So, you’ve spent hours researching about sourcing agents and finally decided to go ahead and look for one. That’s a smart choice.
The question is, how do you find a good sourcing agent?
Given that a sourcing agent will be responsible for most critical parts of the ecommerce supply chain, it’s imperative that you hire someone with credibility, expertise and trustworthiness.
We have done the heavy lifting for you and narrowed down on some of the easiest ways in which you can find the ideal agent for your business.
Let’s dive in.
- Where to Find a Sourcing Agent
- How to Select the Right Sourcing Agent
- What is a Sourcing Agent
- What are the Benefits of a Sourcing Agent
- Top Sourcing Agents in China
If the internet is to be believed, then every agent that you come across meets all the above mentioned criteria to the T.
But not all sourcing agents are cut from the same cloth. You need someone that’s the closest match to your business. Someone with relevant expertise in your industry, or someone with the right network of suppliers to source your winning product from.
We will share some tips with you.
Good old word of mouth recommendations are the easiest way to find a reliable sourcing agent without jumping through hoops and shopping pig in a poke.
If you have friends or colleagues who have set up successful ecommerce ventures, and have worked with a sourcing agent they trust, then you can drastically cut short the time it would otherwise take to find a reliable sourcing agent.
You would still have to evaluate them personally, mind you. But it’s a lot easier than evaluating a stranger that you are reaching out to, based on the information that they have presented about themselves. Think of it like a head start.
But, if you are not so fortunate, then keep reading.
You can start your quest by looking up for ‘Best Sourcing Agents in China’ or ‘Best Sourcing Agent for Dropshipping’ on Google. You will be presented with a list of options that include, companies as well as individual agents. Here’s a brief checklist that you can use to evaluate each one.
- Does the website look professional?
- Is it written in fluent English? It’s important that a Chinese agent knows to speak fluent English to be able to understand your requirements, as well as communicate them with suppliers.
- Do they have experience? Do they offer references? Reliable and trustworthy agents will be more than willing to offer past references from clients.
- Do they have relevant expertise in your industry? This is particularly important if you seek specialized products.
- Do they have the infrastructure and team (applicable for sourcing companies only)
- Do they have communication channels in your time zone?
If you run every agent that you find on Google through this checklist, you will quickly be able to filter them and come to one or two agents.
YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world and if you are not looking up on YouTube, then you may be missing out on some legit leads.
That said, not every sourcing agent has a YouTube Channel. Most of them might be too busy helping clients set up million-dollar ecommerce ventures, than set up YouTube channels. Just kidding.
YouTube is a reasonably good source to check out.
Chances are that you might be able to see the sourcing speak in one of the videos. This should give you a fair idea of what to expect when you communicate with them.
But to find one legit sourcing agent, you’d have to spend hours watching videos, most of which are rehashed stuff.
Freelance Websites like Upwork and Fiverr have a plethora of individuals working as sourcing agents. Not all of them are full-time agents though. A lot of them do this part time and can only help with certain aspects of the ecommerce supply chain.
If you are looking to engage an agent from these sites, check reviews. Since reviews can be fudged (not always), it’s best to hop on a call with the person and have a word to see if they are a good match. Also, ensure that both you and the agent are aware of the complete scope of work.
The last thing you need is an agent who finds a supplier and leaves you in the doldrum.
On Upwork, you can use the ‘Job Success Rate’ and ‘Total Income earned’ tools to filter out results.
If a sourcing agent has earned $100k for example, but has a poor job success rate, then you are better off looking for someone else who might have a better job success rate.
Last but not the least, you have the option to look for private agents on Aliexpress or Alibaba, the old fashioned way.
If you already have done product research, look for sellers who offer your product, and then analyze the seller rating based on their feedback, average response time, pricing and shipping methods that they offer.
However, this is not a method that’s generally recommended in the ecommerce industry. There are far too many variables that will need further filtering, even if you were to find someone worth a shot on Alibaba, Aliexpress or any other B2B portal.
Sometimes, entrepreneurs follow everything that we recommended here to the T, and still feel lost. If you are currently experiencing an avalanche of doubts in your mind, then here are some practical tips on how to find a reliable sourcing agent or company.
What product are you looking to source? What ‘Minimum Order Quantity’ are you comfortable working with?
What is the average volume of sales you are looking at? What production lead times are you looking at?
What is the scope of work for the agent? Is it limited to sourcing or do you want them to conduct QC as well as chime in with fulfilment?
What location or industrial cluster do you prefer (proximity of the agent to the location)? Lastly, an overview of the commercials.
Once you have this blueprint, you will be able to narrow down on the right agent a lot quicker. Also, this will help maintain transparency, preventing unexpected glitches on either party’s side. Just because something’s a Standard operating procedure in your country, does not mean that it is the same in China too.
The next option is to choose agents that have the expertise in your industry. For instance, if you import electronic products, you might want to select an agent who understands the nitty-gritties of the business and production, right down to the tiniest detail.
For instance, the type of microprocessor that can affect the quality of the end product. Just an example.
This way, you know that your business sourcing is in good hands. Some industries that require in-depth understanding, as well as extensive supplier networks are medicine, electronics & building materials.
While selecting an agent specialized in a certain business category, also consider experience. Ask for past references.
Like we said, not all agents offer end to end services in the ecommerce supply chain. Some of them only offer sourcing and will work only until they find you a supplier. Their work ends there.
But other agents will offer more services. For example, Sourcingbro offers a gamut of services in the entire ecommerce supply chain. Right from finding suppliers, sourcing products to conducting quality checks, pick & pack, and lastly shipping, we allow clients to channelize their energy towards generating more sales.
We handle everything else, while the client retains complete control on all aspects. It’s like outsourcing the difficult bits, while retaining control. Something that’s only possible with sourcing agents.
Industrial clusters are groups of similar companies in a small geographical area. They are like mini-marketplaces for that specific products or commodities for B2B. For instance, China has separate industrial clusters in different provinces.
Shenzhen is the industrial cluster for electronics, while HuZhou(city) is the hub for Children’s clothing. Guangzhou is the go-to destination for cosmetics & textile and so on.
Partnering with a sourcing agent close to the industrial cluster for the exact product that you are sourcing has many advantages.
- They can travel easily for factory audits
- You can save on freight charges
- They will have better supplier networks which can result in a price advantage
An agent based in Henan can also source electronics for you mind you. But they may not be able to offer a price advantage, or visit the province as frequently as someone based in Guangdong can.
Here are the two primary industrial clusters where most sourcing agents are based from.
The Guangdong Province Area is the largest industrial province in China, and also home to three of the largest ports for sea trade, which are Hong Kong, Shenzhen & Guangzhou. Guangdong province is home to some of the busiest industrial sectors in the ecommerce marketplace. Some of these are:
- Watches (Replica)
- Home Appliances
This of course is not an exhaustive list. But it should point you in the right direction.
The Zhejiang Province is the second most developed industrial clusters in China. The province is located on the east coast of the country and is home to two large port cities: Shanghai and Ningbo. It is home to a large portion of China’s manufacturing industry, from textiles and electronics to household appliances and construction materials.
Some of these are
- Iron & Steel
- Biological components for medicine
- Shipping repair
- Rubber Products
The industrial clusters are isolated in different cities within the province and engaging with an agent who’s based out of a city closest to a particular cluster is a strategic advantage. But it’s not mandatory as many agents now have small teams who will be willing to travel short distances for QC as well as factory audits.
One of the biggest hurdles that businesses face while working with suppliers in a different country is seamless communication. Many of the suppliers in the Chinese Industrial clusters can speak only in Chinese or Mandarin.
This makes it important to have a reliable partner on-ground who can communicate and negotiate, while prioritizing your best interests. A sourcing agent must also be able to, and speak English fluently.
The reliability of a sourcing agent will come to the fore after you engage their services, and something doesn’t go as planned. For instance, your inventory is delayed during peak season, or a supplier defaults on an agreed-upon timeline or terms.
A quality sourcing agent will shine in such situations, doing everything in their capacity to make things right for you. They might re-negotiate terms with the supplier, or reach out to the supplier on your behalf, or track shipments.
At Sourcingbro, we go by the motto, whatever it takes. We stay on top of every parcel until it is delivered at the customer’s doorstep. We ensure that we track every touch point in the supply chain diligently and we are constantly the bridge between you and the supplier, so that unexpected events don’t arise.
What is a sourcing agent? if you’re not familiar with, a sourcing agent is an on-ground partner for ecommerce entrepreneurs who seek better quality, pricing, TAT or all of the above in their business.
Generally they’re located in the city/country that you are sourcing the product from. They offer a bouquet of services, ranging from personal product inspection, to duty paid delivery dispatch.
Think of them like your partner on ground, who will be your eyes and ears.
Dropshipping and Ecommerce are the easiest business models, on paper. That’s until you get started and face the realities. We are not trying to demotivate you, mind you. But many businesses are on the fence about engaging with a sourcing agent, for something that they believe they can achieve themselves with some elbow grease.
But is it really doable? Here are some of the advantages of working with a sourcing agent.
The first step in establishing an ecommerce venture is to find a reliable supplier in an overseas country. Do you know the suppliers in that country? Do you speak the local language? How about QC or testing lead times and production capacity?
It’s one thing to create a swanky website, which any seller can do. It’s another to consistently match the quality and timelines that you promise.
The best sourcing agent will take guesswork out of supplier vetoing. They will iron out the creases ensuring seamless communication. The culture gap becomes non-existent. Time zones don’t matter anymore. You get prompt updates in your inbox each morning.
The rule of thumb is that you speak to at least 5-10 suppliers to source one product. Eventually, you will filter them out on numerous parameters and pick 1 or two out of the list. But what if you have a store with 100 products in 10-15 categories?
Do you have the time, bandwidth and skills needed to contact, verify and veto 1000+ suppliers? A sourcing agent will make this easier for you. Sometimes, in a span of days, you get multiple quotes delivered to your inbox.
It’s the hassle free way to do ecommerce that lets you focus on generating business. That’s your core competency. That’s what you should be focusing on.
There are certain sourcing agents who are extremely skilled at finding vendors in specific industries. A case in point is leather, which is tricky to choose. So are medicines. Medicine suppliers are a rarity at industrial trade shows and exhibitions.
This is where a sourcing agent with the right network of vendors can be invaluable. If you have a special product requirement, it’s in your best interest to work with a sourcing agent who has the industry-relevant expertise.
Apart from sourcing, QC, production follow up, and shipping, sourcing agents can also offer private labeling, or product design. Some of these services are:
- Product development from a concept
- Custom packaging with logo and branding
- Product Photography for use on ecommerce websites
Now for the final part of this article, we would like to point you towards the top 3 sourcing agents in China. All three services are versatile and experienced in multiple product categories. They are also located at close proximity to key industrial clusters.
I don’t intend to toot my own horn. But Sourcingbro is hands down the best sourcing agent for DTC brands and for businesses dropshipping from China.
Let me explain why.
I set up Sourcingbro after spending four years working in the dropshipping industry in various capacities. It was then that I realized that while there were hundreds of sourcing agents operating in the Chinese landscape, almost everyone was a clone of the other.
What was lacking across the industry was personalization. An agent that goes beyond the cookie-cutter, template offerings and brings a personal touch into sourcing.
That’s our biggest USP.
- Sourcingbro offers end to end services, ranging from product sourcing from our extensive ground-network of factories, conducting factory audits, finding you better pricing, helping with product development and lastly, shipping.
- We have an extensive network of factories that we tap into, to find you a better deal. A better quality product, better pricing and favorable MOQ.
- We have an input-based inventory management system and a network for trusted sellers, with consistently-good, quick production turnaround times.
- Looking to build an ecommerce brand? We can assist you with product development.
- We conduct periodic factory audits, as well as analyze every order that reaches our warehouse
If you ship direct to customer by sourcing from suppliers in China, or you are dropshipping from Aliexpress, but are generally dissatisfied due to various reasons, Sourcingbro can turn it around for you.
Jingsourcing is one of the most popular sourcing company amongst Amazon FBA businesses. This company was started by Jing Zhu, in 2015 from a tiny apartment. They have quickly grown into a large operation with 40+ permanent employees.
- Product Sourcing
- They can assist you with various aspects of development such as mass production, getting the prototype made, advising on the best materials and arranging mass production.
- They can help you find manufacturers who offer customization even for orders of less than 500 MOQ.
Jing Sourcing has good reviews, especially from Amazon FBA sellers. They have served 1500 Amazon businesses in the last few years and this gives them a great understanding of Amazon’s FBA requirements.
Sourcing Allies Global is one of the top sourcing companies in China for metal and plastic products for the manufacturing sector. So, if you are looking to source products for Die Casting, Metal Stamping & Plastic Injection Molding, these are your go-to guys.
- From producing your mold cavity to designing plastic molds, Sourcing Allies assist you in all aspects of the product development process in this niche industry
- Their expertise extends to other areas of manufacturing, such as aluminum extrusions, lighting and lamp parts, door handles, metal latches, metal cups, cans, and shells, to name a few.
- They have a detailed process where they analyze your product drawings and make suggestions, if there’s scope for improvement or a reduction in cost.
Lear More: Top 13 Chinese Sourcing Agent