3 Questions you must ask your sourcing agent in China before you hire them

Read time: 3 minutes.
In this post I am going to talk about the most important questions you must ask you sourcing agent in China, before you hire them so that you can tell whether they are the right sourcing agent for you.
In a previous post, I talked about 3 types of agents and which one may be most suitable for you.
If you didn’t read this post, I recommend you read it first. This post is written under the assumption you know which type of sourcing agent in China is the best type of for you.
If you didn’t read that post, here is the link:
>> How to know what type of Sourcing agent in China is the best one for you?
Depending on your way of doing business, much of your success in China depend on the value your sourcing agent will bring you and their motivation to help you achieve your goals. Your sourcing agent in China will be the person, or company, that will give you your resources, and your success has a lot to do with the quality of those resources.

 

Is hiring a sourcing agent such a big deal?

Yes. Keep on reading and you’ll see why.
Imagine your company was running so many projects in China, it would make sense to hire a full time dedicated team to source new suppliers, follow up your production and ensure the quality and the on-time delivery of your products.
Think for a moment what would you expect from the manager of that team:
1. It’s best if your manager has experience managing a function and a group of people in a Chinese context. Managing a company in China has its own dynamics.
A manager in China must be aware to a whole set of nuances relevant to China.
2. They need to be familiar with your industry and your product.
3. It’s best if they know your culture and language, so when they need support from your organization they will be able to communicate the need and the urgency and will be able to motivate people to help them.
4. This person will have to be very resourceful and do a lot of problem-solving and have an entrepreneurial spirit.
5. Most of China operates in Chinese. Although plenty of people are doing business in china without speaking much Chinese, being able to speak the language is a huge advantage especially when you would like to build direct communication lines with people in all management levels of a Chinese factory.
6. Local knowledge and network – Anyone will be much more effective if they know how things are done in China and what the local practices are. If they have the network of contacts that will help them get a resource in a short notice when they need it, that itself can be the difference between delivering a project on time, and underperforming.
7. Doing business in china without understanding the Chinese business culture is being an elephant in a china store.Sooner or later you will break something and it most probably going to be relationships with an important vendor.
8. Last but not least, and actually the most important – above all your manager must be an honest, trustworthy, ethical and smart. If they are not, the rest is not important.

 

I thought we were talking about hiring a sourcing agent…

Yes, we are. Review the above list and think which of the skills and traits above you do not need your sourcing agent to have.
You definitely want them to have all the technical skills as well as the soft skills that will enable them to work with you and with your suppliers, and above all, you want them to be honest, ethical and resourceful.
The reason for the similarity is that the role of a sourcing agent is a role that you outsource not because it is not important. You outsource this role because it does not make financial sense to keep this function in house. Either hiring a skilled employee costs too much, relocation is too expensive or as in many cases, it is too difficult to find someone suitable for a full-time job.
I mean, honestly, how many people in your network meet all above criteria in full?

 

So what are the 3 questions?

The 3 questions help you understand what you can expect from your future potential agent in the 3 areas I just mentioned:
1. Ask them a question about the manufacturing process to see if they will be able to evaluate whether a manufacturer is capable of producing your products meeting high-quality standards.
2. Ask them a question about how they communicate with their manufacturers and their customers. Their answer will help you evaluate their soft skills and the level of their understanding of your organization and your future supplier’s organization.
3. Ask them to give you two or three names and the contact details of their customers. This way you will be able to hear from a 3rd party how trustworthy they are and how much you can trust them to protect your interests.

Need some more information? Want someone to brainstorm with? Contact us.
We would love to talk to you about your projects in China.

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