7 mistakes brands do when dealing with Chinese distributors 

Let’s debunk the most common mistakes brands make when reaching out to Chinese distributors.

Let’s be honest, things aren’t easy reaching them out. Chinese distributors receive thousands of requests from all over the everyday.

If you are not well prepared and use the same approach you are using with other distributors in other countries, your request will be lost and you would have lost hours of precious work sending requests. 

You will not perform at all and might miss a big market, just because you didn’t take the time to understand how distributors in China work and expect you to proceed. What a shame.

There are many things you should do. And the first one is to check what you shouldn’t do.

We got you covered here; we have 10 years of experience working with Chinese distributors, and will avoid you spend too much time in research, sharing you here our top 7 don’ts or mistakes:

Don’t send emails

Chinese distributors never read emails. That’s a bummer!

Emails in China are part of history.

We can see your surprised face from here. How do they communicate if they don’t use emails then?

The magic word: WeChat

If you are not familiar with WeChat yet, it’s a super social media app that almost every Chinese uses (1.3 billion monthly active users). WeChat’s initial functions are messaging and networking, but over the years it became a true personal life (professional and private life) assistant, with integrated functions such as payment, purchasing anything from a takeaway, groceries, booking flights, trains, taxi, taking an appointment with the doctor…

It is so integrated into Chinese society, that going out without your phone/WeChat would make your life almost impossible.

Above all, WeChat is the number one way to communicate with friends, family, colleagues, suppliers, clients…everyone in your life. The app is always at your fingertips and making connections between people easy.

If you come to China and meet new people here, the first reflex for them is not asking for a business card but adding you on WeChat to keep in touch.

You can easily understand that if you don’t have a WeChat, you will be seen as an alien.

Stop using emails now, what you urgently need now is a WeChat account.

Don’t Reply or reply too slow

Chinese distributors expect a fast reply. 

We know that each country/culture has its own conception/vision of what is considered a fast or a slow reply.

No matter your origin, if you ever come to China, you would be amazed at how fast things go here. Not only in terms of development, but also in terms of responsiveness to all kinds of services.

In Shanghai or any other first-tier city in China, when you order a taxi, it takes rarely more than 5 min for your taxi to arrive from the moment you send a request. Another example like deliveries, if you order medicine, it can take less than 15min to be delivered if the shop is less than 1 km away from you.

Same with customer support, live chat is everywhere, if you have any questions, you have always an instant reply.

When you communicate on WeChat, people answer instantly as well (unless they are busy).

Chinese distributors will expect you to be as fast as the Chinese are in terms of responsiveness.

Fast is a synonym for Chinese culture. Remember they expect you to adapt their way and not the opposite.

When communicating with Chinese distributors, waiting days to answer will very likely kill your chances to make any deal.

Be fast, answer as soon as you see the message, if it needs any time to answer, at least warn them, but never let an unanswered message.

Being as fast as possible= increases your chance of success with Chinese distributors.

Don’t send a brochure in English

Even if some Chinese distributors speak English, they expect brands to communicate in Chinese for a few reasons.

Not only, do Chinese distributors feel more comfortable communicating in their mother language, just like anybody would.

Chinese English is not very good.

But also, it shows that you consider the market seriously and that you are ready to adapt.

And know that you will have to be ready not only to adapt during the communication with the Chinese distributors but also with the end users.

If you don’t communicate now in Chinese, it will send a bad signal to the distributors, they won’t want to allocate some time with you.

Remember they receive thousands of requests per day, you must stand out and shine by your exemplariness. The chosen language shall not be neglected. 

Remember, everything must be easy for the distributors, not necessarily for you, they are in a position of strength, go their way.

Don’t compete on price

Chinese buy quality stuff from overseas. 

Your product should be qualitative, with high added value.

More and more see buying goods as an investment, and Chinese consumers give priority to the functionality and value of products.

They are running away from fast shopping and cheap products, even the ones made in China, so why buy any from abroad?

Chinese consumers and therefore distributors are not interested in buying cheap products from overseas as they can already find cheap products from local brands.

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Don’t underestimate the power of branding in China

Chinese distributors are interested in brands easy to sell. 

Be aware that the first thing distributors will evaluate is if they can make easy money with your brand.

To do so, they will check a few things to see if you are bankable in China:

-If you have a website in Chinese on the Chinese local search engine Baidu

-If you are on local social media like WeChat, Weibo, and Red…and if you have good engagement with local potential clients.

-If you have a good reputation on the Chinese internet. What do people say about you on forums? Is any online press speaking about you?

The more boxes you tick, the more serious and profitable you will be considered by the distributors. And the more chance they will want to distribute your products.

Don’t expect that distributors will invest in you

No, they are not going to do that.

If you thought that the Chinese distributors would invest in marketing efforts to promote your brand in China, sorry to say that you are barking up the wrong tree.

They are here to make the more money possible with spending the less possible.

They are not investors and don’t take risks, they will only care about the easiest-to-sell brands.

Therefore, be prepared to invest on your side in terms of marketing efforts.

Don’t only work with one exclusive distributor

There is a high risk of failure.

When you will negotiate with distributors, they might seem very friendly, and some might try to get exclusivity of your brand. 

Warning here: it’s a trap! Don’t fall into it.

It might be tempting and flattering to let one distributor manage your brand in China, after all, it will avoid you some hassle working with multiple partners, right?

But behind their friendly faces, some are not as reliable as you might think.

They are the risks:

-Risk that they already sell similar brands as yours and use you to better promote others.

-Risk that they don’t implement sufficient efforts on their platforms to increase the sales of your products.

-Risk causing damage to your brand image.

Just like you wouldn’t bet on one sole action on the stock exchange or with any other financial product, if you want to reduce risks of loss, don’t put all your eggs in the same basket.

That’s all folks! For today.

Feel free to get in touch with us if you need additional advice for your distribution project.

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