English for the Marketplace

Thor May



1. They're nice aren't they? [salesman posing as another customer comments to a browser]


2. Enjoying the fair?


3. Hi, how do you like them? [salesman gestures at goods]


4. Mm, that's a nice coat (you're wearing). Did it come from Guangzhou too? [salesman to customer]


5. Ah, hot isn't it. So many people. Can I offer you a glass of water? [have a water cooler strategically placed in your premises. You'll attract grateful visitors]


6. Have a rest for a couple of minutes [offering a chair]. This is a big place to walk around, isn't it.


7. Hi... Take your time. Let me know when you need my help.


8. Hello. Is this your first time at the fair? ... No? Ha, ha. You can probably teach me a few things then. ... The Tianyu Group has been exhibiting here for quite a few years now, but it's the first time here for me personally. It's all pretty interesting ....


9. [.. salesman takes careful note of a visitor's dress style] Mm.. [selecting a garment] .. now this looks like your style [joking voice] .. what do you think? ... No? Oh well [smile!].., there's bound to be something here for you..


B. Negotiating a Price


Buyer Well Mr. Zhang, I might be interested in a few of these items, but the pricing must be competitive.


Seller Yes of course. What items interest you?


Buyer Well, for example, can you give me a rough price on this child's coat?


Seller Ah.., it varies somewhat with quantity, you'll understand. Our basic price is $10 per item.


Buyer Oh dear, that's one of the more expensive quotes I've received today. It's not really in the ballpark, I'm afraid.


Seller You surprise me. I thought it was very well priced. There would be some discount on quantity of course. ... Be a little careful by the way. Some of the very cheap quotations you receive can become expensive if inferior goods are actually shipped. Our Tian Yu group takes great care with quality control and reliable delivery. Also, our materials are the very best available ..


Buyer Those are fair arguments, Mr. Zhang. I certainly have to consider them.


Seller I can see that you are very professional sir. I am sure that we can come to some agreement.


Buyer I'll tell you what I'll do, Mr. Zhang. You quote me on a notional shipment of 10,000 items. Then I'll take it away and analyze your bid.


Seller No problem. Just give me a moment to do some calculation...


C. Objections, Reservations, Persuaders


1. Just Looking...


Seller Can I interest you in something sir?


Buyer Um, not at the moment. I'd like to look around (the fair) for a while first.


Seller No problem. There's lots to see here, isn't there. Um.. Maybe you could do us a favour though. We are looking for feedback.. What do you think are the strongest and weakest points in our display here? [.. gives an immediate insight into the potential customer's hidden agenda and tastes]


2. Once Burnt, Twice Shy


Buyer We've had some trouble in the past with Chinese suppliers...


Seller Ah yes. I can sympathize. But China is a big place you know. Some of us do offer very good quality and reliable service. We'd expect you to check us out thoroughly before committing to a major order. If you like I can offer you the names of a few business referees.


3. Can I Trust You?


Buyer Reliability of quality and supply is really important to us ...


Seller You are right. Reliability is a top priority. We insist on that with our own suppliers too. The Tian Yu group has grown steadily, and that is exactly because our old customers keep coming back. They have found us to be very reliable ...


4. Calling HQ


Buyer I'll have to talk it over with my Head Office.


Seller Yes of course. We both have to follow up with the main office. Can I send you a fax detailing our offer and sales terms? You've nothing to lose by that, after all ...


5. Wavering


Buyer I'm not sure if these garments really meet our requirements...


Seller Oh, that's very interesting. You know, our productions runs are extremely flexible. Perhaps we could talk a little about your particular requirements. We can probably find a solution ...


6. The Client Begs to be Persuaded


Buyer The design is fine, but I'd really prefer a different kind of fabric ...


Seller I'm really pleased that you like our designs. We think they are something special. The fabric? Well, it's very fine fabric, but if you really need a different kind, for your order we can easily change it. What kind of fabric were you looking for sir?


7. Helping the Client to Sell


Buyer Our market is a bit over-supplied with this kind of garment ...


Seller Mm, that's always difficult, isn't it. Tell me a bit about your market ... . [.. after talking ..] Yes, I can see your problem. But have you thought of niche markets? For example, with these products, some direct marketing to outdoor clubs & sporting groups can work wonders ...


8. It's an Uncertain World Out There


Buyer It's common knowledge that the Yuan is likely to devalue in the New Year. I'd prefer to hold off until then.


Seller Good heavens sir! I'm no oracle, but there's a Christmas season between now and the New Year. That's the year's biggest selling time, isn't it? Maybe it's smart to play safe for next year - new orders can be written at any time. But surely you need bridging stock for the holiday season...


D. Getting Goods to Market


Buyer Well, now that we have some agreement about price, we need to work through a few other details..


Seller You are right. You will want to know about shipping and so on.


Buyer Yes, that and some other things. Firstly, let's suppose I place an order for 5,000 of those outdoor jackets. What kind of lead time are we looking at on delivery?


Seller Well actually, we can supply those particular jackets from stock. It's just a matter of shipping arrangements, and clearing the goods through the China Export Inspection Bureau. I'd say, about eight weeks.


Buyer Mm. Now let us suppose that I give you a specification for a modified version of the jacket. For example, I don't much like those elasticized cuffs.


Seller Um, of course that would take a little longer, and might cost a little more, depending upon the modifications. I'd have to check our current production commitments, but I'd guess we could deliver them within three to four months.


Buyer Ah, yeah ... I could live with that, so long as three months really means three months, not six months!


E. Establishing Bona Fides


Buyer Well sir, I'm interested in your products. However, I'm really not at all familiar with your company. Would you mind if I ask for a bit of backgrounding?


Seller Not at all. The Tian Yu Group is quite large, you know. We're based in Hubei. That's about here [.. pointing to a map of China]. Look, here's one of our brochures ... As you can see from this, we have twenty-two factories, and we've been around since 1979.


Buyer Mm. That's quite a long time. Could you give me some idea of turnover... ?


Seller Sure. Well, to give you a rough indication, last year the gross earnings of our Group were around RMB 5,000,000 .


Buyer I see. Quite substantial. Very well Mr. Zhang, since you are quite familiar with this trade, you will understand my professional caution. Could you give me the names of a few business referees?


Seller Yes, of course. I understand your concern. I can put you in touch with a banking referee. Also a couple of our long-term clients have agreed to be referees when necessary. Naturally, the Tian Yu Group will want to know something about your operation also.


Buyer That's understandable Mr. Zhang. I'll be happy to supply details. Now perhaps we can talk about an actual order ...


Seller Yes, that would be a good idea. Which items interest you commercially, and what kind of quantities?




Background: In China in 1999 I was invited to a clothing factory for a couple of days. The staff wanted to know what they could say in English to foreign customers at a business clothing fair in Guangzhou. This is something I prepared for them. Thor


Sell It (c) Thor May 2013


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