Finding an international supplier is challenging, but it can be worth your while. It can give you a competitive advantage, official distribution rights to your state, or the US entirely. It can bring you lower prices or increase the quality of your products. Whatever your reasons are, it’s’s definitely a good idea to at least scout your options.
Create an Overview of Potential Suppliers
First, let’s create an overview of many suppliers. As with most inquiries for information, Google is always the right place to start. There are multiple ways you can find (German) suppliers on the internet. These are:
- Company Databases
- Chamber of Commerce
But offline methods are also an excellent way to find the best business partner. You can try and find German suppliers via:
- Trade shows
Let’s dig in the online methods first.
There are numerous databases available, with hundreds of thousands of companies registered on there. You can use American export databases, but it would probably be better to find German or European company databases instead. These lists often contain many more companies. The websites could be in German, but most websites have a multilanguage option or you can use the Google Chrome Translate extension. Examples of good databases are:
- Panjiva: Panjiva is a kind of company search engine. It’s’s a tool for finding businesses by industry. So if you’re’re looking for German auto parts for example, you can find business by selecting the industry “”Automotive””.
- German Business Directory : this is a database for international business.
- Gelbe Seiten: This is the German Yellow Pages. You can find all companies that have registered themselves on this website.
- Europages: Although not the best and thorough database, it’s’s still worth it to check if there are some potential suppliers on this website.
- German Export Database: Not many blogs mention this website. This website is created by the Chamber of Commerce of Germany and it contains more than 3 MILLION companies in Germany. This is a great source for finding a German supplier for just about any product.
Chamber of Commerce
Many people overlook this option. It’s’s natural to go straight to Google and scavenge German company databases. However, the Chamber of Commerce or any affiliated agency that helps companies import and export have great resources in finding worthy suppliers oversees. You can simply email them and ask for help. Chances are they have many other companies who look for customers exactly what you’re asking for. You should definitely try the US Chamber of Commerce but also the German Chamber of Commerce. Many times a bunch of companies in Germany ask the Chamber of Commerce to find US companies to export to, but since everyone is looking in databases and very few ask the Chamber of Commerce, those requests remain unanswered. Don’t make that mistake; ask for help!
What about the offline methods?
Trade shows are packed with hundreds of potential suppliers. Here, you can talk to them directly and you’ll instantly know which supplier fits and which doesn’t. This is also a good place to gain some inspiration for your company. Perhaps there are others that have a similar business, ask them how and where they find their suppliers and how it’s’s going with their business. Genuinely show interest and be polite. You’ll be surprised how much information they will give you.
However, there is a downside to this method. It’s’s costly. Trade shows with many German suppliers are usually in Germany. When there is a large trade show in your state, chances are many of them don’t offer the quality or the advantages a German supplier could have provided you. It works both ways: it’s expensive for US companies to travel to Germany to visit trade shows, but it’s also expensive for German companies to enlist in trade shows oversees. This way, you’ll get limited potential suppliers.
Ask around in your circle if they know anyone in Europe. It doesn’t have to be the industry you’re in. It doesn’t even have to be Germany. Companies in Europe are heavily intertwined, and there’s undoubtedly someone who has connections to a specific supplier you need. This way, you might be able to find a few suppliers offline.
I’ve Found a Few Suitable Suppliers, What Now?
Stop for a minute and go over your overview. Are these suppliers all top quality and worth the effort to start a long term relationship with? If yes, keep them on the list. If you have your doubts, delete them. If you don’t feel confident now, it’s tough to feel confident later, and you may make bad decisions.
It’s’s now time to reach out to the suppliers. I do not advise you to get on a plane to visit the supplier immediately. Suppliers are not looking for unsolicited visitors without invitations. You should first contact them and create a conversation. There are several ways you can reach out to the suppliers:
- Social Media
- Direct call (not recommended)
Be aware that it may be the case that the German supplier cannot speak English very well. He or she might use a translator or might not contact you at all. That’s why I do not recommend you to call them directly. Germans like to speak German. It’s just the way it is. You’re putting them on the spot, and they will not have all the answers ready. It’s just a wrong first impression.
Can’t Find Good Suppliers, or Are You Unable to Verify If They Are Capable, Trustworthy, and the Cheapest?
Try services like ImportGerman.com. These services help US businesses find the best German supplier, perform an audit, travel to the supplier to verify the facilities, and negotiate prices. Moreover, they communicate in full German and make sure there are no misunderstandings and a pleasant way of communicating.
Once you have a reply, ask questions like: who do you do business with? Can you send me any certificates? Where are you located? What are your prices? Try to verify as many of these questions in at least one other external source. If they give you a location, check Google Maps to see if it’s a business, and not something else. Ask for any certificates and verify them via online certificate verification websites. Make sure that everything the supplier says, checks out. This is crucial before transferring any money overseas. I urge you to verify as much as you can to make sure this supplier is capable, trustworthy, and authentic.
Once you are sure you have the best supplier and have verified them, you’re good to go to start importing goods! Are you not sure if you’re ready for this step? Check out this post.
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