An overview of the importance of establishing a policy for international inquiries. This article is part of "A Basic Guide to Exporting", provided by the U.S. Commercial Service, to assist companies in exporting.
Last Published: 10/20/2016
Establishing a policy for international inquiries
Many successful exporters began selling internationally by responding to an inquiry from a foreign company. Thousands of U.S. companies receive such requests annually, but most companies do not become successful exporters. Generally, successful companies make it a priority to create systems to properly respond to inquiries, conduct research on foreign customers, differentiate between domestic and international sales, and build positive relationships  with partners.

Responding to Inquiries
Most, but not all, letters, faxes, or e-mails of inquiry originating abroad are in English. For assistance in translating a letter of inquiry in a foreign language, your company may look to such service providers as banks or freight forwarders. Colleges and universities are also excellent sources for translation services. Most large cities have commercial translators who are hired for a fee. Translation software available online can help you understand basically what is being written, but should not be considered entirely accurate or reliable for business transactions.

A foreign company will typically request product specifications, information, and a price. Some inquiries will come directly from the end-user, whereas distributors and agents who wish to sell the product in their market will have questions of their own. A few foreign companies that are already familiar with your product may wish to place an order immediately.

Regardless of the form of inquiry, your company should establish a policy to deal with it.
Here are a few suggestions:
  • Expect some inquiries to have grammatical or typographical errors; the writer may know English only as a second language.
  • Reply promptly, completely, and clearly. The correspondent naturally wants to know something about your company before a transaction takes place. The reply should establish your company as a reliable supplier by providing a short but adequate introduction to the company, including bank references and other sources that confirm reliability. Your company’spolicy on exports should be stated, including cost, terms, and delivery. Your company may wish to respond with a pro forma invoice 
  •  Enclose information on your company’s goods or services.
  • If the company needs to meet a deadline, send the information by e-mail or, if preferred, fax. Unlike telephone communications, these methods may be used effectively despite differences in time zones and languages.
  • Keep a record of foreign inquiries. They may turn into definite prospects as your export business grows. If an intermediary handles exports for your company, the intermediary may use the information.
Think about how nicely you’d like to be treated by another company. Odds are, your international buyers will appreciate similar treatment.

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