For the online retailer, tradeshows are a fantastic way to locate product sources. You can easily fill up a suitcase with the materials you collect from different wholesalers at a show. But having supplier information is only a start—your next step is determining which suppliers you want to use and then beginning to develop relationships with them. Ask the Right Questions When you talk to a supplier, you should already be familiar with their product. Before you even start contacting the suppliers you met, do your market research and determine which products you really want to pursue. There are really only two types of information you should be looking for when you call a supplier: 1. Pricing info—they’re not going to publish their wholesale prices online where the general public can see them, so you have to ask for price quotes. They’re not going to offer you their lowest prices right up front, but prices aren’t fixed. You can negotiate a better deal. Ask if they offer free shipping and what kind of volume discounts they give. 2. You’re looking for shipping info. Find out their shipping methods and costs and their delivery times—get specific dates. This is especially important because the holiday shopping season starts in a few short months. You need to know they can fill your orders in time for you to place the products online to sell. How to Win with Suppliers The way you approach a supplier can make all the difference in the response you get from them. You can help yourself by following some simple guidelines: • Do a supplier dry run. Product sourcing expert Lisa Suttora, of, recommends: “Call suppliers you’re more casually interested in, and save ones you really want to work with until you’re feeling comfortable making those calls.” This lets you build your confidence and get an idea of what questions to expect. • Have your questions ready in advance. Write them down and refer to them. You don’t want to hang up and realize you forgot to ask something. Having your questions in front of you will help you stay focused. • Get to the point. Be direct, be quick, and be professional. Says Suttora, “People are busy, and you want to respect their time.” • Follow up every phone call with an email—this cements your call in their minds. Remind them who you are and what information you need, and thank them for their time. Make sure your emails are well-written, and always use your spellchecker. Be polite and formal—you undermine your credibility by approaching a corporation with an overly-familiar tone. Being professional and prepared when you approach a wholesaler will go a long way towards making a good impression and laying a solid foundation for a strong business relationship.

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