First and foremast, respond immediately, without any delay. Time is a very important factor as the deal may get closed much sooner than you expect or the buyer may loose interest in your offer (specially if he has received a dozen offers before yours)
While writing e-mail, please use generally established conventions (e.g. no capital letter, specific subject etc.) You will find lot of useful information at e-commerce tutorial - www.infobanc.com/resources.htm or earlier issue of FAIDA at www.infobanc.com/faida_old.htm
Please make sure that your communication is able to inspire confidence in buyer about your ability. Make it short, concise and to the point. Provide sufficient information/ answer to buyers' inquiry, not just a 'we can do' statement. If you ask for more information, make sure you are also sharing necessary information about yourself.
If you have already exported to clients in buyer's country or has a 'Reference' list, do not hesitate to talk about it. If you are new to export, try to develop your References. It is very useful, specially for buyers in USA and Europe.
It is normal practice for buyers of gifts, handicrafts etc. to ask for your catalog. If you have a good-looking printed catalog, or a CD-ROM presentation, make best use of it. A professional looking web-site is more economic in many cases. Besides, it also goes a long way in establishing your credentials. If you are planning to use Internet for business, invest in a professionally developed website - there is just no alternative !
Use judicious mix of telephone and fax alongwith e-mail for serious inquiries. Please do not rest back after sending an initial e-mail. For important inquiries, follow-up with short telephone calls, gentle e-mail reminders etc. Off-line follow-up is generally appreciated by buyers. E-mail may be inexpensive, but realise it limitations. Recipients can ignore or forget an e-mail but not a telephone call.
Do not fall into the sample trap. Even if your samples are extremely inexpensive, there is no harm in charging for courier fee. Do not make a habit of sending samples to anybody who asks for them. Identify the person who is making the request and make sure that this person is the one making the buying decision.
However, do not be arrogant and make the mistake of treating every inquirer as rag picker ! There are many buyers who can not pay for samples for perfectly valid reason (e.g. company policy).
Understand that most foreign distributors do not make fast buying decisions. It is not at all unusual for an initial order to require 9-12 months from the time of the initial solicitation depending upon the cost.
Source : Archival Issues of FAIDA
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