When I contact a vendor for the first time, I always start with email and transition over to Skype or WeChat. If possible, I try to arrange a face to face meeting by actually travelling to China. (This is recommended but not required)
When I send email, I don’t use a standard form letter or template because I purposely write my correspondence in a more personal tone.
Remember, you are dealing with real people here and you are trying to develop a relationship. I try to treat all of my vendors like I would treat an old friend or coworker.
In the beginning, my wife and I had a lot of problems contacting vendors because we didn’t understand their needs.
If you are dealing with a wholesale vendor or distributor, their primary need is to get paid for their products. There is very little upfront commitment.
If you dealing with a dropshipper, their primary need is to work with a store that can drive consistent sales. There’s a much larger upfront commitment to set up and maintain a dropshipping account and the hassle of shipping individual orders must be worth their time.
If you are dealing with a Chinese vendor, they have limited factory capacity so they need to work with someone who can provide consistent sales at higher volumes.
Before you approach any supplier, make sure you have a strategy in place that caters to their needs and your own.
And don’t forget that your vendors are trying to make a profit as well. The best arrangements are ones where you and your vendor can both make money and share a mutual interest.
But what we found was that this tactic generally pissed them off. Once we started getting a little more creative with our deals, our relationships with our vendors became much better.
For example, instead of trying to negotiate an absolute price up front, we agreed on a pricing structure based on volume of sales.
Put Yourself In Your Supplier’s Shoes
The first thing that I always tell my students when sourcing product is to put yourself in the shoes of a vendor or distributor. In the grand scheme of things, vendors are just like online shop owners in that they want to make money by selling products.
As an online store owner that caters to the general consumer, it’s fine for you to sell items individually. But a distributor typically needs to move product in much greater bulk because they have higher overhead and inventory storage costs to deal with.
That is why distributors need to pick their clients extremely carefully. Every store that they work with requires a certain level of time commitment.
So it is in their best interests to only work with stores that can consistently bring in revenue and have the best chance of becoming a long term customer.
Distributors come in all shapes and sizes and in order to be successful, you have to find the right vendor that is willing to sell you the right quantity of product.
Mistake #1: You Lack Confidence And Come Across As A Noob
Remember how I told you that well established vendors tend to pick their clients very carefully? In order to get their attention, you sometimes have to act larger and more confident than you really are.
And to illustrate my point, I would like to show you a letter a reader wrote to their very first vendor/dropshipper.
My name is Vivian and I’m a brand new entrepreneur so please forgive my ignorance. I would like to start an online business selling baby products. Could you send me a price list for your products and describe your dropship fulfillment process? Here are some of my questions…