory visits in China and learn how much of the processes are actually done by hand. 

Sewing, printing, sticking, polishing, attaching, plating….all done by hand.  Done by people.    

These folks have their own lives, their own goals, their own fears.  For the majority, their main goal in working, isn’t self-betterment, isn’t to advance on the corporate ladder, isn’t because they are workaholics, it’s to feed their families. 

From Part I, you can see from the Chinese perspective, this is a dog-eat-dog society.  Everything they got, they had to fight, claw, work hard, cheat for and any many respects, they have to continue to do those things to hold on to what they got. 

Good service in China is not an obligation.  It is not something the buyer starts out with on their side.  It is almost something that’s earned.  As stated before in previous posts, you have to earn favor. 

The Chinese are already dealing with their on daily issues. As China’s local market grows by leaps and bounds, the overseas importer is becoming a smaller spec on the radar.  Why should they have to tackle the headache of cross-cultural business in a second language, when they can deal locally with folks that understand? 

Here are examples of email communication that are ways not to treat to your overseas supplier (some of these are taken from actual emails).

“We need answers asap”

“If you cannot meet our target price, do not waste our time”

“We demand a quick response”

Here’s a complete actual email from one importer to a Chinese sales rep:

Not sure you have quoted and spec’d as we have requested.
Your previous bags are not like the ones we have shown you, so not sure if you are quoting for the bags you’ve done before, or like the bags I have asked you for.
Why show me these bags
The spec you have given me shows print in TWO positions, I have asked for THREE
Why do I not have shipping costs???

Finally, the price isn’t as good as I have found elsewhere

It shows long-term business, cross-cultural understanding and professionalism, huh?  Not really…it shows what many Chinese suppliers see on a daily basis and that’s ANOTHER WESTERNER FREAKING OUT.

And what I’m referring to is not a long-term established buyer that has a problem with the factory they’ve used for many years and given very high-volume business.  Most times overseas importers act this way when they have never done 1-DOLLAR worth of buying from the supplier.  As if their supplier owes them something.  This may float in your home country.  You may be able to act this way at home and your local suppliers will still jump and give you good attention.   

This is the way not to act in dealing with offshore manufacturing.  When you are dealing cross culturally, with folks who are graciously using English as a second language, you want to make sure you keep calm at all times. 

Don’t be emotional or pushy.  Be professional and reasonable at all times.  If you are a first-time customer, keep in mind you have no established credibility with the supplier.  If you are not a first-time customer and think you are owed special service, ask yourself, “how much of the factory’s total revenue to I really represent?”.  If most people saw the whole pie, they’d see they are actually just one teenie-weenie little slice. 

Your timetable concepts are not their timetable concepts.  China waited 5000 years to get to where they are.  Many of the wealthy here, were previously farmers or blue-collar laborers who lived very rough lives.   When you are screaming “asap” and flailing your arms around (in real-time or virtually via email), you look more like a spoiled brat than a businessperson from the quote unquote “developed world”.   

Don’t cry wolf on delivery time.  Let the factory know if you’re delivery time is not urgent.  Inform them the reasonable schedule you can accept and let them produce your order slower, in case there are bigger and more important customers ahead of you.  Obviously, especially in the branded merchandise industry, there are rush deliveries needed, but only play this card when it’s an absolute.  If you find out you are playing this card with every order, perhaps it’s time as an importer/distributor you stayed in better contact with your brands, being more proactive on judging future delivery dates? 

“Ok, so buyers freak out.  We’ve got deadlines and clients to answer.  What’s the big deal if I lose my cool?” 

As mentioned in Part I, the Chinese will let you rant and rave and you will think perhaps you are not getting through to them.  But actually, it is all being internalized.  All that internal strife, all that hounding over email, all those threats, will spill over into your production. 

The next time your contact is checking the production lines, they will be a little less diligent in checking for problems. 

There may be some problematic cases they need to deal with the engineers over, but instead of going to bat for you, they will let you slide.

The 3rd party vendor they always had to heavily control during your orders will now not seem so important…why should they have to approach him over quality issues, when you are only making their job harder? 

They may drop you as a client for seemingly no reason (they will not discuss up front what is causing their dislike to you, but if you go back and check your past communication you may get a good hint)

As a potential customer, endeavor to be one that’s a help to your supplier, a trusted purchasing-partner that will make their job easier.  Make yourself a joy to work with, where they look forward to receiving your emails, not dreading to open them. 

Then the price of salt is through the roof, crowds are pushy, the price of tuition for their kids is expensive, they at least have an oasis in business when dealing with their calm overseas buyers.  

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