By this point, you may have been talking to a couple of potential suppliers for weeks or even months now. You may have narrowed your list down to a few candidates and are starting to arrange meetings and tours of factory facilities. Meeting your supplier for the first time is a very important part of the sourcing process, especially in China. It is just as crucial a moment for the supplier as it is for you as this first meeting can make or break a business relationship.
This is the time to get a real feel for the people you might be working with in the near future. However, if you’re not prepared for your visit, you could miss out on making the most of your trip. We’re offered some tips for traveling to China in the past (see Enjoying Your Next China Trip – 5 Tips). Here are five tips to help you fully prepare and get the most out of your China business trip.
Tip 1. Inform the factory
An important tip for visiting factories in China is effectively communicating with the supplier beforehand. Throughout all the email correspondence with your supplier or sales representative, make sure to clarify all of the following:
- Let the factory know that you are planning a trip to their facilities
- Provide your schedules to the factory
- Specify how long your stay in the country will be
- Indicate the number of people coming with you
- Ask what time would be most convenient for them
Most importantly, state the purpose of your visit to your suppliers. Emphasize what you would like to see, whether it is the factory floor or their documentation. That way they can have everything ready to go and nothing is left out in the time you are there.
Tip 2. Set up an itinerary
Locate and group the factories you need to visit by area. Then arrange the trip according to the location and dates provided by the suppliers. It is usually possible to visit two factories in one day if they are in the same city. But visiting more than two suppliers per day is ill-advised. Setting up an itinerary will help you be more efficient with your time while on your trip.
Try booking a hotel that is close to the factory in order to save time on the road. Let the factory know if you would like to have them pick you up from the hotel. Factories are usually a bit out of the way and can be challenging to find, even with directions in Chinese. Most factories would be happy to accommodate and help clients with transportation to and from the factory.
Tip 3. Arrange transportation in advance
When it comes to traveling from one city to another for factories, there are always plenty of options for travel. One thing to keep in mind in China is that it has the largest high-speed rail network in the world. They are known for their efficiency and reliability, unlike Chinese air travel, which is often met with delays and cancellations.
Depending on the time frame you have, a high-speed train can be a great option for trips like Shenzhen-Guangzhou which will take you less than 30 minutes from departure to arrival (see 5 Steps to Buy Tickets in China).
Tip 4. Confirm the details
Make sure to get phone numbers and detailed addresses of your factories in both English and Chinese from your supplier. It is important to be able to reach them at a moment’s notice, in case you are unable to locate the factory or you have been delayed somewhere along the way. Nothing is more frustrating than traveling have way around the world to visit a supplier only to be lost trying to find the factory and unable to contact them.
Tip 5. Ask the right questions
Our fifth tip for visiting factories in China is to have all questions you want to ask and comments you have prepared ahead of time. This ensures that nothing is left unanswered or up-in-the-air. Having a list of questions and expectations for your suppliers will help you get the most out of your visit. After all, meeting face-to-face with a supplier to ask questions and resolve issues related to manufacturing is typically a major reason for buyers making the trip.
And make sure to clearly lay all your expectation on the table to make sure you feel comfortable beginning a long-term business relationship with any potential suppliers with which you haven’t worked.
Visiting factories in China is a major reason for foreign travel to the country. Whether you are a veteran doing these trips countless times or a novice just coming to China for the first time, these are all things you need on your agenda to make the most of your limited time here. Preparation is the most important determinant for success.
Do you have any other tips for visiting suppliers in China? Share them in the comments below!