The Science of Contacting Suppliers When You're Starting a Business

Countless entrepreneurs keep their entrepreneurship dreams on hold because they’re unsure of how to deal with suppliers.

If you are just about to start your e-commerce business, you probably hesitate to approach them too because you’re not sure if they’ll take you seriously.

In truth, suppliers are business owners like yourself. They want the same things as all businesses do: more sales, less risk, and reliable payments.

The risk appetite for suppliers depends on four things:

  • The size of the order in dollar terms
  • The past relationship with the buyer
  • The payment terms for the order (upfront payment equals lower risk)
  • The size, reputation, and seriousness of the buyer

For new businesses, getting suppliers on board is simply a matter of reducing their exposure to risk. The easiest way to do this is by offering to pay upfront. Suppliers won’t care about the size or age of your business as long as they’re getting paid.

Besides upfront payments, you can also show your legitimacy by:

  • Using a company email address (“yourname@website.com” instead of “yourname@yahoo.com”)
  • Having a website. Even a simple free Starter Site will help.
  • Incorporating your business and getting necessary tax numbers
  • Using a professional, serious tone in your emails
  • Knowing what you want. Being clueless is a clear sign of an amateur business owner.

Below, we’ll show you how to deal with different suppliers based on your business model.

Related: Should You Make, Manufacture, Wholesale or Dropship Your Product?

How to Approach Wholesalers

In the wholesale model, you buy products from a large supplier at low rates. You then sell them to customers at retail rates. Wholesalers might carry a single product-type (such as socks) or a range of products from different brands.

Since you are paying upfront for the product, the wholesaler’s risk is almost non-existent.

It doesn’t matter whether you have a great website or no website. As long as the seller gets paid, he’ll be happy to work with you.

In fact, a number of wholesalers even operate online stores. You can buy from these stores just as you would buy from Amazon.

SP Wholesale
This wholesale supplier sells on Ecwid Starter Site

The shopping process is the same as any e-commerce store. You can add the product to your cart, enter your shipping details and make the payment. At no point are you asked for your business details at all.

However, not every wholesaler operates the same way. Some operate a customer-facing website where you can order limited quantities (as low as 1 item) at retail prices. To get wholesale rates, you have to create a “wholesale” account. This often requires submitting your tax information.

At DyeMurex.com, you have to create a wholesale account to get wholesale prices. You can also buy smaller quantities, but you’ll have to pay retail prices for it.

Dyemurex terms
DyeMurex, a t-shirt wholesaler, requires a US tax ID to access wholesale pricing

To create a wholesale account at Dyemurex, you need a US tax number. If you are outside the US, you have to have a valid website and/or social media presence. This requirement will vary from supplier to supplier and country to country. Consult your country’s local tax laws on how to get a tax number.

Not every wholesaler maintains websites where you can order products. And few wholesalers offer their best possible rates and sales terms through their websites. In such cases, you have to communicate with wholesalers directly and strike a deal. Here’s how to do it.

1. Find a sufficient number of wholesalers

Step one is to find a number of target wholesalers. In the US, you can use websites like WholesaleCentral.com and TopTenWholesale.com to find wholesalers for your product. You can also use TSNN’s search to find trade shows and visit suppliers in person.

Free Directory: 100 Wholesale Suppliers from All Around the World

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2. Filter the reliable ones

Before you spend any time communicating with wholesalers, evaluate whether they fit your requirements and standards:

  • Check whether they carry the exact products you want.
  • Check if they have stated their minimum order quantities (MOQ) and prices. This is usually negotiable, however.
  • Check their reviews on Better Business Bureau by searching for the company name (for US, Canada or Mexico based businesses).
  • Google their company name to check for fraud reports, reviews and comments from existing customers.

Once you are fairly certain that you’re dealing with a reputable company, proceed to the next step.

3. Communicate your requirements

This is the part where most new entrepreneurs hesitate, especially if they don’t have a website or store.

The trick is to portray confidence. You don’t have to lie, but it doesn’t hurt to project an image of being slightly bigger than you are. Your objective is to get the best possible deal, after all.

This confidence is conveyed in the length, tone, and content of your communication. Be concise and exact in your messages. Make it clear that you know what you want.

Contacting wholesale suppliers email example
This template works because it is clear and professional

There are a few tactics you can use to make your emails more persuasive:

  • Order volume: Wholesalers are a volume business. The higher volume you buy, the more negotiating power you have. Lure them…

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