As a business owner, you’re used to making difficult decisions. But for many entrepreneurs, finding the right wholesale supplier is one of the toughest challenges they’ll face.
A wholesale supplier can make or break your business. They are a core component of your day-to-day operations—after all, it’s their product that you’re selling! You need to find a supplier who not only offers high-quality products like frozen blueberries in bulk, but also provides a high standard of customer service and is transparent about pricing and delivery times.
How do you go about finding the perfect wholesale partner? You’re in luck! Read on for five simple steps to finding the best wholesale supplier for your business needs.
There are tons of sites on the web that will give you a list of wholesale suppliers. Many of those lists are inaccurate or otherwise useless. It’s best to begin your search with B2B marketplaces, which are essentially directories of wholesalers and exporters.
There are a few large ones you may have heard of. One is Alibaba.com, a commerce site based in China that lets you search for products as well as suppliers. The supplier directory is mainly used by importers who want to buy products from foreign manufacturers, but it also works well for U.S.-based small businesses that want to buy from American wholesalers.
Alibaba isn’t the only game in town, though. If you’re looking for a particular type of product or industry niche, there are other big marketplaces that specialize in particular industries — and many smaller ones as well.
Another way to find wholesale suppliers is through the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which tracks customer service complaints against businesses in most parts of the U.S. Wholesalers often don’t pay much attention to their own branding because they rely on retailers like you to market their products under your own brand name. So, it’s not uncommon for them to do very little in terms of marketing themselves.
Another way to find wholesale suppliers is through the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which tracks customer service complaints against businesses in most parts of the U.S. Wholesalers often don’t pay much attention to their own branding because they rely on retailers like you to market their products under your own brand name. So, it’s not uncommon for them to do very little in terms of marketing themselves and end up with low BBB ratings as a result. However, this can also be a good thing if you want to find a reliable supplier with low overhead costs.
There are many ways to begin a search for a wholesale supplier, but one of the first things to decide is how much time and money you want to invest prior to making your first order. If you’re on a tight budget and don’t want to wait too long to launch your product or service, then consider starting with suppliers in Canada or China (understand what it takes to work with international suppliers). But if your budget isn’t as tight, there are plenty of domestic suppliers available that offer lower prices than retailers.
You can also find local wholesalers who will drop-ship (eliminating the need for inventory storage). Additionally, if your business model includes selling used or vintage products, then start by searching eBay and Craigslist for potential sources of supply.
The most effective way to find a wholesale supplier for your business is by attending a trade show. Trade shows are exhibitions where companies in a specific industry showcase their products and services, and you have the opportunity to discover new trends, network with other business owners, and meet directly with manufacturers who are looking for retailers to carry their products.
You will have to pay a small fee in order to attend the trade show, but that fee is typically only $50 or less. Trade shows are open for only a few days, and you can find upcoming trade shows on ThomasNet.com. For example, if you sell art supplies, you can search for “art supply trade shows” on the website to find out when and where one is taking place near you. You’ll want to start planning at least three months before the event so that you can make travel arrangements and get a booth that’s easy for attendees to find.
Once you’ve made a list of potential wholesale suppliers, the next step is to contact each one and appraise their suitability.
It’s important to remember that you’re going to be asking them for information that they may consider competitive secrets. Each supplier will have a different minimum order and different terms and conditions. Some will offer drop-shipping, while others won’t.
Don’t be surprised if some vendors are not willing to share all this information with you. They may also require proof that you are a legitimate seller before they share any details with you.
That’s why it’s important not to waste the time of prospective vendors by just sending out an email saying, “How much for your widgets?” It won’t get you anywhere except on a mailing list for future sales pitches.
Instead, you should prepare a shortlist of questions about the product, terms and conditions, shipping, returns, and payment options that you can ask each one. This way, you can accurately compare the answers from each one in a spreadsheet or table.