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Respond To Inquiries & Orders

An export sale usually starts with an inquiry. Someone overseas has heard of you and wants more information. The inquiry might be general, for example, "Tell me more about your company and product" or specific, for example, "What is the price?"

Inquiries are precious. It's a buyer's market, and the inquirer has other options. You should respond quickly, fully and professionally. If prospects like what you tell them, they’ll follow up with more specific requests for price, delivery and payment terms. Some inquiries, however, may be fishing expeditions, so use discretion in responding. Basically, you need to know if they are serious and reputable. As you provide requested information, you should also ask the prospects for information, such as who they are and what they do. If you’re satisfied and want the business, be prepared to negotiate until you’ve mutually agreed on all the terms (price, delivery, payment, etc.)

Should you respond to every inquiry? No. You might disregard form letters or inquiries that are clearly unprofessional or poorly written. However, it’s not always possible to distinguish serious from frivolous requests. Err on the side of responding to all or most inquiries. If in doubt, don't send samples or bulky product literature that costs more in postage.

Exporting Basics and other Internet export guides offer detailed advice on when and how to respond to inquiries, as well as sample response letters, export quotation worksheets, and model Proforma invoices. Here are some pointers:

  • Say it fast or not at all - Delay implies lack of interest or low priority.
  • Answer all questions asked - Don't make them ask the same questions twice.
  • Use a business-like tone - Be friendly and courteous; avoid obvious form letters.
  • Reply in the language specified. Reply in English if invited; translate as needed.
  • Print and sign all letters. Handwritten or unsigned letters leave a bad impression.
  • Enclose product brochures, price lists and other information only after confirming the inquirer's credentials or intent. These materials usually answer most questions, so that the next communication will more likely be a request for quote.
  • Send a form response, or no response, if the request is unprofessional, poorly written or obvious boilerplate.

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