One of my friends is a saleswoman in Shenzhen who sells lead-acid batteries. She sends out lots of emails and gets few responses. When she does get a response, she often hands it off to someone else in her company who is better at closing sales.

Here is a letter my friend sent to a customer.

Dear Sir

Good day.

May I know, do you have a new order this week?

The Chinese Lunar New Year is approaching, the lead time will be longer, what's more, the shipping cost will be more and more expensive, we suggest that you can confirm the order this week.

Await your reply soon, thank you very much.

Experienced import companies don't care if you write with a Chinese accent. My friend's English is perfectly comprehensible. Her weakness is sales. Let's improve her email.

But first, a little background. Lunar New Year is China's Christmas. (Christmas is Christianity's Saturnalia.) It's a winter holiday where you go home to your family and exchange gifts. Most workers' hometowns are in the countryside. The country's industrial production shuts down for weeks.

That's why Earth's global supply chain of electronics depends on the phase of the moon.

Being a good salesperson means communicating to the customer that you're capable of satisfying the customer's desires and eager to do so (at the fair market price). "Capable" and "fair" tend to be binary values. Either you sell lead-acid batteries or you don't. Either you are willing to accept the fair market price or you aren't.

"Eager" matters because salespeople are middleman. A customer can always get lower prices by routing around you. They buy from you because it is simpler. Your job is to make buying things easy. You create convenience. An eager salesperson makes buying effortless.

My friend wants her customer to buy her company's products. She is leveraging Lunar New Year to pressure her customer into committing to an order. It's an excuse to pester her customer. Getting pestered is annoying. It makes the customer's life harder.

My friend's email is not a pleasant email to receive. It starts with a question. Questions make the receiver feel obligated to respond. Social obligation feels bad. The ending "Await your reply soon" worsens the unpleasant feeling of obligation.

My friend should draw attention to how eager she is to help out her customer. Here is my version of the email.

Dear <customer name>,

Do you have a new order this week? I ask because I want to get you the fastest lead times and the lowest shipping costs.

I start with a question because I have to. The second sentence conveys that I am only asking the question because I want to help the customer. I am not pestering out of my own self-interest. I am reporting an opportunity.

Chinese New Year is approaching. As it gets closer, lead times and shipping costs will both increase.

The meat of my friend's original email almost feels like a threat. It implies that "if the customer doesn't place an email soon then my friend will increase lead times and shipping costs." You want to be on the same side as your customer. You should blame threats on a third party whenever you can. I write about Chinese New Year impersonally. I imply that Chinese New Year is as unavoidable as the rising of the Sun.

I considered writing "as you know", but changed my mind because if the customer already knows then I have wasted the customer's time whereas if the customer doesn't know then I have falsely patronized the customer. The fewer assumptions you make about your readers, the broader your potential audience.

Whatever you decide, I will do my best to get our products to you quickly and cheaply, while maintaining our high standard of quality.

I emphasize that the price and lead time changes associated with Chinese New Year are outside my friend's control and that working with her is more convenient than trying to route around her because she is so enthusiastic about fulfilling her client's needs.

I don't ask for a response. The consequences of delay are already implied. The longer the customer waits to place an order, the higher shipping prices will rise and the longer lead times will extend. If the customer wants low prices and short lead times then the customer will respond quickly. It the customer has an overriding priority I don't know about (such as not yet knowing how many batteries they will need) then the customer will get back to my friend later. Requesting a timely response prioritizes my friend's needs over her customers.

If you need anything else, please do not hesitate to ask.

My friend has time available to make life extra easy for this customer. She should make it known how willing and eager she is to do so. It is good to make such an offer explicit because large manufacturers often don't have the resources to provide individual attention to customers.

I imply that my friend is willing to sell additional things. Maybe the customer will need power cables or something.

Sincerely,

<My friend's name>

My email got a positive response from the customer. The customer asked for prices and other information.

Complete Message

Dear <customer name>,

Do you have a new order this week? I ask because I want to get you the fastest lead times and the lowest shipping costs.

Chinese New Year is approaching. As it gets closer, lead times and shipping costs will both increase.

Whatever you decide, I will do my best to get our products to you quickly and cheaply, while maintaining our high standard of quality.

If you need anything else, please do not hesitate to ask.

Sincerely,

<My friend's name>

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