Product Documents


For each product that you want to buy overseas you need to create a file of information about your product.

There are multiple uses of this information.

First is to create clear expectations for the supplier. The major reason, in 90% of the cases, that the customer is unhappy with product bought overseas is that they (the customer – you) did not clearly communicate your product details. 

Secondly, you will need to have correct information for the paperwork required by the shipping company, insurance brokers, bank, customs, etc.

It’s important to gather this information before you even start trying to buy your product.

We are also going to guide you through some high-level cost analysis. You can use that to decide whether or not you are going to proceed with importing this product. Once you decide to move forward you will need to get all of your final costs. This will be addressed later in the training.

Creating Product Documentation

I want you to imagine that you are going to drop this document into an envelope and mail it around the world in 1990. The recipient has no way of contacting you to ask questions, they have only this document to understand what you want from them.  How would write that, so that you would be fully and completely understood?

If that analogy doesn’t work for you- imagine if you handed it to a 12 year old, could they build it without asking you any questions?

My point being if you don’t include the information on the document – you are not going to be satisfied with the product. You can’t expect the supplier to act on information they have not given them.

Now let’s take a look at what you need to do.

Step 1: Choosing Your Documentation Format

You have two options for the format of your product information.

The first option is the Request for Quote (RFQ). This is the correct format if you are ordering something that the company makes already, if you are not modifying it. So…if you are buying off the shelf products that are in their catalogue / inventory – you should use the RFQ.

The other option is a Product Specification sheet (Spec sheet). This is the correct format if you are ordering something that you have designed, or if you are modifying one of the suppliers products.

Request for Quote (RFQ) vs. Product Specification Sheet (Spec Sheet) – What’s the Difference?

The RFQ format doesn’t have as much information about the basics of the product – the materials used, the details on how its made, etc. Because you are buying something they make. You still want to be specific enough that you can hold them accountable for any mistakes, but not as detailed as if you were telling them how to make something from scratch. 

If you are making something new, or you are changing their product – then you need to be much more detailed. That is when you use the Spec sheet.

Request for Quote (RFQ) – Communicating Product Requirements

This excel spreadsheet can be downloaded here.

Any RFQ form should include the following information:

  • Contact Information and Details for Your Company
    • Name
    • Address
    • Email
    • Names of key individuals
    • Other info as deemed necessary
  • Supplier Contact Information
    • If you’re unsure what information to put in the document, leave it blank for them to fill in
  • Quote Instructions
    • When and how do you want to be quoted?
    • How many pieces do you want to be quoted for?
      • Example: 5 test units and 500 final unites
  • Product Description
    • Thoroughly describe the product
    • Include details like size, color, unique components – just make sure you describe it so that the supplier understands
  • Your Item Number
    • You need to have an item number and an item number system to control your inventory levels. This also helps for your accounting system, store front, and keeping your inventory organized.
    • You want a number you can search in a database.
    • However, you need to leave room for growth – additional sizes, colors, etc.
    • Plan for future growth with your numbering system.
  • Supplier Item Number
    • Leave this blank for the supplier to fill in
  • Price
    • Leave this blank unless the supplier has already given you a quote
  • Quality and Testing Requirements
    • Briefly describe how you want this product to function and how you will test it – You will give them much more thorough testing parameters later.
      • Example: Ballpoint Pen – Must write smoothly, pen easily and consistently can extend and retract via click-top
      • Example: Product must be able to run for at least 2 hours without powering down
    • Also include any certifications/regulations that must be met.
  • Materials Used
    • Detail any materials that must be used in the product.
    • Also include any special properties that you want components to have
      • UV protection
      • Waterproof
      • Galvanized
      • Composite
      • PVC
      • Etc.
  • Function of the Product and of Individual Components/Pieces
    • What the product does overall and what the main components/pieces do as well.
  • Assembly Instructions
    • Detail how you want the product assembled or if you want to do the final assembly yourself.
    • This is usually done through diagrams and photos in the Supporting Documents
  • Customization
    • Do you want to add any customization to the product, such as logos? Make sure to detail that somewhere in the document.
  • Packaging
    • Do you want your product individually packed, bulk packed, or packed any specific way?
    • Does the packaging need to have any special attributes or customization?
  • Supporting Documents
    • All RFQs will need to have supporting documentation. Supporting documentation should include:
      • Diagrams
      • Photos
      • Schematics
      • Example drawings
      • Any additional information that will help the supplier build your product
  • Signature Box
  • Date Box

Product Specification Sheet – Ordering a Custom Product

Page 1 of an Example Spec Sheet

You can find an example Spec Sheet here.

Think of your Product Specification Sheet as an internal document that occasionally gets shared with suppliers. It should have the following information:

  • Company Logo, Details, and Contact Information
  • Revision History
  • Quote Instructions
  • Product Description – Do this for each of the main components
    • Your Item Number
    • Individual Components and a Brief Description
    • Dimensions of the Product and Components
    • Materials
    • Functions and Special Properties
    • Required Standards and Certifications
    • Sample Log
  • Packaging Specifications
    • General Specifications
    • Photos of Approved Packaging
  • Master Carton Packaging
    • General Specifications
    • Photos of Approved Packaging
  • Quality Control Expectations – Should be much more detailed; see below
    • In Production Testing
    • Pre-Shipment Testing
    • Defect Severity Standard
  • Attached Schematics, Engineering Drawings, and Additional Documents
Benefits of a Product Specification Sheet
Separate Sections

Now this is where the Spec sheet really shines!  You want there to be a lot more details in the Product Description. Your product information should be organized into sections and have very detailed information. You don’t want them making decisions, you want them to get every detail from you.  What you need in this section:

  • A separate section for each component. Example: an vacuum cleaner would have the power cord, the body, the vacuum mechanism, the control panel, etc.
  • For each of those components – what materials are being used, how they are being produced, what are the dimensions and assembly.
  • Include written instructions and photographs or drawings.

This section could be 2 or 3 or more pages long.  This is your insurance that the product meets expectations.  Include lots of very specific details.

Quality and Testing Requirements

Quality & testing requirements are just as important as the product manufacturing / function details. You are going to be more detailed here than in the RFQ. Why?  Because in the RFQ you assume they make their product all the time and they have developed good QC (Quality Control) systems. So with the RFQ you want to mention some, but not in excruciating detail. But now that you are asking them to make something for you – you don’t want to assume anything. So you need a lot of detail in the Spec sheet for quality.