How to make a good enquiry

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As a request for a quotation, an enquiry is an unavoidable stage in the sourcing work flow. A good enquiry should provide sufficient information for buyers to quote efficiently and accurately. It can also build up initial understanding between buyers and sellers so as to give impetus to the succeeding procedures like quotations, further contact and transactions. What would then make a good enquiry? The following are some items of information I suggest buyers should include in their enquiries:

  • Brief introduction of the buyer and background of the enquiry:
A brief introduction of the buyer will give the seller an idea of who they will be quoting to. Chinese suppliers usually receive enquiries by fax or email with an individual's name and a company name, but no company information. Such enquiries can easily be ignored because the sellers are uncertain whether the enquiry is from a competitor or from a fake company. Providing more background information on the buyer and the enquiry will help the seller understand where the products in question will be used and judge if their products are suitable.

  • Product names
All buyers know that they must include product names in their enquiries, but sometimes they just put the abbreviation or just a 'byname', which are all difficult to understand for sellers who speak a different language. One should never underestimate the language barrier, and the most standard product names should always be used. Or, if unsure, all the possible names should be included.

  • Quantity
Sellers need quantity information of potential orders to know if their manufacturing capacity can meet the demand and to determine what price they will be able to offer. Quantity information should be combined with order frequency.

Common questions can include the following:
Is it a once-off or a long-term order?
How many orders will the buyer place per year?
How big will the average volume of each order be?

Many buyers often enlarge the order quantity in their original enquiry in order to get better prices. I personally disagree with this practice because once the seller realizes that the order quantity is not as big as promised, the relationship will usually be damaged and the seller could try to reduce after service or increase prices by adding extra charges.

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Good post. Most buyers don't imagine how many inquiries are received by the exporters that run advertisements. Half of them come from small shop-owners that are attracted by low-cost and custom-made imports, but who can't order the minimum quantities.
And each of these contacts asks for photos and prices, and often for samples. The suppliers can't reply in time to each one.
So importers should "sell themselves"--but always be honest--and not ask for too much information in the first inquiry.
If a buyer promises volumes that never materialize, a Chinese factory might "make him pay" by shipping goods of substandard quality...

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