If you want to be successful on Amazon, you must master the art of communicating with your overseas suppliers. Learn how in our quick guide.
August 4, 2022
If you are selling on Amazon, you will inevitably have to learn the art of cross-cultural, digital communication. Most of your suppliers will be overseas - which means part of your job as an FBA seller is communicating with Amazon foreign suppliers. Learn how to master this skill in this short guide!
What You Need to Know to Communicate with Foreign Suppliers For Amazon in 2022
Most of your suppliers, as an Amazon FBA seller will be overseas. Specifically, most of these overseas suppliers are either Indian or Chinese suppliers. Anytime business occurs over a considerable distance, it can be challenging to close the cultural gap and reduce miscommunication.
In this case, miscommunication will directly affect your profit margins. So while you're focused on improving your advertising skills and crunching numbers, you should also be focused on your global communication skills.
Why Communication Matters
Communication is vital to any business. This is true whether you work in a fast-food restaurant or manage a global e-commerce business. As Amazon sellers, the ability to communicate clearly, concisely, and effectively will always be a valuable skill.
When you're communicating with Amazon foreign suppliers, you need to keep a few key things in mind. The first is that most Amazon foreign suppliers do not speak English as their first language. This can obviously create some challenges.
Miscommunication is expensive. The Holmes Report notes that poor communication costs the average company with over 100,000 employees $62.4 million annually. Your wholesale company or business won't lose $60 million over miscommunication, but you can see the danger. No matter the size of your company, communication barriers can cause massive profit drains for your Amazon store.
This is something you need to learn how to do well - yesterday.
How To Communicate Well In Your RFQ
The RFQ is the "Request For Quote." You’ll send this document to a supplier when you want to start working with them. If your communication isn't clear, you'll be building the rest of your supplier relationship on a cracked foundation.
Here are the basics you need within the RFQ:
- The product title. Don't overthink this - be clear and concise.
- Desired quantity. Most suppliers have a Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ). Write your desired quantity followed by "Or MOQ" to ensure you don't lose a supplier if your quantity is less than their minimum. Example: 500 units or MOQ.
- Product description. Your product description needs to be as straightforward as possible. Here you will detail precisely the purpose of the product, any special adjustments that need to be made, what kind of coloring or paint should be used, what materials you would like the product to be made of, and how your product differs or relates to any photos you've sent. You need to be detailed and precise - do not leave any room for miscommunication in translation. Bullet points can be helpful to ensure more extensive paragraphs aren’t mistranslated.
- Dimensions. Generally, you should write this as inches tall, wide, and deep. Example: 5" tall, 2" wide, 6" deep. Do not write these as the standard U.S. (5x2x6). Write out the full words.
- References. Include photos and links to other products similar to what you are looking for. Make sure you keep a detailed list of your references and number them all so you can reference them in an organized fashion within your description. Make notes directly on any images you send. The clearer you can be, the better.
- Materials. Specify what material you want your product to be made of and take quality control measures. If you're open to suggestions, say so.
- Packaging specifications. Include how you would like the finished products packaged. Example: cardboard box, air pillow interior, 4" sticker on the exterior.
- Shipping details. Note whether or not you will need the final product packaged for transport or not. You do not need to request a shipping quote at this stage.
In addition, you must ensure that the RFQ includes your name and multiple ways to contact you. This should include email and telephone. You should also sign up for an app like WhatsApp, Telegram, or WeChat and make yourself available there. Much of the world uses these apps for a universal texting experience that relies on data or the internet, not SMS.
People also find suppliers from trade shows, online marketplaces, or wholesale directories. So don't close the door on this option. Private label sellers can also be an option for you if you're in the consumer electronics niche.
Lastly, ensure you invite the supplier to leave notes and provide insight. You want to be clear, but do not come across as demanding. After you find suppliers, you'll learn that they have plenty of clients - they are interviewing you just as much as you are interviewing them. So be kind and leave them space to reply. And don't be over-aggressive while negotiating wholesale pricing because most of them already set a competitive pricing model.
When In Doubt, Over-Communicate
As you are preparing the RFQ, you want to remember that repetition, rephrasing, and over-communication can be your friends. Consider all the ways a word may be misunderstood and eliminate that confusion by clarifying and selecting a synonym or more specific phrase the next time you want to reference that word. Say things in two ways to ensure your intent is understood.
For example, you might be manufacturing a unique set of glassware for a kitchen. You could describe the item as a "glass," "cup," or "drinking ware." If you only use the word "glass," this could be misconstrued as a wine glass or any items using glass.
Don't leave any room for confusion - rephrase and repeat for clarity.
How Culture Impacts Your Supplier Communications
Psychologists have proven that speaking a different language doesn't just impact the words you use; it influences how your brain is formed and how you process the world.
That means a language difference can't simply be fixed with Google Translate or another cheap online translation device. Some of the cultural and language gaps that exist between you and your supplier will need to be bridged another way: with careful study and understanding.
Chinese culture is radically different than American culture. Most suppliers will be used to working with Americans - but you might not be used to working with people in another context.
Take some time to study the culture of your wholesale supplier. Some cultures value small talk before getting to business, some are more passive and appreciate gently receiving critique, and some require specific gestures like bowing upon meeting. In many passive countries, including China, "yes" can be used simply to say "okay, I understand" rather than a commitment.
Here are a few books to pick up to get started!
Much of the Asian world relies on a "saving face" system. Communicating honor, respect, and dignity are more important in these cultures. You want to keep this in mind in your business communications.
There are many cultural differences to be aware of when communicating with wholesale suppliers. Each country also has different holidays and seasons to consider. As wholesale buyers, you should ask your supplier when you can visit them in person if you can. It may be a good idea to make a trip to understand the culture better and evaluate the factory yourself. This also makes you a priority to the supplier, who will appreciate you taking the time to meet in person.
Amazon foreign supplier communication is a vital part of any Amazon business. Following the tips in this article can improve your communication and form positive relationships with your suppliers. Generating a detailed RFQ, being available on multiple platforms, over-communicating, and studying your supplier’s culture are all essential steps. Do you have any Amazon foreign supplier communication tips that we missed? Let us know in the comments! We love hearing from our readers.
Julia Grant is a copywriter specializing in e-commerce and small business, helping businesses expand their reach with copy that clearly communicates their message and converts. She is a certified translator and interpreter and prides herself on providing culturally relevant content in both English and Spanish.See more posts from this author