How to Communicate effectively (Part II) - How to write an offer or request quotation

Following last week's discussion on value of professional communication in e-commerce, this week we examine finer points in some everyday-use exim documents.

To stand up and be counted, you must make sure your communication conveys right value proposition with required information in precise terms. Here's few points to remember while writing an offer or request for quotation.


Always define the product precisely. A product may be known by various names in different countries. However its scientific name remain always same. This is specially true for herbals and marine products. For industrial products give all the precise characteristics. �We seek trucks, boats and helicopters" does not make any sense and perhaps deserves no response.


They are essential and imperative. This is particularly so for drugs and pharmaceuticals, chemicals, garments, textiles, food products and perhaps just about everything. A statement on end-use help in many cases.


Sometimes, origin distinguishes a product in significant way. For example teak wood from Myanmar, Africa or Latin America differ significantly in specification and price. Rice from India or Vietnam may vary significantly.

Test Result/Samples etc.

Precise availability or not of analysis, standard certifications and/or samples. Is the sample free or priced ? Who pays for courier/shipping charge ?

Quantity / Minimum Order

This is extremely important for the seller as price depends on a great extent on order quantity. Alternatively, one may quote price for minimum order quantity - leaving elbow room for future negotiation.


Clear statement on packing (e.g. unit pack, bulk pack, quantity per 20 ft container etc.)


Unit price in preferred currency of the customer (generally USD). With Euro emerging as a strong contender of Dollar, sellers may explore the relative cost advantage in quoting Euro vs Dollar based on exchange rate.


Please qualify price with FOB / C&F / CIF or any other relevant Incoterm based on definition of each provided by ICC. Remember, the responsibility of buyer and seller has been clearly defined by ICC for each Incoterm. Please use only the latest version of INCOTERMS as definition changes with time.

For example - let us examine a common INCOTERM FAS - Free Alongside Ship (named port of shipment)

It means that the seller delivers when the goods are placed alongside the vessel at the named port of shipment. The buyer has to bear all costs and risks of loss of or damage to the goods from that moment.

Now - FAS term requires the seller to clear the goods for export

IMPORTANT - This requirement is a reversal from previous INCOTERM versions which required the buyer to arrange for export clearance.

For more information, please visit ICC website at

Payment Terms

Type of L/C, conditions, currency etc.

Delivery Period

Precise statement on number of days from receipt of L/C or PO. Is trans-shipment involved ? Information such as approx. days of voyage-time helps the buyer greatly.

Next week - we shall discuss finer points in import documents (e.g. requests for quotation)

Related Links:

Source: FAIDA - Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad Vol: 2, Issue 42 March 28' 2002

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 )

� All Rights Reserved. Limited permission is granted to publish this article in a web-site or printed in a journal/ newspaper/ magazine provided the publisher takes prior permission from author, do not make any change in the article (i.e. keep it exactly same as displayed above) and cite the Source of this article as The Great Indian Bazaar with a link to this page.