When starting a business, some of the hardest questions are:
- Where to get products?
- Can the products be acquired at a price that can be profitable?
- How to talk to a possible supplier?
- What questions should be asked?
- What to do if there is a problem with the products?
- Will this supplier give me bad products?
- Are these products Legitimate?
- Is there a warranty?
- What are the payment options?
Finding products is easy. It seems like a daunting task, unless you follow some very simple steps. On the internet there are countless sites with access to wholesalers. A simple web search with keywords or phases listed below will give you access to more products than you have the ability to sell. Locating products to sell is not the issue, it’s deciding which products to start with.
Search terms to locate products on the internet:
- product suppliers
- product distributors
- wholesale products
Local suppliers are nice to have, but they are not a necessity. The benefits of local suppliers is delivery time and no shipping fees. The times financial resources are low, drop-ship suppliers or local suppliers make it easy to keep selling products and use the purchase amount from the customer to pay for your products. Retail selling is not a viable option when inventory is low and there is a three to six week turn around for receiving products, unless your customer understands there is a waiting period.
Products can almost always be acquired at low enough prices to turn a profit. The profit margin determines the selling strategy. Higher quantities purchased usually affect the price for an individual item. Bulk orders also provide shipping discounts. Some suppliers will drop the price if you have quantity turnover, but they usually do not control shipping costs through 3rd party companies. After establishing a shipping account and sending a high volume of packages, you can receive discounts on the shipments with most companies.
Suppliers want to sell you their products. They constantly have to deal with thieves and price cutters. If a supplier’s product price drops, they make less money; a common problem with retail is competition price cutting. Superior marketing, branding, and customer service are concepts most small businesses do not master. People looking only at immediate sales usually feel that they can get more sales by lowering price. As a result everyone drops their prices until it is unprofitable to sell that product. Eventually, the business with the lowest price wins. Product suppliers receive short term benefits, but eventually suffer as they drop their prices to retain retailers. When contacting potential suppliers, inform them of the following points:
- You are not a price cutter
- Long term relationship
- Multiple purchases
- It is in their interest to deal with you
If given the perception this is a one time purchase, usually give the best deal will not be offered. Smart businesses recognize the benefits of establishing a relationship over an immediate sale
How you express your interest communicate the type business they are dealing with. Do not ask the questions listed here:
- What does it retail for
- How much Money Can I make when I see an item
- Who do I sell to
- How many of these can I sell a month
- Where can I sell this product
The questions above should have been answered before contacting anyone. A strategy for each should have already been developed. Instead ask these questions:
- What is price for 1, 10, 100, 1000, 10000
- What is the sample price
- What is the minimum purchase order
- Are there any restrictions on this product
- Is this product price controlled
- What is maximum amount they can supply in a time period
- If they are out of stock, how long does it take them to restock
- How long does it take to process an order once it has been placed
- How long until the item has been shipped once it has been processed
- What shipping or delivery options are available
- Are there blackout periods where the company is closed (Chinese Holiday, etc)
- If you purchase smaller lots, but the quantity ordered in a period of time is high, can you get the higher lot price
- Do they dropship
- What is their policy with defective or damaged products
- Is there a manufacturer warranty
Asking about higher quantity purchases get the real price information. If the price range drops dramatically, negotiating and additional purchases can lead to incredible drops in your purchasing price.
Asking about drop-shipping is a double edged sword. Do not give the impression you are only looking for drop-shipping, unless that is the intention. Knowing if drop-shipping is an option is mandatory. Express it is important because of the volume you sell and need to guarantee if there is a problem they can assist in getting the product to your customer.
If the supplier is not the manufacturer and the product is covered under warranty, when does the warranty start is very important.
- Does the warranty start when they sell the product
- Does the warranty start when you sell the product
- Does the warranty start when they buy the product from the manufacturer
An expired warranty on a product just purchased can hurt customer retention. You may be forced to pay for the replacement or repair of an item that should have been covered with better business practices
Product authenticity needs to be established. When deciding who to establish a relationship, it is paramount to know if this person/company is legitimate. If you are knowingly selling a cloned or fake item that is your decision. Being mislead into purchasing copied products can cause unexpected backlash you are not prepared to handle. Copyright issues are very serious, and if you are not going into that situation knowingly, it can cripple your business.
How payment is made can change your whole strategy. Some credit cards offer benefits and rewards for using their service. Suppliers sometimes charge more money if they receive any charges. Escrow accounts are sometimes required. Some people want 30 percent before shipment and 70 percent on delivery. In some cases, 100 percent payment is required up front. With a solid relationship, products may be received on consignment. If products are received before payment is due, it’s beneficial to take all the product that can be sold. Other options of payment mean you can only receive the amount of products you have financial means to pay for. With 30 percent up front you can get much more product if you have a long ship period and can sell the rest of the product to raise the 70 percent while it is transit. This is of course not an ideal option, but there are times you will have to make choices that will decide if you will stay in business.
Deciding To do business with a supplier is a serious matter. Is it a one time purchase or a developing relationship. Prices and benefits offered can be greater with a long term relationship. One cautioning note, if possible never have only one supplier for a product or product line. If you have only one supplier of that product, sell other products as well. If this is not possible, have another product line you’re ready to move into within minutes. If unprepared, you are giving control of your business to someone else. They will decide if you’re making money or looking on the job posting sites for another job or asking people for money!!