What is a China sourcing agent?

A China sourcing agent assists importers of China merchandise in the sourcing and/or manufacturing of their goods in China. An agent is either a small company or, more often, an individual. Sourcing agents are usually independent and therefore not considered an employee or a part of the importer’s payroll.

What do China sourcing agents do?

Generally speaking, a sourcing agent provides importers with services to facilitate the management of their China supply chain and maximize the benefits of sourcing from China.

Ideally, a China sourcing agent acts in the interest of their clients and provides a complete range of services to meet the needs of the importer they are working with.  But not all agents are alike.

– Location: Some agents are regional, with a focus on a specific part of China. Some are national, and cover the whole of China. Some are also international: they also provide services in other parts of the world.
– Products: Some are product specific, only assisting importers in the purchase of a specific type of product or within a specific industry.
– Services: Some are service specific and only provide certain services, such as liaising with factories, but not other services, such as quality assurance or logistics.

How do China sourcing agents get paid?

Most agents get paid on commission (a percentage of the value of the orders placed).  Some require a combination of fees and commissions.

How do you select a China sourcing agent?

The best approach to select a China sourcing agent is:

1. Be very clear about the specific requirements of the program.
2. Identify more than one candidate.
3. Compare their services and costs based on your needs.

Useful ways to evaluate an agent is to test them on:

Communications: Agents should have excellent communication skills.
– How clearly do they communicate?
– How well do they understand your needs?

A good reputation:
– How long have they been in business?
– Are they registered with the business bureau?

A thorough understanding of Chinese sourcing management:
– What is the size of their team?
– Do they have specialists? If so, in what fields?
– Do they have China sourcing management experience?
– Do they have experience in Quality Assurance?
– Do they have factory audit experience?
– Are they familiar with logistics processes and requirements?

Understanding you and your needs:
Can they provide examples of services they have provided that are similar to your needs?

Once an agent is selected, it is a good idea to test their performance based on well-defined parameters. Example: “Let’s work together for a month, we will define my objectives and then see how well you achieve them.”

Summary profile of a typical China sourcing agent
They are good communicators.
– They are often product specific.
– They usually only operate in a specific region of China.
– They usually work on a commission basis.
– They place orders on behalf of their clients and monitor the progress of the orders.
– They have a network of manufacturers and suppliers that they work with.

For more information on sourcing agents, see this article.

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