The anonymous nature of Internet is a challenge for any researcher to identify serious buyers. I have been fooled several times in the past - a fake buyer in the disguise of serious one AS WELL AS A REAL SERIOUS BUYER MISTAKEN AS FAKE !!!

The obvious question - how to separate wheat from chaff ? Like most areas in life - there is no short cut or ready-fix solution. One has to observe several factors dispassionately and come to a conclusion that is most likely to be true. Some of the tips to think over are:

  1. Observe the language. A serious buyer knows what he or she wants or is pretty close to it. Close examination of articulation of interest may often provide a clue to actual intent of inquirer. A word of mcaution however, articulation of a non-English speaking person can not be ideal and one has to factor this in the evaluation process. Another flip side - some buyers do not like to specify everything at the first go - and are notoriously brief in their inquiry.

  2. Look at the Name. Any import-export company with names like 'Cyberpundit', 'Rocketmoney' or some such funny thing is a suspect. More often than not, they are brokers with little or no experience. Avoid them like plague - if you do not want to waste your valuable time in wild goose chase

  3. Check Address of the inquirer. I haven't found any serious buyer hesitating to give telephone and fax numbers. Please call the inquirer wherever necessary in addition to e-mail exchange - serious buyers usually appreciates it

  4. Look Up Buyer's Website These days, every serious businessman should have a website. While buyers without website can not be treated non-serious - a professional looking website certainly helps in building credibility. Check for tips on how to evaluate web-site.

  5. If special design is involved, ask for buyer's sample. Serious buyer will not think twice to courier sample provided seller is able to inspire confidence in buyer.

  6. While sample and catalog are very important for any buyer to select right seller, one can not send samples to every inquirer. If you are sure of the buyer, please do not hesitate to send sample/catalog. It is quite unlikely that a major order will materialize without the buyer checking samples or visiting your country. However, in cases where you aren't too sure - ask for buyers' Federal Express Account Number (so that courier cost is on buyer's account) Fed-Ex in India offers the service where you can send sample at buyer's expense propvided buyer has a Fed-Ex account. This is an equitable solution where buyer bears courier cost and seller cost of sample - acceptable to most serious buyers and sellers.
  7. However, it will be foolish to treat this as the only test for seriousness or that you should demand it from the buyer, as many institutional buyers are unlikely to pay for courier cost because of company guideline.

    Remember, just as the seller can not send samples to all buyers similarly buyer can not be expected to foot the courier bill in each and every case.

  8. Check Credit Record If you are ready to spend some money, there are several International agencies who may help you check buyer's credit record. However, credit record for companies outside North America and Europe may not be readily available. Even within developed countries there are many small and medium enterprises who are not covered by credit rating organizations.

  9. Request Reference Though this is more often asked by buyers to check seller's credentials, sometimes sellers may also politely request for references from past or present suppliers, specially when credit or advance payment is involved.

  10. Finally, a buyer can not be judged non-serious just because he/she chooses not to buy your stuff. If your offer is turned down or buyer backs out of negoiation in last minute - dispassionately think of possible reason for such set back. Is it your product, price, payment terms, delivery schedule, negotiation, communication etc. or just lack of seriousness of buyer ?? If the reason is on your side - it is likely that you will find only non-serious buyers while your competitors rake the moolah. There is no harm if you politely ask for buyer's feedback (i.e. request him/her reason for non-consideration/rejection). If the buyer is helpful and finds you friendly - he/she might help you with information on your shortcomings. Such feedback can immensely help you with next buyer or even same buyer in future.

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Source: FAIDA - Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad Vol II, Issue 1; June 1' 2001

Author : Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development, MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of his own. He may be reached at )

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