How to Request Product Samples from Suppliers
Requesting for product samples is essential before placing your first official order for at least 3 good reasons. Let’s cover those first.
Table of Contents
Why Order Samples?
1. You Can Test the Quality
Above everything else, you’d like to see, smell and feel the actual product before spending money on it, and on a larger scale at that. Requesting for a sample is not only practical, it’s also a smart way of experiencing the product first-hand.
As awesome as many products look in pictures, we can’t shy from the fact that some images can be a little misleading. Some suppliers don’t even bother using their own images and simply copy them from product catalogues instead.
Most of us are highly visual and can be easily swayed by good presentation, but you don’t want to place orders for a product that is visually appealing but later turns out to be of poor quality first first hand.
2. You Can Test the Supplier
Ordering samples also helps you verify a supplier’s competence. You can get a good idea of how they will be to work with in terms of the manner in which they communicate, how fast they process and ship out orders, and how well they package their products among other things.
Securing samples is a good way of putting suppliers to task. Think of it as a test that will help you narrow down your choices.
3. It Shows You’re Serious
Lastly, ordering samples is important because it helps establish your relationship with suppliers. You have to keep in mind that many suppliers deal with hundreds of requests on a daily basis and not all of these requests lead to actual orders.
Ordering samples gives suppliers the impression that you are serious about building a long-term relationship and that you are seriously interested in dealing with them.
Making Your Request: Some Tips
Before requesting for a sample, you need to decide on a couple of things to ensure you get what you requested for.
Just like the process of scouting for suppliers, you need to be specific and detailed when it comes to the information you’ll supply because of the likely language barrier. So be sure to cover the following:
- The exact specifications of the product. Try to be as detailed as possible. Don’t hold back on any information you deem important. If you have to include a diagram, go ahead and do so. The more specific and detailed you are, the better.
- Request to test the product. Most suppliers would agree to this so don’t be shy and feel free to ask.
- The shipping address you want the sample delivered to. Ask the supplier to label the sample as “of no commercial value” to save you from duty charges.
- Request for a model number and company name tag so you can differentiate the sample they will send from samples you requested from other suppliers.
- Indicate that you need a working sample for the reason that it will undergo a couple of tests once it arrives. Not only will this help you conduct tests on the sample, it will also ensure that you are getting samples of the highest quality.
- Request for information about the supplier’s current process as well as timeframes in producing and sending samples so you’ll know what to do in case you need some changes done, and be aware when the product should arrive.
- If you’re not too confident that the supplier understood your request, ask for confirmation. This way you can tell if you are on the same page instead of pushing forward and ending up with a sample that’s nowhere near your specifications.
- If you feel necessary, request for a video chat once the sample is complete so you can see what it looks like and how it works before it gets shipped. This will give you an opportunity to request for modifications (if needed) and save you both the hassle of shipping a sample that will not meet your expectations anyway.
- If necessary, make sure you have the appropriate patents and trademarks filed before requesting a sample. Once a supplier has created one version of the product, it’s easy for them to create thousands. If you don’t have a patent or trademark in the countries you are manufacturing and selling the product then legally other companies can manufacture and sell the product as well.
It pays to be meticulous when it comes to asking for samples, given the distance it has to travel and time it takes for the sample to reach you.
Types of Samples
When requesting for samples, it’s equally important to understand the type of samples the suppliers will provide so you know your options. The following are the common sample types:
These are the type of samples that are already made instead of being manufactured according to a buyer’s design and specification.
While it does show a manufacturer’s production capability, it doesn’t necessarily demonstrate their ability to produce customized products.
If you are after a product that does not require customization, this is the kind of sample you’ll receive.
These are the kind of samples you’ll get if your product requires customization. This is also a good way to test a supplier’s capability to produce products out of customer specifications and is obviously part of the learning process for both the manufacturer and the buyer as well.
From a supplier’s point of view, developing product samples to a buyer’s specifications is no easy task. Not only will it take time (some take years!), the possibility of failure is also high because not all manufacturers are capable. This is the reason why having additional suppliers as a backup is essential just in case the first few ones fail to live up to expectations.
Pre-production samples are crucial because you can’t afford to order final samples until your suppliers get everything right.
It’s like going to a food-tasting event for your birthday or wedding. You wouldn’t sign off on the chiffon cake if you didn’t find it tasty wouldn’t you?
These are the type of samples collected from mass-produced products. They’re used for a variety of purposes like quality control, functional and laboratory tests.
Usually collected by a third-party, batch samples are useful to ensure that suppliers only provide samples from the actual batch of products.
Now that you know the types of samples that exist and the things you need to include in your request, it’s time to finally request for a product sample.
Here’s a simple email template you can use as inspiration:
Subject: Request for Product Sample Yoga Mat
My name is Josh from Hustle and Health Solutions. We are currently looking to purchase and develop our own high-quality yoga mats for the US market. Please find attached several photographs and a short video of our product design and full specifications.
We are interested in finding an exclusive license to manufacture and distribute this new patent-pending design and believe that your company would be the perfect fit.
Size – 70cm x 26cm
Textured, Non-Slip surface
Durable foam; latex-free with phthalate-free inks
Extra Thick, Extra Wide
Please also provide us more information about how the process works and the usual timeframe it takes to develop product samples with similar specifications.
Do let us know if you need further information or if you have additional questions.
Once complete, please send the sample to the same address we specified but before you do, we would like to request for a short video chat just so we can see what the product looks like before you send them to us.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
All the Best!
Hustle and Health Solutions
It’s worth noting that details you specify may not always be followed to the letter, and for a number of reasons. Your message may go through several people before it finally gets passed to the person who actually makes the sample. In between, information can get mixed up. The instructions that the person making the sample receives may no longer be similar to what you actually relayed.
Make sure to also ask if and how the sample product will differ from the sample in mass production. This is important because there are times when the same materials are not available in small quantities to produce a sample.
This is possible because manufacturers produce thousands of each product so a one-time sample having a few differences is not far-fetched. Suppliers sometimes make them using a machine that is totally different from those that are used for mass production. There may even be times that they actually hand-make these products. Obviously this is something you’ll want to know.
Paying for Samples
Paying (or not paying) for samples isn’t the same as paying for usual products because the price will depend on a number of factors depending on your agreement with the supplier. Below are some of the things you need to keep in mind:
- Some manufacturers agree to subtract sample costs out of your first order. Just be prepared to get into an agreement that if the sample meets your requirements, that you will place a larger order.
- You can ask suppliers to add the sample cost to your official order. The benefit of doing this is that you will be able to save money should you decide to order from another supplier.
- You can also get into an agreement to share the cost with the supplier.
On rare occasions, you don’t have to pay for anything especially for cheaper products where suppliers are willing to shoulder the shipping costs. There is usually a catch though.
Despite being told it’s free, you will usually be left to pay for either the sample, the shipping, or both. But then again suppliers can always work the product cost into the shipping quote so even if you were told you’re not paying for anything, you still actually are.
Equally important to keep in mind is the payment method you’ll have to use considering you are likely dealing with someone thousands of miles away.
The usual methods are either through PayPal or wire transfer via Western Union. PayPal is without a doubt the more popular option given how easy it is to transfer money with them.
Wire transfer will always be a viable option, but it has somehow garnered a bad rap because of the scams associated with the method, not to mention the time it takes to process and how expensive it can get compared to PayPal.
Of course this will depend on which method you are more comfortable with but if it’s convenience and safety that you’re after, PayPal is with way to go.
What if Suppliers Refuse?
While it’s rare for any supplier to refuse to send samples given that you are willing to shoulder any costs it incurs, the scenario is not impossible.
If you do encounter suppliers who come up with all kinds of excuses to not provide samples, they normally have something to hide which is definitely a red flag.
You can’t afford to do business with these people so the moment you run into them, run away and take note so you can avoid them in the future.
What if the Manufacturer Fails to Meet My Expectation?
This is where you’ll appreciate the value of a pre-production sample. It gives you a way to test a manufacturer’s ability to produce a sample according to your specifications.
Realistically, many of them will be unable to comply and deliver on the requirements you’ve set. This is normal and it does happen.
Give them a chance to redeem themselves but if they still fall short of expectation two to three more times, it’s time to move on. You can’t afford to waste more time and money on a supplier who obviously can’t deliver a product the way you want it.
Ordering Samples from More than One Supplier
Inciting competition is a brilliant strategy especially when fail rate is high for a specific product. Ordering and paying for samples from multiple suppliers makes a lot of sense.
You’ll be wasting a ton of time and money on a single supplier who keeps coming up short on expectations. When you have more options to choose from, you can easily filter out those that are not performing as expected so you can focus on those that do.
The only downside to this strategy is that it gets more costly as you add more suppliers to your list.
Ordering Samples on Alibaba
Alibaba is an excellent place to look for suppliers and order samples from. Not only are the steps easier, they’ve also been simplified for buyers like you who are always on the go. The steps below should help you place an order sample in a few minutes:
- Just go to “My Alibaba” and click on “RFQ” then click “Manage RFQs”
- Look for your RFQ then click “Quotations”
- Click “Request a Sample” once you’ve found your quotation
- Provide all the required information in the Sample Request form then click on “Submit”
You can also easily send the suppliers/manufacturers you’ve chosen an email through the product page’s message box down below. You can copy and paste the email format we provided above and just replace the details with that of yours.
Once done, all you have to do is wait for their responses. How they respond and how soon you get a reply should help you filter out the good apples from the bad.
Suppliers can also send you invoices for samples through Alibaba so you can just pay the invoices and track the order all via the Alibaba system.
There’s a good reason why ordering product samples has become common practice, especially among brands who are looking to distribute products in large quantities. It simply gives you the security and assurance that you are actually getting the product you require before you start ordering in bulk.
This will save you a lot of money in the longterm and provide you the peace of mind you need to go forward. Always remember that when it comes to selling products on Amazon (or indeed anywhere), you should strive for the highest quality. Ordering product samples is an efficient way of ensuring quality because you’ll be getting a first-hand look at the product before you spend your budget ordering a larger quantity.