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How to Communicate Effectively With Your Overseas Supplier

Thu, May 26, 2022

Creating a positive relationship with an overseas supplier is one of the most crucial and impactful decisions for any business. It takes patience, flexibility, and a significant amount of trust to put the future of your business in their hands. If not handled correctly, mistakes can be made, deadlines can be missed, and tensions can rise. In order to avoid walking a tightrope between success and failure, here are a few things you can do to find the perfect overseas supplier for your business.

Conduct Preliminary Research

Hundreds of suppliers are vying for your business, but chances are you’ll likely have better synergy with some than others. Narrow down your search by emailing multiple candidates and establishing a simple correspondence. If you can find a supplier who understands your needs and is able to respond quickly and effectively, then it’s a good first step towards a positive relationship.

Another way to perform preliminary research is by looking up companies that are either working or have worked with your targeted supplier in the past. If you can identify a long-standing relationship, then it’s a good indication that the supplier is reputable and experienced with handling multiple projects.

 

Keep Information Clear and Simple

Your overseas supplier might speak great English, but communicating difficult concepts, specifications, and measurements can be a little outside of their wheelhouse. For best results, keep information brief and to the point. If the conversation is taking place over a conference call, have your supplier reiterate the points you addressed to ensure you are both on the same page. If the exchange is happening via email, create a bulleted list of objectives so that information does not get lost within the body of a message.

Maintain Respect and Professionalism

A professional partnership requires both parties to respect and understand one-another. It only takes a few poorly-worded emails or berating conference calls to tarnish an otherwise productive relationship.  

Use Visual Aids Whenever Possible

Take heed of this point. Visual aids are vital for effective communication. When face to face, body language accounts for AT LEAST 70% of communication, so in the absence of this, visual aids are the next best thing. Even if you include explicit instructions in an email, it doesn’t hurt to have an accompanying image or illustration to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Establish a Quality Control Checklist

It’s imperative to have a comprehensive quality control checklist, not just for your benefit, but for your supplier’s as well. This may include information about staffing and their qualifications, workplace environment, health and safety, assurances for timely delivery, product inspections, and more. Suppliers will be expecting some form of quality control when you use their business, but it’s up to you to determine the extent.

Routinely Visit Your Supplier

Remote communication is sufficient in most cases, but nothing beats face-to-face interaction. Visiting your supplier can be an excellent opportunity for making suggestions or recommendations often too difficult to express over a conference call. This isn’t something that can be done often, but is important for understanding exactly who you’re working with. 

If All Else Fails, Find a New Supplier

If problems are still occurring between your company and your current supplier, then it may be in your company’s best interest to find a replacement. Gizmospring founder Kenny Tai compares locating the right supplier to “kissing a few frogs before finding a prince.” The perfect match exists, but you might have to endure a bit of trial and error before finding the right fit for your business.