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Are you buying your crafting materials from China?

As we all know, China is a great provider of affordable wholesale products which can be beneficial for handmade artists who are looking for supplies such as beads, yarns, ribbons, etc.

If you are a handmade seller, there may be a need to work with Chinese sellers to get the most affordable materials and supplies.

If you are planning to work or are already working with them, there are two habits and differences that you need to be careful about.

This involves cultural differences and can cause a lot of problems and can sometimes result in our cultures being at odds against each other:

So what could possible happen if you remain ignorant in these cultural quirks?

  1. Shipments may be delayed
  2. You might get low-quality products
  3. They may result to communication problems
  4. They can affect the price of the product and you may end up paying a higher price.

Keep these two tips in mind for a smooth transaction with Chinese sellers:

1. Mianzi (i.e. Face)

As we all know, most Chinese people are very traditional and old-fashioned. They have a concept called Mianzi which means honor in English. This word has something to do with the concept “having face.” It is simple an important aspect on their culture which is also important to consider when doing business deals.

When we get embarrassed sometimes we refer to it as “losing face” and this phrase was adopted from China.

Nobody likes to lose face, but this concept is worse in China. It is because the Chinese society is set on a strong hierarchal system. Chinese people expected to receive a particular treatment according to their standing in their hierarchy.

So why do you need to know this?

If you embarrass or cause a seller to lose face, then other Chinese people will potentially view you as a “dangerous” person to transact with, since if you caused one person to lose face, then your disregard for social norms means you will likely to embarrass other sellers as well. If you cause someone to lose face, it is not just them that is humiliated and embarrassed – you are too. It can cause you to be socially ostracized.

When problems arise between you and your Chinese suppliers, it would be better if you settle it with open communication and learn to compromise.

How to avoid this problem?

Avoid saying NO as much as you can – In China, instead of saying “no” suppliers will say “maybe” – which essentially is a polite way of declining your offer. You can use “maybe” as well. Chinese sellers usually avoid saying “no” as this is considered embarrassing to both parties and would cause both to lose face.

In addition, avoid getting angry. If any problem arise with your supplier, avoid sending an angry email is as it will not solve the problem. Try to keep your communication with them positive.

And what can you do to help your suppliers gain face or Mianzi?

Provide complements as it is expected when doing business with them, so if given the opportunity compliment both the seller you are working with and the company itself.

Know what words really mean because in China, “great” means “good”, “good” means “okay” and “okay” means not OK. In Chinese, people exaggerate as a compliment to others. Try to keep this in mind when communicating with your supplier.

2. Guanxi (i.e. Relationships)

The word “guanxi” means “relationship” in English which is another important aspect of the Chinese culture, and it results in business deals being handled very differently to how businesses are handled in other countries.

Generally, we choose our business “guanxi” or partnerships based on the best benefit we can get. Commonly, we do research, go to each supplier, get the best offers, and select the best supplier based off of that data.

However, business partnerships from relationships in China is given priority to people Chinese sellers have built guanxi with. Guanxi doesn’t just involve having positive business relationships with them: it involves a deeper personal relationship with them.

If you have successfully built Guanxi with your supplier, you’ll have a much easier time negotiating prices, deals and contracts.

So how can you do that?

  1. If you get the chance, try to talk to your contact about more than just business.
  2. Try to open conversations with small talk.
  3. Avoid negative language so that you don’t cause them to lose face.

If you want to learn more about these interesting cultural quirks in China, check this video by Sarah:

Hope you learned from this post. If you have more questions or other tips, please let us know in the comments.

Gary Capps

I live in the one of the most beautiful places in the world on the Sunshine Coast in Australia with my wife and our 2 dogs, Poppy and Mia. Since 2009 I have helped over 15,000 handmade business owners to grow their business with our software and free tools designed for todays entrepreneurial artisan.

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One Response to “2 Major Tips When Working With Chinese Suppliers”

  1. Alexa 13. Sep, 2017 at 3:14 pm #

    I use alilexpress to buy ribbon.. It’s great pricing, but what other businesses are out there I China that has great pricing?

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