How to Find a Good Supplier for Your Import Business

Successful import business ideas revolve around two critical pillars – satisfying customer needs and making profits. Choosing good products to import and finding the best supplier will increase your chances of success. But with an infinite number of products, how do you pick the right one?

Identifying the Best Products to Import and Sell

The best products to import and sell are those that are either difficult to find or have consistent demand. In order to make the right choice in this regard, you need to consider a few factors:

1. Narrow Down Your Search

Before implementing your import business ideas, you need to be sure that the product you choose will sell. Failure to do this will result in loss. Your research should be centered on two main aspects – finding a niche market and studying prevailing trends. Find out what people are talking about. Read magazines and product releases. Check popular sites in different niches and identify the best performing products. Only then can you create a viable import export items list.

2. Strike a Balance

While the most popular products offer the best import opportunities, they also have the greatest competition. So it is important to strike a balance so that you do not lose out to the more seasoned players. If it has to be something that everyone has to buy, then find a way to get an advantage. Everyone wants the best bargain so be ready to advertise hard so that your advantage gets prominence. Alternatively, you could choose a less common product and make a big margin even with few sales.

3. Get Knowledge and Experience

After narrowing down your import export products list, you need to get as much information as you can about the most promising items. Operating from a knowledgeable perspective helps you to avoid loopholes and proceed with caution. Ask questions and conduct research on the items. Finally, select one product that you find viable and convincing.

Pointers to Consider Before Choosing a Supplier

A supplier refers to anyone who has the capacity to avail inventory and products for you to sell. This opens up a wide door of possibilities. It is important to figure out exactly what it is that you need before setting out on a search. Let us look at a few points in that regard:

1. The Different Types of Suppliers

Manufacturers – these ones produce specified products according to individual client demands. They offer the best rates but also require the highest quantities to justify production costs.

Distributors – distributors are the contact point between manufacturers and buyers. They mostly sell to wholesalers or retails but not directly to consumers.

Wholesalers – these ones buy in bulk from distributors to sell to retailers

Drop shippers – these are basically virtual middlemen. They do not stock inventory but they look for orders and get manufacturers to ship directly to buyers.

It goes without saying that the fewer the levels between you and the supplier, the better the prices. However, drop shippers and wholesalers are easier to find and could offer a great starting point.

2. Domestic and Overseas Suppliers

Beginners in the import export business mostly mistakenly assume that suppliers are only found overseas. But before looking overseas you also want to ensure you exhaust local market options. After all, domestic suppliers offer some distinct benefits.

Advantages of Domestic Suppliers

  • It is easier to communicate since there is no language barrier.
  • You can arrange meetings and enjoy the benefits of face-to-face contact.
  • Simplified verification and authentication process.
  • Easier financial verification.


  • The manufacturing costs may be higher.
  • Limited product choice.

The one factor that sets overseas suppliers at an advantage is the manufacturing cost. However, you need to keep in mind that in order to enjoy this benefit, you need to buy in bulk. This will justify transportation costs and make the exercise worthwhile. Otherwise, if you want to buy in limited quantities, you will be better off getting a local supplier.

  • Getting a Good Fit

The importer supplier relationship affects business success. Right from the get-go you can tell whether or not you have chemistry with your main contact and the supplier’s company management. Getting this right will ensure cooperation at every step.

A good supplier offers extensive product information without the need for prodding. They are also keen to package well and offer convenience and competitive pricing. The supplier company as a whole demonstrates organization and friendliness at all levels. It has a compelling mission and shows determination to reach greater success heights.

3. Supply vs. Demand

It is important to ensure that prospective suppliers can keep up with product demand. You can check their capacity from such details as number of employees, annual sales volume and the company size. You could also visit local outlets for their products to confirm availability. Communicating with other importers could also help you figure out how big the supplier’s distribution network is. The wider their network the higher the chances that they will meet demand.

Another tell-tale sign that your supplier can meet demand is their advertising trends. It is great if they have a great website, an impressive social media presence. Moreover, if their ads are all over on billboards, in the dailies and on television, they are big enough to meet demand. Of course, you also need to ask directly about their capacity to supply. Let them know the quantities you need and let them prove that they can supply.

Where to Find Suppliers

Now that you have figured good products to import and the type of supplier that you require, it is time to actively search for supplier.

  • Referrals

The best way to get contacts in any line of business is through referrals. If you happen to know someone in your chosen supply country, use them to get information. Even in your home country, you could talk to other traders in the import export business. Not everyone may be willing to share such information but that should not stop you from trying.

  • Trade Fairs

These offer the most viable opportunity to connect with other traders in your line. Big international trade fairs bring together the major players in the industry. In this setting, they are all eager to get new prospects. You also get to enjoy a unique face-to-face interaction. You can ask all the questions you deem important and use the answers to form an objective opinion. Since competitors find themselves on the same grounds, you are likely to get favorable deals.

  • Import Records

Most people are not aware that the government makes some import records public. In many countries, you can easily access these records through the Chamber of Commerce or even online. Bills of Lading are among the easiest documents to access. These do not have all the details but they offer some supplier information. Whatever little information you get is a precious stepping stone. Use this to get to the next level. If for instance you only get a company name, find their website and get their contacts.

  • Online Resources

The internet is full of helpful resources to help new traders find their footing. There are entire websites dedicated to connecting suppliers and import traders. Remember that some companies have been in their line of trade for ages. They might not be so tech savvy and their websites could be out-of-date or lack search engine optimization. So for all practical intents, go beyond the first search page. Search as far back as you can to find what you need. It could be a diamond in a haystack and worth all the trouble.

Playing Your Part

Finding a good supplier is not one-sided. You too need to play your part to win them over. First impressions determine how your long-term relationship will play out. Whatever method you choose to initiate contact, you need to inspire confidence. Demonstrate your passion for the import export business and the specific product. More importantly, show the supplier that you have the capacity to carry out trade.

Not every contact will turn out successful. While they might not reject you outright, some will not respond to your requests. Do not take this personally. Move along till you successfully make a connection. Keep your options open until you have successfully initiated trade.

How to Import Goods for Resale

1. Request a Quote

Your very first email is mostly aimed at establishing the product price. There are some other important questions however that you also need to include in this email.

  • Minimum Order Quantity

Big suppliers have been known to turn down small orders. Small is however relative and you want to figure this out before anything else. You will of course choose a supplier whose minimums you can manage considering product demand and financial capacity. Fortunately, these numbers are mostly negotiable. So try to understand the reason behind their minimum quantities and find a suitable compromise.

  • Pricing

There are two levels to this entry. Sample prices are at times different from actual product prices. Certain suppliers give samples away for free while others offer a slight discount. Actual product prices are also not constant. You need to ask for the different figures relative to order quantities.

  • Turnaround Time

This is a very crucial consideration to make so as not to disappoint your customers. You might get the best supplier in the world but if they cannot deliver orders in time there is no point working with them.

  • Financial Matters

Payment terms are another important aspect to think about. For the first purchase, most suppliers require cash payment upfront for the full order. If this is challenging for your startup business, negotiate more suitable terms or find a supplier who is willing to meet your request. Also remember to find out if they offer credit terms for subsequent offers.

2. How to Reduce the Chances of Being Ignored

Considering the scope of their work, suppliers have a hard time keeping up with requests from traders old and new. Many of these supposed buyers end up not making a purchase. This explains the common complaint that suppliers are not responsive. How can you avoid being misjudged as a flaky trader? The following are some things you should avoid in your first email:

  1. Long Background Stories – because of their busy schedule, suppliers often read communication that is clear and concise. So get to the point and avoid giving unnecessary details. Also remember that language might be a problem. So the simpler your message, the easier it is for the translator to capture the main points.
  2. Making Multiple Demands – do not ask for too many quotations the first time. A maximum of two or three is enough to help you get a benchmark. After establishing contact, feel free to relax the rules a little. Numbering the questions posed makes it easy for them to tackle each point.
  3. Do Not Ask For Less than Minimum – minimum quantities are there for a reason. Do not ask a supplier to quote for fewer items. They will most likely ignore such a request.

3. Your Initial Order

Even after taking every step to confirm a supplier’s authenticity, you still need to tread carefully. You could make a small initial order to verify a supplier’s claims. Take your time to go through the samples and check their quality. Let a few friends try them out and give you feedback. Depending on the response you will know whether to proceed and make a bulk order or keep looking.

Find a Good Supply Partner Using Waystocap

Waystocap has a host of benefits to offer to import business startups. We offer numerous opportunities for beginners in the field to meet prospective supply partners. One such avenue is through trade fairs and exhibitions. We bring to your attention the most lucrative planned events so that you can make plans to attend well in advance.

Our online platform also offers a secure trading environment. Here you can meet potential partners and establish useful links for your business. Our B2B platform has a resource base to help you set up your business and to help you overcome various milestones along the way.

We have been on the African continent business front for a considerable time period. In those years we have acquired useful skills and gathered data to guide you in your trade. All you need to do to take advantage of these and many more benefits is to sign up today. It will be the best business decision you ever make.