How To Choose a Supplier

a woman working on a laptop in a warehouse.

Choosing a Supplier You Can Depend On

Choosing the right supplier is vital for the success of a business. Even though the supplier is not involved in your day-to-day operations, they still have more power than you may think. They can make or break your business.

In a way, you are at the mercy of your supplier because you depend on them to deliver supplies whenever you need them. Your aim should be to find a supplier you can rely on.

When searching for a supplier, you want to select someone you can work with for a long time and strive to develop a strong relationship with them. Pay the supplier on time and treat them like family. They may also assist you on various occasions. For example, if an item is in short supply, they may supply more to you than any of their other clients.

Tips for Choosing a Supplier

The process of selecting a supplier involves more than scanning their price list. You need to evaluate a couple of other factors such as reliability, location, flexibility, and quality of service. In today’s article, we will provide you with tips for choosing a supplier for your business. We will also mention red flags you should keep an eye out for and then highlight channels that you can use to find the perfect supplier.

Dealers Versus Manufacturers

When sourcing for a supplier, you can either work with a dealer, distributor, or manufacturer. They all have their pros and cons. A dealer is someone who purchases goods from a manufacturer, stocks them, and sells them to customers. A manufacturer, on the other hand, is someone who makes products for sale.

two men looking at a document in a warehouse.In the past, most manufacturers preferred working with dealers and distributors compared to selling directly to consumers. Working with a broker allowed the manufacturer to achieve broader coverage and save on the cost of setting up an entire sales department. The internet and e-commerce, however, came in and changed the roles. Some manufacturers now prefer selling directly to customers.

Dealing directly with a manufacturer has its advantages and drawbacks. The main benefit of working with a manufacturer is you’ll get better prices. It’s also easier to acquire warranty coverage and request replacements from a manufacturer than from a dealer. The third advantage is that you can be sure the manufacturer can fulfill large orders.

As for the drawbacks, the first one might be their location. Unlike dealers and distributors who you can find almost anywhere, the manufacturer might be located in either one or two places. Your order may take days, if not weeks, to reach you. But if the manufacturer’s location is near you, then, by all means, go for their services. Another disadvantage is that most manufacturers prefer selling in bulk. The minimum order quantity might be high compared to that of a dealer.

Dealers have a lower minimum order quantity, and they are easier to find than manufacturers. The only downside with dealers is the buying price. The dealer adds a markup to the product cost, and thus you might buy at a higher price. With dealers, you’ll also get your products quicker since selling to you is their core business.

What You Should Look for in a Supplier

Before starting your supplier selection process, take some time to think about the needs of your business you want the supplier to address. Do you want them to offer quality products, or would you like faster delivery? Think strategically about your needs so that you can find a supplier who can address them.

For example, let’s assume you have a shop, and you sell fast-moving consumer goods. You may want to cut down the time it takes for the supplier’s products to reach you. In this case, you want to work with a supplier who’s near you and can ensure a quick delivery.

Here are a few factors to consider when choosing a supplier.

Quality of Products

You want to work with suppliers who can assure you of quality. If they offer you poor-quality goods and you sell them, the customer will hold you accountable, not the suppliers.

When speaking with a supplier, ask them about their quality assurance process. How do they ensure quality and prevent defects and damages? Select a supplier who’s keen on delivering quality products.


The next factor that you should look at is flexibility since it’s essential if you want the supplier to deliver as per demand. Can they handle different amounts of orders? If you order double or triple the normal, can they fulfill it? Choose a supplier who’s flexible enough to respond quickly to emergencies and changing demands.


It’s always advisable to search for a local supplier to ensure you receive the goods faster with reduced freight costs. Working with a nearby supplier means shorter delivery times and greater flexibility. If you have an emergency order, it’s easier for a local supplier to deliver in your location than for a distant supplier to deliver across borders.

Value for Money

Consider also the price the supplier is charging you. How affordable are the products? Are the costs within your budget range? You don’t necessarily have to go for the most affordable. The cheapest isn’t always the best value.

Work out the price with other factors like quality, location, and reliability to find the supplier that offers the most value.


Reliability should be one of the critical factors to consider when selecting a supplier. You want to work with a supplier who delivers on time and the exact quantities that you ordered. If they fail to deliver as expected, you may end up dissatisfying your customers.

Large suppliers tend to be more reliable than startups or small suppliers. They have the resources to ensure your goods reach you despite anything that goes wrong while en route. You can still work with a small supplier but make sure they are dependable and organized.

Customer Service

If you want to work with the supplier for a long time, it’s important that you cultivate a relationship with them. Communication is vital for a good supplier relationship. There needs to be regular and open communication between you and them.

Choose a supplier who you can easily reach out to when you need them. In the same way, you would treat your supplier like family, go for one who does the same for you.

After-sale Services

Does the supplier have any after-sale services? Do they offer free delivery or free repair if the product has an issue? Whatever the after-sale service is, it’s best to deal with a supplier who serves you even after you’ve purchased the goods.

Red Flags When Looking for a Supplier

As we said above, a wrong choice can make things go downhill really fast. Here are a few signs it’s time to look for a better supplier.

Poor Communication

Again, communication is crucial if you want to build a good supplier relationship. In your early talk with the potential supplier, gauge how long they take to get back to you. You don’t want to work with someone who takes days to respond to your calls and emails. In the case of an emergency, the supplier might frustrate you a lot because they are not responding in time to address the issue.

Not Concerned About Quality

skids in a warehouse.Work with suppliers who take quality as seriously as you do. If you sense they are cutting costs at the expense of quality, then it’s best to go somewhere else. A different supplier might be a bit more costly, but it’s worth it if they’re quality-driven. A good tip would be to check the supplier’s reviews or call other customers you know that work with that supplier.

Another way to assess quality is to go to the supplier to interview them and inspect or sample the products. If you are searching for a supplier internationally, you can hire a third-party inspection company in your supplier’s country. This company will head to your supplier to check the products one by one.

Don’t forget to inform the supplier beforehand that you’ve hired a third-party inspection team. If the supplier is hesitant about the inspection, it’s best to go for somebody else.

Non-Compliant to Regulatory Procedures and Standards

This red flag is particularly crucial if you are dealing with sensitive products like food or medicine. Find a supplier who follows regulatory standards and procedures. If you sense that they cut corners in regulations and approvals, go with someone else.

Where to Find Suppliers

The channel you will use to find a supplier depends on whether you want a local or an international supplier. It’s better to start your search locally because the turnaround time will be faster, and you’ll have more control over quality and delivery. Local suppliers tend to be easier to build a relationship with and talk to because there isn’t any language barrier.

Sourcing internationally can also be a good option if it helps reduce costs without any impact on quality. There might, however, be a language barrier and a longer delivery time. You can choose to source locally or internationally depending on the products and your business needs.

When searching for the supplier, here are the channels you can take advantage of: 

Recommendation From Referrals

If you are searching for a local supplier, you can ask friends, family, or business acquaintances. They will most likely connect you to somebody who they trust and think is reliable. Friends can also give you an overview of the supplier, from quality to reliability to prices and turnaround times.

Trade Fairs and Exhibitions

Exhibitions and trade fairs are great places to find potential suppliers. These channels offer you a chance to talk with the supplier and thus build a relationship earlier on. You can gather information about trade fairs and events in your location by contacting a trade association in your country or any other organization that deals with shows and exhibitions.

two men sharing hands at table.Local and Web Directories

There are many local and web directories that you can use to find suppliers. Try Yellow Pages, Thomson Local, or Maker’s Row. Other popular web listings include Google Business Profile, Bing Places, Yelp, etc.

Search Engines

Search engines are also an excellent place to search for anything and everything. Try typing on Google or Bing “paper suppliers near me” or “grocery suppliers in Los Angeles.” These two search engines will give you a list of businesses you can look into.

Ecommerce Apps and Stores

Some e-commerce sites like Alibaba and AliExpress specialize in connecting suppliers and manufacturers with businesses. These sites are ideal if you are searching for a supplier overseas. You can also try IndiaMart, Doba, or Global Sources, depending on your location.

What to Know About Supplier Agreements

When getting into an agreement with a supplier, it’s best to work with a written contract instead of a verbal understanding. If the supplier is selling you a service, tell them to draft a service level agreement document (SLA). They most likely will have one ready to send.

The contract or the SLA should cover information such as payment terms, lead time, contract period, and termination policy. It should also highlight the responsibilities of both you and the supplier.

For trustworthy e-commerce sites like Alibaba, you don’t have to sign a contract, but you should still protect yourself. Make sure you choose a business that meets these three criteria:

  • Gold Supplier
  • Trade Assurance
  • Assessed Supplier

These three functions on Alibaba will help inform you that the supplier is legitimate and reliable.

How Many Suppliers Should You Have?

a man and women shaking hands outside an office building.The number of suppliers to have is up to you and your business needs. It’s easier to build a strong relationship with one supplier, but it might hurt your sales if they go out of business or fail to deliver. For your business’s safety, it’s best to work with two or more suppliers.

Having too many suppliers is also not a good idea. You will have a tough time cultivating a relationship with all of them, and there might be a lot of variation in product quality.


Selecting the right supplier for your business involves more than checking the prices. You need to perform your due diligence to ensure a supplier meets your business needs. Make sure the one you go for is reliable, flexible, and has good communication and customer service. Some red flags you shouldn’t ignore are poor communication, low product quality, and non-compliance to regulatory standards.

There are many channels that you can use to find a supplier. It depends on whether you want a local or international supplier. You can ask around for recommendations or conduct your research online via web directories and search engines. Finally, it’s advisable to always work with two or more suppliers instead of only one.


A book is an excellent method to broaden your knowledge about choosing a supplier. You may also read and study at your own speed, which is preferable to attending a class where you are limited by time.

When I’m interested in a subject, I’ll search for books and read the table of contents to summarize the book to get an overview.

See the most recent Google search results for books related to Choosing a Supplier.


a robot in a warehouse.Taking a course can help you enhance your expertise and have a better understanding of supplier relationships.

Depending on your requirements and learning style, you may use a course in a variety of ways. For example, you could skim over portions of the course that you are already familiar with before diving deeper into the topics you want to learn more about.

While taking a course, another thing to bear in mind is to make sure you’re getting one from a reputable author. Anyone can create and publish a course, but you’ll want to deal with someone who understands what they’re doing so you can be confident you’re receiving great material.

One suggestion is to read reviews from individuals who have previously completed the course to understand how good the content and presentation are. Why not take a few minutes to see the latest Google search results related to Choosing a Supplier.


Another great source of information is the news. Topics reported by news networks across the globe are seen to be notable and may be important.

Although monitoring the evening news for information on a topic is unrealistic, you may limit your search by utilizing Google’s news search function. You may find both current and archived information.

The most current news related to choosing a vendor may be seen in Google’s news search results.


YouTube is an excellent source of knowledge on almost any subject. For example, in the time it would take to read a chapter of a book, you could watch ten short videos that provide different views and provide a wider picture of the subject.

Click here to discover what YouTube videos are associated with selecting a good vendor.

a warehouse with raw products.