November 2008 Archives

How to make a good enquiry

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As a request for a quotation, an enquiry is an unavoidable stage in the sourcing work flow. A good enquiry should provide sufficient information for buyers to quote efficiently and accurately. It can also build up initial understanding between buyers and sellers so as to give impetus to the succeeding procedures like quotations, further contact and transactions. What would then make a good enquiry? The following are some items of information I suggest buyers should include in their enquiries:

  • Brief introduction of the buyer and background of the enquiry:
A brief introduction of the buyer will give the seller an idea of who they will be quoting to. Chinese suppliers usually receive enquiries by fax or email with an individual's name and a company name, but no company information. Such enquiries can easily be ignored because the sellers are uncertain whether the enquiry is from a competitor or from a fake company. Providing more background information on the buyer and the enquiry will help the seller understand where the products in question will be used and judge if their products are suitable.

  • Product names
All buyers know that they must include product names in their enquiries, but sometimes they just put the abbreviation or just a 'byname', which are all difficult to understand for sellers who speak a different language. One should never underestimate the language barrier, and the most standard product names should always be used. Or, if unsure, all the possible names should be included.

  • Quantity
Sellers need quantity information of potential orders to know if their manufacturing capacity can meet the demand and to determine what price they will be able to offer. Quantity information should be combined with order frequency.

Common questions can include the following:
Is it a once-off or a long-term order?
How many orders will the buyer place per year?
How big will the average volume of each order be?

Many buyers often enlarge the order quantity in their original enquiry in order to get better prices. I personally disagree with this practice because once the seller realizes that the order quantity is not as big as promised, the relationship will usually be damaged and the seller could try to reduce after service or increase prices by adding extra charges.
Since shortly after the conclusion of the Olympics, numerous steel suppliers have been contacting me regularly with new enquiries and to update me with new prices. Some of these are large steel traders in Anshan and Tangshan, and some are steel mills of pipes and hot-rolled coils, to mention a few. This is definitely abnormal when compared to a year ago, when Chinese steel mills were in full capacity and shipping out 62 million tons to destinations all over the world. At that time, those export managers were so busy signing contracts that it took weeks to reach them to get quotations.

In early October after the Chinese National Holiday, Baosteel announced a cut in steel production for the succeeding three months. The other steel makers, Shougang Group, Hebei Iron & Steel Group, Anyang Iron & Steel and Shandong Iron & Steel had all also agreed to cut production by up to 20%. In addition, many other steel mills reduced output under the guise of annual maintenance. Taisteel, the largest stainless steel mill, cut its production by as much as 50% and plan to make further cuts in November. Yet due to weak demand and the strong Renminbi, international buyers are still unable to digest China's output. At present, according to MySteel, salaries for workers at Angang iron-making plants have been cut by 35% and for affiliated plants by 50%. At Baosteel, the total amount for salaries paid has been reduced by 10%, and Shougang have halved the bonuses paid to their employees.

We recently got offers from iron ore suppliers in South America and chrome ore mines in South Africa, yet these once best-selling products are now stacked in China's ports. When we approached the Chinese mills, we found their demand and price expectations had dropped significantly. Traders are simply not willing to sell at such a low price, and ominously, they don't expect to see a price rebound anytime soon.
* This posting is the first of three parts setting out guidelines for Chinese suppliers to quote efficiently and professionally.



笔者在一个咨询公司任采购顾问,工作中接触到大量的询单和报价。对于报价有一些真切而丰富的体会,愿与大家分享。一份报价表除了体现基本的价格信息外,还能体现一个公司的业务水平与专业水准。报价的专业性往往是采购商评估供应商的重要指标之一。

 

一、什么样的报价看起来更专业

 

1.要素完整

 

完整的报价应包括6大基本要素:产品详情、单价、价格术语、付款方式,交货周期,报价有效期。

 

产品详情,主要说明产品的名称,规格(材料、形状、大小、重量、尺寸、颜色等),包装,认证等。必要时附上检测证书(尤其是化工产品)和图纸(机械设备或钢结构等居多)。在我们提供给客户的产品与客户的要求有些微差别时,详细的产品描述尤其重要。

 

单价,勿需多言,主要是搞清楚产品的计量单位和计价币种。尽量选择坚挺的币种,若客户特别强调用某一种货币,为了避免风险,我们可以注明当汇率超过多少幅度时,该单价需要相应调整。关于单价的计算参照下一条“价格术语”。

 

价格术语,最常用的有EXWFOBCFRCIFCIP等,也有很多俄罗斯客户喜欢DAFDDU报价。只要在计算价格时将所需要涉及到的除了产品本身成本外的各项费用(报关费、陆、海、空运费,保险费,港杂费,装卸费等)都包括在内就好。其中运费不妨多询几家,最终采用对航线熟悉而且价格相对较低的船公司或货代的报价。除了个别情况需要联运时会有些复杂外,通常情况下单纯的海运还是比较简单的。另外应向客户说明装运方式:散装,拼箱,集装箱运输,集装代或麻袋等。

 

付款方式,T/TL/C是最多被采用的,有时也有定金T/T和余款L/C结合的方式。用什么样的付款方式对价格来说确实存在影响,虽然往往这种影响相对于整个定单金额来说是微不足道的,但付款方式是必须首先要明确的。很多时候付款方式是买卖双方讨价还价的重要筹码。目前非洲个别国家的金融信誉较差,中国供应商会要求T/T预付全款。通过我所接触过的几个俄罗斯项目发现,目前中国和俄罗斯及其周边几个国家之间银行的相互认可度还比较低,若做L/C,最好先咨询中国本地银行可以接受的开证行。

 

交货周期,交货周期是很重要的一个因素。通常情况下交货期越短越受欢迎。

 

报价有效期,这条很多的时候被忽略了。但产品的成本会受产品原材料,技术,职员工资,汇率,海运费,保险费,国际局势变动,国内政策变化等很多因素的影响。所以一个报价很难做到长期有效。因此报价时最好标明有效期。一般情况下客户都会将收集来的报价存档,很可能半年、一年以后,或者更长时间,客户拿出当初的价格来商谈,这时如果没有当初价格的有效期为约束的话,很容易使我们陷入被动地位。另外若能指出报价的当时时间则更完善。

 

2.格式友好

 

有的供应商注重传达有效或核心信息,而不注重传达的形式。其实在如今激烈的竞争环境中,报价的形式也越来越显得重要了。一张格式清新,用语干练专业,信息清晰完全的报价会给客户留下很好的第一印象。一个优秀的业务员总是能以一纸友好的报价表第一时间抓住客户,启动下一轮的互动过程。

 

<未完待续>

English summary: This posting investigates the visa problems Chinese suppliers may encounter when visiting buyers overseas. In particular, this posting focuses on the procedures and assistance provided for Chinese suppliers to obtain Russian visas.    


签证 —— 中国供应商出国考察买家的第一道关卡

 

采购项目进行到某一阶段时,中国的供应商常常需要出国拜访买家,一来表达合作的诚意,二来对买家的实际情况有实地的了解,三来增进双方的感情。可是签证却常常成为中国供应商出国考察买家的第一道关卡。TBA作为专业的采购咨询公司,在辅助买卖双方的同时,遇到卖家需要出国考察时,也积极地帮助了一些国内的公司拿到了签证。以下仅以我们最近帮助中国客户申请的俄罗斯签证为例说明哪些细节规定是我们中国人经常忽略而对申请签证是非常重要的。

 

从邀请函说起,俄罗斯的入境签证是由俄罗斯内务部签发的,外表看来是一页黄色的纸。一般情况下,邀请函比较容易拿到。拿到邀请函原件后,就是去签证处办理签证了。

 

要注意的是,俄罗斯驻华大使馆设在北京,北京周边地区包括新疆的中国公民均可在北京申请签证;沈阳、上海、香港、广州分别设有俄罗斯驻华使馆的总领事馆。因此,签证之前一定要注意,自己的护照是在那儿办理的。举例来说吧,如果护照是哈尔滨的,那么就应该签证时就应去沈阳总领事馆,如果护照是杭州签发的,则需要在上海总领事馆签证。

 

按照我的经验,如果计划一个月之后出国,最好提前一两周准备好两张2寸白底彩色照片,单位的介绍信或工作证。另外,如果你在北京工作,而护照是哈尔滨或杭州签发的,则需要提供在北京的暂住证。暂住证办理起来很容易,在你所在小区的派出所即可办理。这样,准备好了照片、护照、单位的介绍信或工作证(及暂住证),再到俄罗斯驻华使馆的网页上下载一份最新版本的签证申请表并填好,收到邀请函原件后就可直接送签,避免浪费或耽误时间。

 

此外,申请俄罗斯签证时,申请人必须本人送取签证。如果自己没空的话,必须得提供公证过的委托书。办理委托书也需要申请人本人到场的,所以,如果申请人如果由于各种原因不能本人送取签证的话,必须做好其他准备,如果委托书也无法办理的话,那就只能求助于中介了。一般情况下,长期在围绕在大使馆签证处的中介们,除了签证费,一般收取500元左右的佣金。至于签证的快慢,则取决于申请人自己的时间,最快可一天出签。如果觉得个人送签太麻烦,也可找正规中介公司办理,费用相对要高一两倍。

 

绝大多数时候,我们不需要特殊渠道。只要是尊重各使馆的工作习惯,提前进行计划,提高申请文件的准确度,就能大大地降低申请签证的不确定性。

Part 2: Opportunity.

If one should try to find positives in the gloomy current environment, to identify any new opportunities brought on by the crisis, the situation facing China could be full of possibility.

In the current financial climate, the fact that China has a lot of money - with a record trade surplus of USD35.2 billion and foreign-exchange reserves of USD1.9 trillion, as well as a stable financial system, a USD586 billion stimulus package and retail sales growing at 22% year-on-year - meant it held all the cards at the eminent G20 Summit held in Washington over the weekend. Hence China - one of the few participants with the financial power to aid countries in distress - got what it wants more of: Influence in the machinations of global finance.

Money talks - especially during a financial crisis. And for Chinese companies looking to invest and make acquisitions in Europe and elsewhere, the crisis has created ample opportunities for a bargain. 

Yet despite claims of the dawning of a new world order with a distinct Asian leaning, China has shown no great inclination to expand its focus much beyond protecting its domestic economy, or as government spokesman put it, to put our own house in order, stimulate consumption and ensure domestic stability. Keeping the Chinese economy running smoothly, Wen Jiabao affirmed, would be China's greatest contribution to the world.

But if the crisis is forcing China to put its own house in order, it could also hold the potential for China to significantly reform its economy. This is the view of a Financial Times editorial which urges the Chinese authorities to use its stimulus package not to bolster the Chinese economy as it is, but rather to fashion a new one where consumption at home has more than a cameo role. Priming the economy just so it can start exporting again would only prolong a development model that is no longer sustainable, it concludes, and would forego the golden opportunity of redirecting China's pattern of growth towards consumption.

Irrespective, however, of whether the Chinese government is jumping at any golden opportunities, the financial crisis may yet present its greatest potential not in altering the world order but rather in intensifying China's engagement with it. The hopeful tone of US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, speaking recently in New York, is an insightful perspective on the kind of opportunities that China is likely to respond to positively, albeit cautiously, in the wake of the financial crisis (h/t China Economic Review):
Today more than ever the world is looking to China to be a big contributor to global economic growth. While some see China as a threat that must be countered or contained, I believe that they only path to success with China is through engagement. We must recognize that China's growth is an opportunity for US companies and consumers, for our producers, exporters and investors. A stable, prosperous and peaceful
China is in the best interest of the Chinese people, the American people and the rest of the world.


Image: Main Street Meltdown (In the first part of our look at China and the financial crisis, we included a picture of the same ice sculpture, erected in imitation of the melting US economy. The picture in this posting shows the sculpture at the end of its existence in a last, potent image
International Marine Expo: INMEX China 2008.

Venue:       Guangzhou Jinhan Exhibition Centre
Date:          26-28 November 2008
Tel:            +86 20 8339 1768

Briefing:
INMEX China has established itself as an important platform for the maritime industry. Ship building, ship repairs, marine services and engineering, offshore engineering, ports and port development are featured at this leading business event. More than 600 companies and 10,000 visitors from more than 20 countries are expected to attend INMEX 2008. 

For more information, see website
After recently raising export tax rebates for manufacturers twice (in August for the textile industry, and in November for 3770 types of export products related to labour-intensive industries), China has again reduced export duties on some product categories in the steel, chemical and food industries, set to take effect from December 1 2008.

China has benefited from a significant current account surplus, yet exports contributed over 35% of China's GDP in 2007, which underlines why the Chinese economy is so vulnerable to a decline in exports. The recent declines in export orders has hurt Chinese manufacturers, and with the PPI on the rise, the financial crisis and the reduced purchasing power of foreign buyers have contributed to a rather complicated situation for China sourcing.

Yet the gloomy current outlook may only be temporary. The spate of tax rebates is an indication of the Chinese government's resolve to prop up the domestic manufacturing industry so it can withstand the drop in exports. And due to deepening impact of the financial crisis, more duty rate adjustments may well be in the offing. This is good news for those who purchase from China: A few months down the line there could be cheaper Chinese products on offer. 
The 6th China (Guangzhou) International Automobile Exhibition

Date:          19-25 November 2008
Venue:        Guangzhou Pazhou Convention and Exhibition Center
Organizer:   China Foreign Trade Guangzhou Exhibition Company
Tel:            +86 20 8666 9073

Briefing:
With total exhibition area of 125,000, Auto Guangzhou 2008 will for the first time use all thirteen exhibition halls of Area A of the Pazhou complex. 85,000 will be allotted for the passenger car zone, and this year's exhibition will feature more brands with new vehicles and technology. In addition, this year's exhibition will also feature a Japanese auto parts purchasing zone. About 400 manfacturing companies and 40,000 trade buyers are expected at this year's event.

For more information, see website.

OEM操作攻略 Part V*

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*This posting is the fifth of five parts setting out operational tips for Original Equipment Manufacturers in China.

对于国外客户提供图纸或样品委托国内企业生产加工的业务,知识产权始终是个比较敏感的问题。从国外客户的角度来讲,肯定是希望在中国生产的产品的技术能够在尽可能长的时间内不被复制——如果复制是不可避免的。因此双方正式签署OEM合作意向的时候,明确知识产权的归属,明确双方在保护技术方面的义务,就显得尤为重要。对于涉及法律范畴的问题,我们建议合作双方咨询专业的法律顾问,但一些商务范畴内的问题还是需要考虑,例如:客户所提供的技术在中国和客户的市场上是否是独特的?是否注册了知识产权?如若需要在国内注册知识产权,中方企业应考虑可能发生的管理上的费用问题;双方可签署《保密协议》,以规定具体的操作细节,并严格遵守;在国外客户提供图纸后,双方有可能会基于中外原材料差异或者其他原因更改一些设计,因此合作初期也应商定修改部分知识产权的归属。

 

除了知识产权问题外,还需要考虑OEM产品在国内销售的问题。双方可以根据生产商国内销售网络的成熟情况和客户自身在中国市场的发展情况,决定是否将OEM产品的国内销售权授予国内生产商。如果生产商取得销售权,就需要与国外客户就利润分配等方面达成共识,比如说利润计算方式,结算方式,是否有销售指标,如何分摊营销费用等等。

 

以上仅是对OEM合作中常遇到的问题加以总结并说明。企业具体合作策略的制定和实施将会受诸多因素影响而有所不同。但是只要企业在技术水平,内部管理上不断完善自己并保持与OEM委托方的沟通渠道畅通,就能在OEM业务中与委托方实现“双赢”!

The 12th International Exhibition on Electric Power Equipment and Technology / The 5th International Exhibition on Electrical Engineering, Electrical Equipment and Contractors' Supplies

Dates:          12-14 November 2008
Venue:         China International Exhibition Center, Beijing
Organizer:    China Electricity Council
Tel:            +86 10 6440 3971

Briefing:
The twin expo features a spectrum of equipment and technology on power generation, power T&D, automation equipment, environmental power, control & testing and electrical products by renowned local and international brands.

For more information, see website.    

What can you get from Alibaba?

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alibaba.jpgAlibaba is the world's leading e-commerce service provider and the most active online market and trading community in the world. It is a good platform to pull buyers and sellers together, and because it has a huge database of Chinese suppliers and made-in-China products, it has almost become an indispensable tool for international buyers to find suppliers in China. In my experience, people may have any of the following three outcomes when they search for suppliers on Alibaba:

  • Buyers can find many suppliers and most of them are good. This will be the case for some commodities which Chinese suppliers have developed mature experience of manufacturing and international trade, like toys, bicycles, T-shirts, etc. Buyers can make good judgments about the quality of the supplier from the suppliers' English introduction and by chatting with them online. 

  • Buyers can find some suppliers but cannot judge if they are good. This will be the case in some industries where China is developing trade experience, like chemicals, machinery, etc. The suppliers in these industries usually have poor English skills, a bad homepage, simple company and product introductions and nobody online for chatting. In addition, since many small and middle-sized plants do not have their own export department, you cannot be sure if you are merely talking to a trading company using the plant's name.

  • Buyers cannot find any qualified suppliers. Many big suppliers have no registration on Alibaba or a very simple one, with only a company name and a telephone number not updated for years. Also, some suppliers only register on the Chinese version of Alibaba.

In all Alibaba is a good channel for international buyers to start from or to refer to. But people are usually not sure what they will get from it and how the result will be. There will always be a need for more desk research and on-the-ground inspection in order to choose the correct supplier.

OEM操作攻略 Part IV*

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*This posting is the fourth of five parts setting out operational tips for Original Equipment Manufacturers in China.

在了解了国外客户的具体情况后,双方在进行OEM合作的洽谈时还应注意其他一些问题,比如对出口市场的划分,知识产权的归属和对国内销售的影响等。这里我们先谈谈在出口市场划分问题上的处理。

 

由于中国企业可能已经有相对稳定的海外市场,如果合作双方能够合理地共享销售网络和划分海外市场,也就可以有效地避免双方产品在同一市场上的恶性竞争,扩大双方品牌的市场。在出口市场这个问题上,我们需要从两类产品的角度进行分析。

 

委托加工的产品:委托加工的产品按照OEM惯例,销售应由委托方负责。因此在海外市场的销售上,一般都是由国外客户全权负责的。但是,如果生产方已经在一些国家和地区拥有了非常完善的销售渠道,例如有实力并可靠的独家代理商,而且委托方在此市场上基本没有业绩甚至暂时未有开发市场的打算,在这样的情况下,双方可以协商由生产方负责利用其自身的销售渠道在一些国家和地区进行销售。但为保证委托方的利益和双方的长期合作,双方应在生产方进行OEM产品营销之前商定双方的权利和义务,例如:生产方在委托方允许的市场上销售OEM产品需要付给委托方的许可费,一般委托方会根据销售额提取一定比例;生产方告知委托方海外市场销售状况的频率和方式,以及许可费的结算方式(一般采取抵货款的方式);生产方销售OEM产品的营销费用是否需要双方共同承担;生产方销售OEM产品的定价。为避免有公司利用不同市场的差价倒卖产品造成价格和市场的混乱,生产方和委托方应对生产方的OEM产品海外市场价格进行限定。

 

中国生产商自有产品:生产商自有的产品可能与OEM产品有差异但功能相同,因此极易在同一市场上引起竞争;另外也有可能是互补产品,因此可以借助委托方的销售网络进行销售。生产方应在合作初期,对委托方在营销其自有产品的兴趣和能力进行考察,以决定其自有产品在委托方市场上的发展方向。如果委托方有兴趣并有实力营销生产商的自身产品,而生产商在委托方的市场上也没有固定的合作伙伴和长远的销售规划,不妨授予委托方代理权甚至独家代理权,以借助委托方的销售网络扩大自有产品的出口。
Canton I.JPGWith its two annual sessions, the Canton Fair is the most prestigious event in the Chinese trading calendar. After attending the Spring session of the Canton Fair this year, I came away with two general impressions.

Firstly, large and reputable suppliers always have the best booths and products. Yet getting a business card or contact information of a large Chinese supplier does not mean that you have a relationship with that supplier. After meeting at the Fair, follow-up phone calls, email communication and plant visits will all definitely be required. In addition, it will also be necessary for some native Chinese professionals with excellent English language skills and field sourcing experience to make sure there are no gaps in the flow of information. An export manager of a top Chinese steel mill once told me that they get dozens of new enquiries every day, and sometimes they just forget to reply to emails and faxes if there is no-one calling them regularly.

Canton II.JPGSecondly, fancy booths do not equate to good quality products. I have been to many small and medium-sized plants in the steel and machinery industries. I saw some of them at the Fair with indistinctive booths, yet they actually have really good quality products and production lines. It is therefore essential to do adequate research before the Fair, utilizing not only website information but also the opinions of industry associations and experts. The Canton Fair then becomes a good opportunity to start a relationship with sellers who are still small
but have great potential.

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