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How to Source Products from Overseas

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Globalization and the internet have made sourcing products from overseas more accessible than ever before. The ability to get access to products at significantly lower prices has made sourcing a very appealing option for many businesses. Small and large businesses alike are utilizing web resources to gain access to vendors that were once out of reach.

However, sourcing products overseas may seem like an overwhelming task for those who have never done it before. To demystify the process, I’ve outlined a simple step-by-step plan to help you get started.

Time Required: Varies

Here's How:

  1. Choose a Product

    The first step is to decide what type of product you are looking to source; a well defined product is the key to success, efficiency, and profitability. Most people choose to source products overseas because they are looking for a way to earn a quick buck; the problem with this approach is that there are so many other variables that a person needs to think about. Ask yourself:

    • Is there a target market that wants this type of product?
    • Does your product fill a need within this market?
    • Are you trying to source a niche product or are you looking for a variety of different products to sell?
    • What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of your product?
    • Does this product interest you in any way? Would you buy this product for yourself?

    There are many reasons why you want to take the time to answer these questions. You will be investing time, effort and financial resources toward sourcing your products from overseas, taking the time to think through what you are trying to accomplish will only help you. For instance, does it make sense to invest in a product that has no customer base?

  2. Identify Specific Countries

    Not every country produces every type of product, and certain countries have advantages that keep costs to a minimum. Therefore it is essential that you figure out what countries specialize in the products that you trying to source. For instance, China has access to a great deal of metal whereas other countries don’t. Consequently, if you are trying to source a metal home furnishing product, then China would probably be the best country for sourcing.

    A couple of great resources to explore are Background Notes and Country Commercial Guides. Both sites will help you hone in on the specific countries that specialize in your product.

    This simple step will save you a tremendous amount of time and headache when looking for overseas suppliers.

  3. Find a Supplier

    Once you have identified the optimal country for production, it’s time to find a supplier. The great news is that there is an abundance of web resources to help you find the supplier that best fits your needs. Thomasnet.com and Globalsources.com are excellent resources that can help you get started quickly. Simply type in your product and country of origin and you will be shocked at the sheer number of overseas suppliers. For a more comprehensive guide to finding overseas suppliers, check out Supplier Guide to Sourcing Your Product Overseas.

  4. Choose the Right Supplier

    Once you’ve identified suppliers, take a moment to research each of the companies on your list. Begin with a quick Google search; look for reviews, detailed company information or problems related to this supplier. The more background information you have about the supplier, the better!

    When contacting the supplier, make sure you ask the questions that matter to you. Here are some sample questions to think about:

    • What specific products does the supplier offer?
    • Are their minimums when ordering their product?
    • What discounts do they offer for purchasing larger quantities?
    • How long does it take to ship an order from time of purchase?
    • Does the final price include shipping and duties/taxes?

    For a comprehensive list of questions, check out the Overseas Supplier Checklist. Every supplier has their own rules and requirements. You can choose the right supplier simply by identifying the requirements that best meets your business needs. Also, be an informed consumer; don’t be afraid to contact several suppliers to compare prices.

  5. Request Product Samples

    Before you purchase anything from an overseas supplier, insist on receiving a product sample. The main reason to request a product sample is to ensure that you review the quality of the product. You do not want to work with any supplier that skimps on quality.

    Another great reason to request product samples is to have the ability to present actual products to prospective customers.

    The more ammunition you have to set yourself up for success, the better the outcome. So my advice to you is to request a product sample before you finalize any agreement!

  6. Finalize Agreement with Overseas Supplier

    You are now ready to finalize an agreement with an overseas supplier. Make sure you have everything in writing as issues typically arise when language barriers exist. Some key points of an agreement between an overseas supplier and a US importer are:

    • Product Specifics
    • Pricing
    • Payment Terms
    • Shipping Terms
    • Delivery

    For a comprehensive list of overseas supplier agreement options, check out the Overseas Contract Checklist.

  7. Start Sourcing Now

    As you can see, there are seemingly infinite opportunities for sourcing products overseas thanks to globalization and the internet. Just follow the simple steps above, and you will be on your way to sourcing success!

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