Tips for preparing a business trip
My trips to China are getting shorter and shorter. I optimize my time to the maximum. I go with the whole trip organized in advance so I don’t have to entertain myself visiting suppliers who are not going to give me anything in this trip.
The weeks before the trip I organize together with my secretary which are the objectives of our trip and which suppliers are the ones we are going to visit.
In this blog entry I will explain how you should organize your business trip to China.
Visit the most representative fair of the sector.
It is 100% recommended that you visit the most important fair of your sector. If you can adjust your date of visit to China, I recommend you to do it when the most important fair in China is going to be held. If you do not know when the fair is going to be held, you only have to enter “the generic name of the product you are looking for in google + china + fair”.
If what you are looking for is the most important fair of home textiles you should search: “Home Textile China Fair”, usually if we talk about seasonal products such as textiles, we will find fairs for two different dates. One that will be at the beginning of spring and another one at the beginning of autumn. Each fair will exhibit the winter and summer collection respectively.
The suppliers who exhibit at the fairs will always be more reliable than those who do not. If you know a supplier through the Internet that does not exhibit at any fair, it is possible that they are too small or simply a purchasing agent in China. I wouldn’t rule out the first time around but I would investigate further the reasons why he doesn’t go to any fair in his sector.
Visit as many suppliers as possible.
Whether you go to a fair or not, the best thing is to travel to China with your homework done. My advice is to do a supplier search in Alibaba before traveling to China. If you are going to a fair, ask the suppliers you have found in Alibaba if they will go to the fair you are planning to go to.
If most of them tell you that they will not be attending, you should ask them which is the main fair of their sector in China. Maybe you have not found the most representative fair.
Contact as many suppliers as possible and start distributing them by their location on a map. It is as simple as putting the city that appears in your company’s address in google maps and locate the company on a map. This way you can get a visual idea of where your potential suppliers are located. I’m sure most of them are located in a specific area within China.
If you are going to visit them during a fair the best thing to do is to book a few days after the fair is over to be able to visit their company. They will be happy to welcome you at their facilities after the fair is over. You only have to specify the day that suits you.
Organize your days in China by zones and not by products.
You must optimize your time to the maximum and to do so you must create supplier routes. Regardless of the product you are working on. If you are a multi-product importer, you will have suppliers all over China.
The most sensible thing to do is to organize your trip with an entry city and an exit city. Suppose you are planning to go to the Canton Fair, but many of your suppliers are in the Tianjin area and some important supplier is in the Hangzhou area.
Regardless of the product you are working on, the normal thing to do in this case would be to take the route from south to north, first visiting the suppliers near Guangzhou by car or train and then taking a flight to Hangzhou to visit the other suppliers and finally a flight from Hangzhou to Tianjin to visit the rest of the suppliers. The return trip to our country should be done from Beijing.
The internal flights are very easy to contract with Chinese agencies but you can also contract them with international agencies such as booking or edreams. The same happens with hotels. Any of the two websites I have provided you with can be used to find hotels.
Try to fly at the end of the day and arrive at your destination at night to optimize your next day. If you need to move around your hotel because the suppliers are not more than 50km from your hotel, it is best to ask at the reception for a taxi driver and contract with him the route at a fixed price.
Value your time.
Above all, value your time. You went to China to work. Focus and don’t let the suppliers determine your time.
All the suppliers you visit will ask you if you have eaten or had dinner (depending on the time of day you visit them). I always tell them that I have eaten or had dinner, so I don’t have to spend two hours with a provider that I don’t know if they will be my final provider yet.
Believe me if I tell you that I can visit up to 5 suppliers in the same day and drive more than 300km when I am actively searching for suppliers. If I had to agree to eat with one of them the number of suppliers I could visit would be reduced considerably.
You should not think that by refusing an invitation to eat you are making a bad impression on the supplier or you will get worse conditions with him. It has nothing to do with that. It is simply part of their culture of doing business and refusing the invitation is not detrimental to you.
Sometimes I think they don’t really want to eat with me either and they just try to be polite. Don’t worry about that. The important thing is you and making the most of your visit to China.
Visit the entire shipping warehouse.
If you have little time because you have to visit 4 or 5 suppliers on the same day. My main advice is to visit the showroom and the shipping warehouse. For me it is the most important thing in the company. I am not interested in seeing the offices or the whole production process.
Of course, if you have enough time, you can spend it visiting the company completely. But if you really want to get an idea of how that supplier works, you only have to visit their finishing warehouse and where they pack and fit their products.
A clean and organized shipping warehouse will make you gain a lot of confidence with the supplier. And if you’re lucky enough to find a competitor’s product in the warehouse, you’ll know you’ve hit the nail on the head.
I often don’t even pass the front door. Simply by looking at the company from the outside you can make the decision not to go in and visit them and save yourself the time of having to waste time with presentations. If what you were planning to see is not what you found, just make up an excuse and don’t waste your time.
I remember once I had to make a 3 hour train journey and when the supplier picked me up at the station he told me that he could only take me to his offices and that it was impossible to visit his production company. Obviously I told him that I had not travelled all that way to see tables with computers and that I needed to know if he was really the manufacturer of the product.
He kept telling me that he couldn’t show me the company and I didn’t leave the station that day. I went back to Shanghai with the first train back. It was my first time in China and I was learning by heart.