One of the trickiest aspects of importing your goods from China being certain that you’re going to receive exactly what you’ve asked for. This is particularly true when you want to manufacture a product from a prototype. You need a sample from a supplier.

Getting a sample that meets all of your specifications and is a quality product is extremely important when you are looking for a supplier. This can be a difficult process particularly if you’re just starting you import business. Below are some of considerations to make to ensure that you get a good sample that will lead you to the best supplier.

Preparation. Decide what you’re going to request a sample for. If you’ve designed a product and you’re looking for a manufacturer for that product, then you need to make an exact prototype through a domestic source. By making your prototype domestically you accomplish three things: 1) you will have greater control on getting exactly what you want; 2) there won’t be any communication problems in reading your specifications; 3) it’s less expensive – no freight costs or other added costs. If you need to break the prototype down to its basic components, then do so. This can be sent directly to the manufacturer when you’re ready.

Selecting the manufacturer/supplier. You’ll need to contact as many suppliers that do business in your category as possible. You may want to use an import sourcing company to help with this step. They can help you overcome language barriers and work with you in getting to know some of the manufacturers.

Narrow the field down to about six different suppliers that offer what you’re wanting. Then request samples from at least three of them. This will give you the opportunity to see how quickly they respond to your request, the quality of the sample they send, how eager they are for your business, and the ease in which you can work with each other.

This stage can become quite costly. Most suppliers charge a sample making fee. This fee correlates to the uniqueness of your request, their costs in making the sample, and the availability of materials needed to produce the sample. This include custom molds, if the product requires a certain Pantone Color code, the equipment the manufacture currently has, plus the amount of time it takes to make your sample. You’ll need to have good communication between yourself and the different suppliers to get a high-quality comparison.

A sample making agreement. This is a document that contains a comprehensive description of your product, the quantity of samples to be supplied to you, the cost of the sample-making, shipping agreements, and anything else relating to the manufacture of your product. This document helps to protect both you and the possible manufacturers by specifying the responsibilities of both parties including shipping, related costs, and the time frame involved. It helps to create understanding between you and the manufacturer.

The quality of the sample, the communication between you and the supplier, and the cost of the product are all important aspects in choosing a supplier. The sample product will help you make the best decision for you and your business.