In foreign trade, enquiries are usually made by the buyers without engagement to get information about the goods to be ordered, such as price, catalogue, delivery date and other terms. Enguiries may be either dispatched by mail, cable, telex, fax, or handed to the suppliers through personal contact. So, that is to say an enquiry (inquiry) is ,in fact, a request for information on price, trade terms. etc. An importer may send out an enquiry to an exporter, inviting a quotation or an offer for the goods he wishes to buy or simply asking for some general information about these goods.
Enquiries, from regular customers, may be very simple in content, in which only the name and/or descriptions of the commodity will be mentioned. Other enquiries are in great detail including the name of commodity, quality or specifications, quantity, terms of price (CFR, FOB, etc.), terms of payment (by L/C or otherwise), time of shipment, packing method, etc. required by the buyer so as to enable the seller to make proper offers.
When making an enquiry, keep it brief, specific, courteous, reasonable and to the point; say what needs to be said, ask what needs to be asked and no more. For instance, you may just want general information, a catalogue or price list, a quotation sheet or a proforma invoice. There is no need to seek carefully chosen words and phrases to catch the reader's eye. Sometimes you should mention the size of your order as large orders may obtain more favorable quotation.
A "first enquiry", that is an enquiry sent to a supplier whom you have not previously dealt with, should begin by telling him how you obtained his name. Some details of your own business, such as the kind of goods handled, quantities needed, usual terms to trade and any information likely to enable the supplier to decide what he can do for you, will also help.
An enquiry received from abroad must be answered fully and promptly. If there is no stock available for the time being, you should acknowledge the enquiry at once, explaining the situation and assuring that you will revert to it once supply becomes available. If the enquiry is from an old customer, say how much you appreciate it. If it is from a new customer, say you are glad to receive it and express the hope of a lasting friendly business relationship so as to create goodwill and leave good impression on the reader. In a word, answers to enquiries should be prompt, courteous and helpful.