Simply put, Alibaba is the Amazon of product manufacturers. You can find an insane number of products sold by Chinese suppliers at ridiculously low prices. You’re even able to customize your product by adding a logo, having a specific type of packaging, having your product be a specific color, etc.
Just as an FYI: for this post, I won’t be focusing on the branding aspects of your product.
Instead, I’ll simply be showing you how to buy 10 generic samples of your product.
The reason why we want to buy samples before ordering hundreds of products is simple: we want to test the market to see if this product will sell well.
Sure, we’ve got some data that tells us the product will likely sell well, but until we actually sell the product we won’t know for sure if it is a profitable product!
Hence the need to test our product first.
Now that you understand what we’ll be doing, let’s start searching for a supplier!
Searching For the Right Supplier
First thing’s first, create your Alibaba account.
I recommend creating a separate Gmail account for when you sign up so you won’t get inundated with emails from suppliers (trust me on this).
Next, head on over to Alibaba’s homepage and type your product into the search bar.
In order to find the right supplier for us (i.e. someone that is both trustworthy and credible), we need to add in a couple of filters.
According to their website, being a Gold Supplier means you have a paid membership on Alibaba.com.
All Gold Suppliers in China must pass their Onsite Check while those from other countries and regions must pass an A&V Check.
In other words, gold suppliers are much more credible than non-gold suppliers so if you don’t want to get scammed, it’s best to go with a gold supplier.
Similar to the Gold Supplier selection, an Assessed Supplier is someone who has been quality inspected as well as had their company completely scrutinized to make sure they are legit.
Having both the Gold Supplier option and the Assessed Supplier option checked will massively reduce any possibility of getting scammed.
In fact, I think it might be safe to say it’s nearly impossible for you to get scammed on Alibaba.com unless you are extremely unlucky or pick an unverified, newer supplier.
Of course, we want to be as careful as possible, but Alibaba has been around long enough and has cracked down on scammers so much that you shouldn’t run into any issues.
Plus, since you can pay with either a credit card or PayPal, you have another layer of security with both of these options.
Picking Your Supplier
After selecting both Gold Supplier and Assessed Supplier within the filter section, this was the first product I found on the list:
Check out the right side of the page to see more information on the supplier.
This info includes:
- YRS Icon: This tells us how many years the company has been a supplier – generally the longer the better.
- Location: Where this supplier is based – generally China is the best way to go as their prices are cheapest.
- Transaction Level: This tells us how many transactions this supplier has done over their time on Alibaba. Having more transactions generally means they’re more reliable to do business with.
- Supplier Assessments: These give us more details on how their assessments went. You can look more into this yourself if you’re curious, but you don’t have to.
- Response Time: How quickly the supplier will get back to you on average.
- Response Rate: The rate that the supplier messages back everyone. (i.e. if 100 people message them and they respond to all 100 of them then it would be 100%. If they only respond to 70 of them it would be 70%, etc.)
From what I can see so far, it looks like this specific supplier would be a good fit for us to do business with.
The price range is $2.3-$3.88 per unit, and since we plan on selling them for around $20-$40 per unit that’s a pretty significant profit margin!
Reaching Out to Suppliers
Click the “Contact Supplier” button on the product page.
You should be taken to a page that looks like this:
I recommend following the script I have provided here (obviously changing up the product information and your name), but you can modify this however you like.
Here’s the script so you can copy/paste:
We’re a [niche] distributor selling products within the United States. We’re interested in adding [product] to our product lineup, and thought your products looked great!
My boss would like me to order 10 sample sets/units of this product. Would you be willing to send some top-quality samples?
My boss would also like you to use your express shipping account.
Let me know what else you need from me to get this sample order shipped!
Look forward to working with you,
Purchasing Agent for [business name]
A few key things to note with your script:
- Write as though you are an employee of a company, do NOT say you are the boss. This is important as you want the supplier to know they are working with a serious business that will build a partnership with them.
- Ask for 10 samples. If they are unwilling to send you 10 samples, tell them that your boss only wants you to order 10 samples to test the market. If that doesn’t persuade them, then just find another supplier. There are so many suppliers on Alibaba that it shouldn’t be hard to find another one.
- Always ask if they can use their express shipping account to send you their samples. If they’re unable to, that’s still fine as long as the shipping isn’t outrageous. Since the products we’ll be buying aren’t very large, the shipping shouldn’t be very much.
- Uncheck the share my business card with the supplier option. If the supplier inquires more about you or your company and won’t do business with you until you answer their questions, just look for another supplier. In my experience, most suppliers are willing to work with you as long as you present yourself well and seem willing to build a business partnership with them through ordering and reordering products from them.
- You can use a fictitious name for your business. In my case, I have an LLC so I’m using it as my business name.
- You can also provide your newly created email to have them reply to you on that platform instead of Alibaba’s. This is optional, many people like to follow up over their email because Alibaba’s user interface can be difficult to navigate.
Once you’ve written your script, click “Send Inquiry Now” and wait for the supplier to respond.
Generally, suppliers will respond to you within 24 hours.
You may send additional inquiries to other suppliers to see if you’ll get a better deal with them.
The suppliers will likely ask you for information including your address, a contact name (your name), a phone number, etc.
They will either bill you via PayPal or you can use a credit card to pay for the samples.
Once you order your samples, the supplier will give you a tracking number and roughly how many days it will take to get to you.
You might be asking yourself, “What happens after I sell through these 10 samples?”
At that point, all you’ll have to do is reach out to your supplier again and request to order more units.
I recommend starting slowly by ordering anywhere from 50-100 units and then scaling up as you make more sales.
When you’re ready to move on to creating a listing on Amazon, read my post “How to Create a Listing on Amazon“.