Exporting Basics: Finding Buyers and Distributors
How do I respond to inquiries about my product?
Most inquiries are either from end users (for purchase) or agents/distributors (for representation). Both will typically ask about your company and product line, price, delivery schedules, shipping costs and payment terms. Treat inquiries like gold. Always remember that you’re not the only game in town. It’s a buyer’s market, and the inquirer has other options. Should you respond to every inquiry? No. Some may be fishing expeditions, and it costs every time you respond. If the request is dubious -- unprofessional, poorly written, boilerplate, etc. – you don’t have to respond. However, you can’t always distinguish serious from frivolous requests. Err on the side of responding to all or most inquiries, at least with your standard letter. If in doubt, hold off on bulkier product literature that costs more to send. Here are some basic rules for responding to overseas inquiries:
• Say it fast or not at all. Delay implies lack of interest or, worse, insensitivity to the prospect’s needs. Use E-mail, fax, express delivery or air mail as appropriate. Surface mail can take weeks or even months to reach some countries.
• Answer all questions asked. The inquirers may come back with more questions, but don’t make them ask the same questions twice.
• Be business-like, friendly and courteous, but avoid slang or informal, chatty responses.
• Reply in the language specified. Most inquiries are in English. Some are in a foreign language, but invite you to reply in English. If the inquiry is not in English, have it translated so you know exactly what it says. Then, translate your response if you’re not otherwise advised.
• Print and sign all letters. Impersonal form responses with filled in blanks don’t make a good impression. With a word processing package, you can easily personalize even a standard letter.
• Enclose your product brochures, price lists and other information. These usually answer most questions, so that the next communication will more likely be a request for quote.
It is ultimately important that you conduct due diligence on an company prior to making any substantial overseas sales. Your local Pennsylvania Regional Export Network (REN) Partner will be happy to assist you in gaining these critical insights. Contact then using the contact us section of this website.
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