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Communicating via email

Buying and Selling Wood on the Internet: Part 1. January 3, 2002

Part 1 of Buying and Selling Wood on the Internet

This is the first in a series of installments written by Klaas Armster of WoodPlanet.com. WoodPlanet specializes is connecting buyers and suppliers of lumber and wood products, online.

Most companies in the wood industry do not buy or sell wood over the Internet. Many do not even have a web site. Still, the number of companies using the Internet to research suppliers has grown significantly over the past two years and email has become part of the business fabric. Having helped put buyers and sellers together, we at WoodPlanet have noticed a few things that may help you to use the Internet and email to source your next load of wood.

In this first installment, we'll discuss the basics with a few email tips that will help ensure that you get a good response from potential suppliers.

Flooded with email. Many companies are used to getting 'spam' and it is an unfortunate fact that your email may be deleted before ever being responded to. Although we recommend to suppliers they respond to every request they receive, it is just not practical for them to do so. Here are some tips to help ensure your request is not ignored.

First, research the company and make sure you are contacting the right one. You would not contact Weyerhauser if you needed 3 sheets of plywood. Similarly, do not contact a sawmill for a few pieces of wood unless they specifically mention they sell retail or welcome small orders. Companies complain about inappropriate requests and you can save your time and theirs by doing a little research.

Second, personalize your email. As it is, email is impersonal enough. If you send a message to a Southern Yellow Pine sawmill and ask 'how much is your pine?', you are not likely to get a response. However, if you mention how you found their website and why you are interested in their products, they will recognize the effort and are much more likely to respond. Even if they cannot supply your request they may be able to point you to someone who can.

Bulk emails. Sometimes you may want to contact a large number of specific suppliers to get quotes. In these instances you could use the services of WoodPlanet or another sourcing service or you could send a broadcast email yourself. We recommend personalizing your emails as much as possible, but this may be difficult in a broadcast email. Do not include the emails of all the suppliers in the address bar. Create a separate email list consisting of all the companies you wish to send the email to and then send the email to that list. For a supplier, it is a big turn-off to see that they are one of 20 receiving the exact same request and therefore they are far less likely to respond.

Be persistent. Many sawmills are not good about following up even if a sale is theirs for the taking. That's because sawmills and many other companies in the wood industry are production driven and not sales driven. If you have been exchanging emails with a potential supplier and are waiting for them to respond, don't hesitate to resend your most recent message. Often, the supplier and buyer are both waiting for the other one and that can kill the potential deal.

Finally, recognize that email has its limitations. We cannot help but notice how many deals fall apart just because a supplier does not respond to an inquiry via email. Email can help you cover a lot of ground very quickly but sometimes it is necessary to pick up the phone. This is especially true as you get closer to the negotiation part of the deal.

In the next installment, we'll discuss an even more important element to getting a good response from suppliers: writing a product spec. We'd love to hear about your experiences with communicating via email. Good or bad, send them along to rfq@woodplanet.com.

This is the first in a series of installments written by Klaas Armster of WoodPlanet.com. WoodPlanet specializes is connecting buyers and suppliers of lumber and wood products, online.

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