How to Objectively Compare and Qualify Your Suppliers?

What things to look for when reviewing quotations from suppliers to make sure you are working with the best supplier.
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One of the most difficult things a buyer will face when using an online sourcing platform, is ensuring they choose the correct supplier for the job.

If you think about it, you will be trying to choose a supplier a few thousand kilometers away, without seeing the supplier’s factory, their current production, their previous production, or speaking to them face to face.

You will have seen their profile on Sourcing Playground, and possibly even their own website, but the unfortunate truth is, that these may not represent the full picture. Even if they send you photos of their product or their factory, there is the chance this is not their product of even their factory. This is more common than some might think. We are also pretty sure that all of you that have been in the sourcing game for a long time, have come across this.

With issues like this in mind we have ensured that our platform design, along with some practical advice, can ensure you choose the best supplier out of those that have responded to your project.

The first place to start, is by looking at the supplier’s profile on Sourcing Playground.

Supplier Profile

The above is an example of a supplier profile. Important things to look for are:

  • Does the description and the products the supplier has highlighted in the gallery tie in with your project. Do you see a synergy? Spend some time looking at the profile. Read it a few times. Does this supplier look like they can complete your project?
  • Very obvious is the feedback rating, indicated by the stars. Simply put, the higher the feedback rating the better the supplier. How many of you buy on Ebay? One of the first things people look at is the seller’s positive feedback percentage when deciding to buy. Our feedback ratings are from other buyers on Sourcing Playground that have had dealings with the supplier in question. We do not confer any type of gold, diamond, or platinum status to our suppliers. This rating is 100% legitimate. The higher the rating the better the experience other buyers had with this supplier. However, keep in mind that each project is different, so you need to look at a lot more than the feedback rating.
  • Also ensure the supplier is the type you are looking for. If you only want to deal directly with manufacturers, ensure that they are manufacturers. This is stated below the company name. The number of employees is also very important. For a relatively small project, a 5000-employee manufacturer will not be the best option. A factory with far fewer employees will be more suitable. The opposite applies for large projects, which usually need a larger manufacturer.
  • Next have a look at factory capabilities. Your project will have certain requirements. Do the factory’s capabilities align with these requirements?
  • Equally important, is that the factory is in the same business category as your project, and it specialises in what you are looking for. The above profile is of a factory in the apparel, clothing & textiles sector. However, if you want to produce T-shirts, this is not the factory for you. They specialise in bags and shoes. If your product is not mentioned in this area, move on.
  • On the right side of the page is the “Verification” section. Simply put, the more checks the better.
  • Is the profile complete in terms of information, and does it look good? Generally speaking, the more effort a seller puts into their profile, the more detail orientated and professional they are. Is the spelling and grammar correct? Look for little details, as this is important.
  • If the supplier makes claims to have done work for famous brands, do not be afraid to ask for evidence or a reference. These types of claims are relatively common and might not be true. A good supplier should be ready and able to stand by any claim made, with evidence. Just ensure that you ask in a friendly and non-confrontational way.
  • What’s your “gut feel”? Research has shown that a person’s “gut feel” should never be ignored. If you feel that the supplier cannot successfully complete your project, there is a high probability they can’t. This might not be anything concrete that you can put a finger on, but just a feeling. Do not ignore this feeling. We agree that this is not an objective measure of a supplier’s ability, or the most important factor in choosing a supplier, but it is a factor. Be honest. How many times have you seen a supplier’s site on various other platforms, and just thought “NO!” A few times at least.

As you can see the factory can also attach any relevant certification. Check these and make sure these are in the same name as the factory, and are up to date.
Where we can, Sourcing Playground verifies a supplier’s claim, where you can see in the above image has a green tick next to the certification.
This means we were able to check with the certification standards themselves to check that the company was a registered member.

Finally, you can check out the detailed reviews placed by other buyers.

If you have any questions, you can contact the supplier directly. This is crucial. Always ask questions if something is not clear.

Supplier Quote

When a supplier quotes you, it will be shown as below.

This is relatively straightforward. However, there are some important things you should be looking for.

  • The introduction from the supplier should be personalized. This shows that the supplier has taken the time to fully check your project requirements. Your name and the project / product name should be mentioned. The introduction should also high light the synergy between your project and the supplier. The introduction should not have a generic feel. Like this is the same cut and paste introduction the supplier sends to every buyer.
  • Has the supplier quoted on exactly what you asked for? It is always better to double check this with a supplier, as opposed to assuming they have. We cannot stress the importance of this. Ensure that you are both on the same page and neither of you have made any assumptions regarding the project. Check the minimum order quantities are exactly what you requested.
  • Are the prices in line with other quotes you have received? If they are not (too high or low), there is a good chance the supplier made a mistake. There will be more on this topic later on in this article.
  • Is the lead time reasonable? As you should receive multiple quotes, a too long or too short lead time is often an indication of a mistake. However, keep in mind suppliers often give longer lead times to cover themselves for any production issues. This is normal. However, extremely short lead times are not. Discuss any lead time issues you have with your suppliers.

There is also place for the supplier to give you a reason why you should work with them. Check this carefully for any value addition the supplier offers compared to competitors. This message should have a measurement of personalisation like the introduction, that shows it is not simply a cut and paste, and that the supplier has checked your project in detail, as well as your profile. The message should speak to you directly. Again, if you have any questions or require any clarity, request this from the supplier.

Supplier Comparison / Quotes Received

You can compare the quotes you have received from the various suppliers that have responded to your project. Please in mind what we have highlighted in the above sections, as points of reference;

  • The quotes should be relatively uniform. There should not be any major price differences between the suppliers. If one supplier’s price stands out as either too high or low, discuss with the supplier. If the price is too high, you can be relatively direct, and tell them for example, their prices are 25% higher than other quotes you received. Ask them to re check their costing and confirm exactly what they have costed on. If the price is too low, you need to be a bit subtler. You do not want them to increase their prices just to be inline with the other suppliers. There are a number or reasons a supplier can offer lower prices than competitors, and they do not necessarily indicate a mistake. They might have some excess capacity between orders that they simply want to cover fixed cost on. This is just one of a myriad of reasons. You need to probe more gently. Ask them exactly what the price includes to ensure they have covered everything. Never mention that their price seems too low. You would be surprised how many buyers do this. You can guess what happens next. The supplier will admit they made a mistake in the costing and raise prices 20%.
  • Ensure that the size of suppliers is also relatively uniform. As mentioned, for a smaller order, a smaller supplier will probably offer more competitive prices. If you get five quotes. Four from 200 worker factories, and one from a factory with 1 500 workers, it will skew your quotes, simply because the bigger factory has much larger overheads.
  • Do not only use price to choose a supplier. Many buyers only look at prices. Do this at your peril. They often end up paying a lot more when the supplier delivers a month late and the quality is poor. Look at each supplier’s ratings and how many projects they have done. If one supplier stands out here with consistently high ratings over a large number of projects, a higher price might be worth paying for the peace of mind. That being said, any supplier is only as good as their last order. Generally, do not only chase the lowest price. This is a risky buying strategy, and is an article on its own.

Based on what you decide, you have the option to hire the supplier immediately, by clicking on the “Hire Supplier” button. There is also a drop-down quick reply menu. There are a few options here, so you will be able to choose the one most suitable. And, finally you also have the option to message the supplier for any clarity. I know we have gone a bit overboard, pushing this point home. But many decades of combined sourcing experience, have taught us the critical, and often expensive lesson of not asking questions and assuming.

We hope this article gives you further insight into Sourcing Playground’s platform, and how to get the best supplier for your specific project.

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