Always ‘Test It’ First!
Around 18 months ago the subject of one of my weekly eletters was how to stay safe when doing business with suppliers. I’m talking about worries you may have such as ensuring the supplier is genuine and won’t scarper with your money, making sure the product is a quality one and being confident that the supplier is reliable.
If you are a long-term eletter subscriber then you may recall that I devised an easy to remember abbreviation for you to remember, comprising of a simple run through of tasks to carry out before doing big business with a supplier and it was one of my most well received eletters I’ve written!
Well, as I said that was around 18 months ago and so I want to revisit that abbreviation today for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the number of suppliers accessible to small online sellers has continued to increase, making it even more of a potential minefield when choosing who to do business with. Secondly, because I have found that often over these summer months, when school holidays commence and you have more time to think rather than being on the constant treadmill of routine, firm decisions are made and plans put in place for the start of a new period – September.
Which in some ways is like the start of a new year. When summer is almost over and school restarts and new plans are actioned it’s important to be ready. And so, if summer is your chilled out thinking time, the time you take a holiday then come back and start researching products to sell and suppliers to source from, staying safe and being aware should be on your mind.
Unfortunately the world we live in isn’t perfect, and problems can arise when dealing with suppliers; sometimes simply down to a lack of communication resulting in the wrong product being dispatched or extra fees having to be paid that weren’t initially specified. There is also the chance that the supplier may not be genuine and has no intention of delivering your order after taking your money.
Please don’t panic – I’m not trying to put you off or worry you unnecessarily, however it is important that you are aware that you must check the background of a supplier before you go ahead with an order and that’s where my abbreviation comes in:
You may remember that this was my original abbreviation, however I’ve updated it, and I think it’s now even easier to recall…and much more apt.
So, now remember this:
I’ll explain what each letter stands for in just a moment and I am certain you’ll find it extremely useful during your quest for a reliable supplier. Once you’ve ordered from a supplier a few times these checks will no longer be absolutely necessary, but each time you buy from someone new run please through this checklist.
You’ll find more in-depth articles, tools and tips to help you deal with suppliers over at The Source Report but to get you started I want to run through these basic checks right now:
My updated list of checks to do is called ‘TEST IT’ and it’s super easy to remember…
- T is for Telephone and Address Details
Almost every supplier these days has their own website, and even if they don’t then it’s very likely that they’ll have provided a telephone number and address on a wholesale search engine or a trade website. Your first check to see if the supplier is genuine is to run a quick Google search on the address that they have provided to see if that address actually exists.
Google Maps works all around the world, so if it struggles to find the address provided you should make further checks.
Check the telephone number to ensure that the area or country code corresponds to the correct area or country according to the postal address. If a supplier doesn’t have a telephone number or seems overly reluctant to provide you with one then alarm bells should ring in your head. Why wouldn’t they provide the facility for their customers to get in touch in that way?
- E is for Email communication
Check the suppliers email address. Is it a ‘hotmail’ address that anyone can set up or does it refer to the actual business name – for example email@example.com? If it’s a free email address this could indicate that the supplier is not as professional as you might think particularly if they are passing themselves off as a large business with premises. If the address appears genuine enough then send communications via email and gauge the response time.
Further down the line it’s possible that you might end up agreeing a deal on the telephone and if that’s the case make sure you confirm the details in an email and send that on to the supplier. Keeping a paper trail of every communication that you have with the supplier, right from the start is the best way to ensure that you get exactly what you want for the price that you want and there are no issues along the way.
Make sure that both you and the provider have a written copy of exactly what it is that you’re ordering, along with the agreed price, the conditions of the sale and any shipping and delivery details.
Email and postal communications like this can be traced back through the agreement, giving you a leg to stand on if there are any problems with the completion of the order.
- S is for Small Print
There are a few things to keep your eyes open for on the website of a supplier. First and foremost take a look to see if there is any small print. A reputable supplier should always have a page on their site that provides all the usual details regarding returns, shipping, contact information and accepted payment methods.
Other things to keep an eye on when looking at the website include the domain name itself, does it look genuine or is it just a random string of characters that doesn’t make any sense?
Also the content can give clues as to the reliability of the supplier in question; even if they are based in a non-English speaking country a lot of spelling and grammatical errors could be a warning sign as you’d expect a foreign company working with Westerners commonly to either have had the site correctly translated, or even to appear simply in their own language and not in English at all.
Another question to ask yourself is what sort of items are they actually advertising on the website? Is it a niche operation or do they sell a couple of items in almost every different area? Sometimes these higgledy-piggledy websites can be an indication that a supplier isn’t genuine, though that isn’t always the case.
- T is for Testimonials
Genuine suppliers are likely to have testimonials or references from former clients on hand, or some will actually provide you with the contact details of former customers that don’t mind being contacted to allow you to set your mind at ease. A supplier’s willingness to provide this information may be enough to reassure you on its own, but you should make sure you do contact any references that are provided to ensure that the stock they ordered was up to scratch.
If you’re worried that the provided testimonials might not be genuine then use a search engine such as Google or a wholesale forum to look specifically for the name of the company to try and find some real reviews.
- I is for Internet Search
There are plenty of online forums where you can investigate other sellers’ dealings with suppliers. A simple Google search using search terms such as name of supplier + review or name of supplier + scam can help you glean important information about a supplier including how other customers have found their service, products and reliability.
Well known forums such as The Wholesale Forums have dedicated sections purely for people to interact on the topic of ‘suppliers’ so places such as this should be your first port of call.
- T is for Test Batch
The vast majority of suppliers are prepared for the request of a single item or small test batch of the product before placing a large order. I strongly recommend that you always order a small test batch or single sample before spending a lot of money on a large order. Not only will you be able to check the quality of a product, but you’ll also get a feel for how well the items are packaged and how quickly they are delivered, not to mention the communication skills of the supplier.
This test order can also help you to identify any potential counterfeit goods. Personally I would advise steering well clear of branded goods from overseas as they could be counterfeit and will get you into trouble if you import and sell them.
Dealing with suppliers, particularly when they’re located overseas, can be a challenging process but by making sure you check out their credentials you will remain safe from any scams, allowing you to spend your money on genuine products that can bring in the profits. Remember this every time you research a new supplier. It’s easy to remember this way:
- T is for telephone
- E is for emails
- S is for small print
- T is for testimonials
- I is for internet search
- T is for test batch
TEST IT – Please make it your mantra!
As always I wish you the best of success,