Technology and social media have prompted the explosion of businesses in recent decades and escalated the global import-export sector. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, China, the world’s largest exporter and trading nation recorded a whopping $2.6 Trillion in goods exported in 2020. Platforms such as the Facebook marketplace and Instagram Checkout allow sellers to showcase their products even if they do not have a conventional brick-and-mortar space.
The Covid-19 restrictions meant that people could no longer travel to countries like China and source products themselves. With the threat of a pandemic resurge looming, sourcing agents has firmly taken root as one of the most efficient strategies to ensure continuous business.
Who is a Sourcing Agent?
A sourcing agent is an individual or company that finds suppliers and products out of reach on your behalf. They offer guidance through the entire sourcing process from finding the right manufacturers, negotiating contracts, conducting quality assurance, and other relevant business practices.
Commerce vehicles like Alibaba may have bridged the gap between manufacturers and clients. Yet, individual sourcing may not be the best option, especially if you are not well versed in the business, the location, or the available suppliers. A sourcing agent is useful where:
- There is no prior experience with importing
- The client is a large retailer that needs numerous manufacturers for many different products.
- Multiple product groups that would require contact with too many suppliers
What does a Sourcing Agent Do?
A sourcing agent’s job description depends on the services you require. They may fulfill either one or most of these duties:
Find the right supplier and make price negotiations
The basic job of a sourcing agent is to determine the best supplier that meets client requirements. An individual agent will find the relevant supplier information and share it, leaving you to communicate with the dealer and negotiate the price. A sourcing agency or individual mandated to contact the suppliers will go further and negotiate for the best product price on your behalf.
Follow up production and inspect for quality
The agent may coordinate with the manufacturer to monitor the production process, ensuring that goods are ready on time. They will liaise with inspection companies to verify that the products are high quality and reduce the defective rate before shipping.
Make shipping arrangements
Agents that make the shipping arrangements will haggle for the most affordable shipping prices. They will also give information on the appropriate documents to prepare for custom.
The Advantages of a Sourcing Agent
It is not impossible to handle the supply chain without external assistance. However, a sourcing agent can make the whole process easier in these ways:
- They save time and money
An agent ought to negotiate for the best prices, thereby saving you a few bucks. They take on the arduous task of plowing through extensive supplier information, making room to focus on other tasks.
- They offer skilled support.
A sourcing agent in Guangzhou, China, probably knows more about the cosmetic products supply chain than you do. They are better placed to link you with the right manufacturers.
- They reduce the risk of working with fraudulent or substandard suppliers
- They overcome language and cultural divides by being the suppliers’ fellow kinsmen but who speak on your behalf.
A sourcing agent may be what the business needs to overcome supply hurdles and streamline the buying process. While agents are littered all over the internet, find an individual whose performance speaks for them. Ask friends for referrals or ask the agent for other client feedback. Be clear on all the fees and ensure that they are worth the service.