So, you’ve done your research really thoroughly and you’re pretty sure you’ve uncovered a hot product. What next? Well, now you need to start sourcing, and that means talking with suppliers!

“What…actually speak to suppliers…in person…. or on the phone? Crikey, that’s a bit terrifying! How on earth do I do that?”

If this is your initial reaction to dealing with suppliers then don’t worry – you’re not alone. I’ve met tens of people who would prefer to shrivel up and crawl under a rock rather than open a conversation with a stranger and start negotiating. This is perfectly natural. But remember, suppliers, wholesalers, distributors – they are normal people, just like you and me.

Suppliers are in the business of doing business! This means they want your business! So, if you are a newbie and working from home from your kitchen table then it’s unlikely that any supplier will bat an eyelid – they won’t even know that your living room is a stockroom and kitchen your office – unless you tell them! Money is money and most suppliers won’t care whether you have a waterfront executive office with an oak inlaid desk or not.

You simply need to convey to the supplier that you are a 100% serious, professional person – and this is incredibly simple when you’re dealing with correspondence by email. See, you don’t even need to pick up the phone or take the first available flight out to China!

But here’s the thing. Suppliers are absolutely vital for your business to be successful and so this makes them a necessity, which is why it astounds me that so many people contact suppliers in a haphazard, vague, unprofessional manner, and then wonder why they haven’t received an immediate response or in some cases, any kind of reply at all.

Suppliers want to sell as many products as they can, as quickly as they can so they have no reason whatsoever to ignore your request for a brochure, for prices or for samples. However, sometimes it’s actually you who is making it difficult for suppliers to respond to your requests.

Why? Well, mostly down to a simple lack of professionalism on your part although it’s not always intentional. If you want to deal with suppliers and get the best possible prices it’s a good idea to start as you mean to go on and be totally professional about it.

Look at this email:

“Hi mate I ‘m going to sell stuff online. Can u send ure brochure so I can see what you’ve got. i need ure costs too. i have been made redundant and have a bad back and I want to make extra money now. Thx”

The mistakes, poor grammar, text speak and general impoliteness here are glaringly obvious because I’m making a point, but what would you do if you were a supplier and that arrived in your inbox? I know what I’d do. Delete. I know you’re probably thinking there is no way anyone would send an email like that – but believe me they do. I get emails from people who expect me to take them seriously even though they have contacted me using text speak, with no sign off, no please, no thank you – just a basic demand for information using a jumble of letters that obviously makes sense to them but not to me.

So, with professionalism and the need for a quick response in mind, here are some simple rules you should follow to ensure you write a decent email to your chosen supplier, which will ultimately help you receive a prompt response whether it’s a UK or an international supplier.

Use a company email account

Whenever possible, always use a company account email rather than using a free account from a provider such as hotmail, yahoo or aol. Using a company email account will be considered much more professional and you are very likely to receive a faster reply.

Include a ‘Subject Line’

Subject lines are there for a reason and should always be used otherwise the recipient of your email will simply see ‘Re: No Subject’ which is not very professional, especially within a business email. Tailor your subject line to your enquiry and be as specific as you can.

Include a salutation and a signature

It is normal to start and end an email with some kind of salutation – this is basic politeness. After all, when you write a letter to someone or even if you meet someone in the street you don’t just launch into what you want to say do you? You at least say ‘Hello’ when you are speaking or ‘Dear’ when you are writing. And when you have finished writing you would normally say, ‘Thank You’ and then sign your name to identify yourself.

Be accurate and specify details

Within your email, give specific details about the products you are looking for, and try not to be too general. The more specific you are the more your enquiry will be seen as a serious, firm request. This in turn means that the supplier will give your enquiry prompt attention and a professional reply.

Don’t get personal

As interesting as your bad back, the state of your marriage or your current financial situation might be to you, save these details for non-business conversations! Your supplier doesn’t give two hoots.

Don’t demand…. request

Remember your manners. When you’re making contact with a supplier for the first time remember that you are the one at a disadvantage because the supplier doesn’t know you from the next person, so be polite.

Check your spelling and grammar 

I know not everyone is a brilliant speller and that’s fine, but we are living in the 21st century and every email programme does include a ‘spell-checker’ – so please use it (and the grammar checker) on every email you intend to send. Finally, don’t use ‘text speak’ – words (if you can even call them that) such as ‘ure’ – your, ‘thx’ – thank you, ‘l8r’ – later and ‘u’ – you.

You are not 12 years old. This is not acceptable!

Next week I’ll give you some tips on what to do when you receive the speedy response you’re after!