Finding and working with a manufacturer is not easy when you are just starting out. You may call, send Requests for Quotes (RFQs), and e-mail people, and get nothing but cri-cri-cri-crickets. As with anything in life, persistence is the key, but by following a few tips I’ll show you here, you will be able to develop relationships with manufacturers early on and find the one that’s right for your project.
If you’re reading this blog, you are probably already developing your project and talking to a design engineer (someone like Eric Haddad, for example). That’s great! You’ve taken the first steps to getting this baby crawling, and soon enough it will be walking and then running.
BUT...nothing will get a manufacturer’s door slammed in your face faster than not having your ducks in a row and knowing at least a little about what you will need.
This isn’t arrogance. Quoting manufacturing projects requires planning and a large investment of time and effort. These are custom jobs, specific to your project, so it’s not like going to Burger King and ordering off a menu. If you take the time to understand exactly what the manufacturer needs before you send an RFQ, you will make this process a whole lot easier and less time consuming. They, in turn, will open the doors to all of the expertise they have taken years to develop.
Your engineer may make suggestions on possible manufacturers, and that could be a helpful start. But remember, as I’ve said a million times: THIS IS YOUR BABY! No one is going to feed it, change its diaper, or get it up and running for you. You have to take interest and ACTION for it to be a success.
Having said that, here are some tips for contacting manufacturers and getting them to teach you about what they do and how they can serve you and your project.
Before sending out RFQs, call.
Don’t call just anyone. Call the factories with the processes you will need to make your product. Your design engineer will know what’s required.
Here’s a short script:
You: Hi, my name is ________. May I talk to someone in sales, please?
Receptionist: Certainly. May I say what this is regarding?
You: Yes, I am looking for_______ type of manufacturer in this area and would like more information about your company. (Note: don’t try to sell them on your idea or even talk about it if it isn’t necessary. Remember, people love to talk about themselves. Let them do it and they will take the time to give you a ton of great and useful information. )
Receptionist: Just a moment, please.
Sales: Hi, this is Joe Blow. How can I help you?
You: Hi, my name is John Doe, and I am looking for _______ type of manufacturer in this area and would like more information about your company.
Sales: Well, we have this and that and we are the best because, etc. etc. What kind of project do you have and how can we help? (This is Joe basically getting to the point and trying to figure out if you are a waste of his time.)
You: We (not I) are developing a new project. Eric Haddad is our design engineer and will be handling all of the design for manufacturing details, but I am just trying to learn as much as I can about the process and so we can make it a success. I would love to learn more about what you guys do. (Flattery will get you everywhere.)
Sales: Great, if you give me your email address I can send both of you some more information.
You: Thank you, and can you also please send your requirements for accepting RFQs (The right lingo says you have done your homework and know what you are talking about.)
Basically, what you are looking for from the contact is minimum order quantities―you can impress Joe by saying MOQs―acceptable materials, and the file types and documents you will need to send in order to get a quote. If your product requires a manufacturer with certain certifications, etc., be sure to ask about those.
Sales: Of course. I’ll send that right over
You: Thanks, Joe. Would it be OK if I e-mailed or called if I have any more questions or would like to schedule a visit to your plant? I know you’re busy, so I won’t take too much of your time.
Sales: Of course, my door is open any time.
So, you just made casual contact with a manufacturer. You didn’t come in asking what they could do for you, but instead you asked what their requirements are and how you could work with them. You asked the right questions and left the door open for more contact. You will also now get the salesperson’s e-mail address, and you’ve opened the possibility for more conversation if you have further questions, and they can answer at their leisure.
Remember that their job is to bring in business, and they are limited in the time they can spend with each potential customer. For your part, you aren’t just looking to hire someone who can do the work―you should be looking to build a team. Having the right people on your team will make or break your product.
Start relationships early with potential manufacturers and get to know a little about how they work, and I guarantee your RFQs won’t go missing in action.
Thanks to Jason Post of Aire Plastics for this week's guest post. If you're ready to share your big product idea with the world and are ready to chat with a manufacturer, give Jason a call to get connected with the Aire Plastics Team.