9 Mistakes of Novices When Write Development Letters(Ⅰ) Leave a comment

Many salesmen complain that the development letters don’t work as they expect. They sent hundreds of development letters, dozens of them returned, and the rest had no news. It is enough to make them exciting for a long time when they get a reply like “No, thanks”.

Therefore,this situation would seriously dampen your enthusiasm for work? Imagine, you sit in front of the computer for 12 hours a day, search for customers’ information from Google, and send out development letters before you go home wearily. But when you go to work with hope at the next day, you find that many of those letters are returned, what do you think?

After graduating from college, I used to do sales. I started as a sales assistant, and later became Sales, Sales Manager, then Senior Sales Manager. Until now, I’m a buyer. I have changed a few roles during this process, and I faced various problems that most of you are experiencing. I also have sent development letters all day to look for new customers and quote endlessly but got few replies. After being familiar with foreign customers, I find some problems in my previous development letters when we talked in private. Actually, many customers are also doing sales jobs and writing development letters. Why is their response rate much higher than ours? Even if we don’t talk about the turnover rate, their response rate is much higher than us.

Therefore, the development letter should be a significant topic in the field of foreign trade.

When you are writing emails to customers, you’d better think about the issue according to the habits of Europeans and Americans. If customers cannot recognize that your e-mail is written by a Chinese, you succeed!

Here are some errors that most of you will make when you are writing E-mails.

Error 1: Writing long development letters with long introductions

Customers are very busy and receive dozens or even hundreds of emails a day. If they receive long-form emails from strangers with weak English expressions plus several big attachments, will they read them seriously? Meanwhile, most foreigners have a strong sense of time and only use a fixed time to deal with emails each day. Consequently, many long-formed emails that were not sent by their acquaintances will usually be deleted or set to spam mailbox directly.


Many Western European customers usually glance an email in 2~3 seconds.  They read and reply important emails immediately, or mark them to respond in another time. Those emails that are not so important will be marked with the specific time in Outlook, and then pulled to the corresponding subdirectory. In other words, even if you get the right email address of customers, your development letter can only stay in front of them for 2~3 seconds. In this case, do you dare to write the mail very long?

Development letters are widely used by factories and trading companies. Some of them are really bad and usually very long, which waste the time of customers as well as writers. One of those emails is written like this: “Our company is a lighting factory, located in the southeast of the Yangtze River Delta, with convenient transportation and beautiful scenery. It is only 2 hours drive from Shanghai and Hangzhou. We, founded in 2002, has a wealth of experience in producing and developing solar lamps. Our factory has obtained 0901:2000 quality system and is strictly managed through 5S principle. We sincerely welcome you to visit our factory and hope to establish long-term business relationship with you. We treat the customer with sincerity and service…”

Under these conditions, customers will be bored if they receive such emails, even if it is a good company or factory.

Some of you will ask, “shouldn’t I write these at all?” The answer is that it depends on the specific situation. If your company has outstanding advantages, you can write them simply, such as “We supply solar lights for Home Depot with high quality and competitive price. Hope to cooperate with you!”

You need to show the key points in one or two sentences to arouse the interest of the customer and make him ask you questions conversely; then you can achieve your purpose. After doing business for a long time, you will find that few customers write long emails. If there are, they are exceptional cases to confirm some details. In English-speaking countries, people usually express their meanings clearly only in a few words.

Error 2: Without a Clear Subject

An unclear subject that makes customers have no interest in opening a stranger’s e-mail. Therefore, the content of the subject should be concise to attract customers to open the mail. But, whether they would respond after reading it, it depends on the actual situation and texts.

Some people write emails with the theme like this: “we are the manufacturer of lights”, or “need cooperation”, or “Guangdong… trading company Ltd”, or “price list for lights- Guangdong *** trading company Ltd”, etc. Customers would know that it is a sales letter at a glance. If they receive only one sales letter in a week, they may want to read, but if they receive hundreds of sales letters in a day, they will be bored or even delete them directly. So, how to write an excellent theme to make customers open the letter, even if they know it is a sales letter, needs to be judged according to the actual situation.

Suppose that I work for a company that makes solar lamps, called DEF Co.Ltd. The largest customer of my company is Home Depot in the United States. Although we cooperate through traders, I can use it as a chip to develop new customers. If I want to write a development letter to ABC Inc., I would learn some information about this company from Google to know that it is an importer in the United States that makes solar lighting series. I will write the theme in this way: “Re: ABC Inc./ Home Depot vendor- solar light/DEF Co. Ltd.”

First, ABC Inc. is the name of the customer’s company. I put it in the first place to show my respect. Secondly, Home Depot vendor-solar light indicates that I am the supplier for the second-largest solar lighting retailer Home Depot in North American, which shows my strength to arouse their interest. Finally, DEF Co, .Ld. represents my company. In this case, suppose that the other side is a buyer or a supervisor for ABC Solar Lights, he will think whether he should take a chance to cooperate with me when he received such an email from Home Depot’s suppliers. Then, there will be a huge probability of opening the mail!

Furthermore, there is another advantage to setting the theme in this way. Even though the customer does not reply my email at that time, he just put it in the inbox, but he will find it soon as long as he inputs Home Depot when he wants my quotation.

Many experienced sales will find that themes are far more important than other things, sometimes even more important than the body of the email and the quotation.

Error 3: Preferring to show off English proficiency in development letters

I used to have an assistant, just graduated from college with TEM 8. When I asked her to write development letters to customers, she always wrote with kinds of grammars, endless clauses and difficult words, which makes people spend much time on understanding them. If the customer is a native English speaker, things will be better. But, if you write to Koreans, Japanese, Middle Easterns, or French, this will be troublesome. They have to read the email with a dictionary but still half-understand. How can customers have a good impression of you?

It is doing business, not an English exam. When you take an exam, your purpose is to get high scores; thus you use different vocabularies and sentences to make the examiner feel that your English expression ability is very strong. But writing business emails is different. The more concise the business e-mail, the higher the level of a foreign trade person.

Churchill has a sentence generally meaning: a real master can express the most complicated things in the most concise words.

It is difficult to simplify complicated things. This requires many studies and imitation on the customer’s emails to express what you want to convey with the most concise words. The essence of development letter is “concise and more concise”. People who can express the same meaning with the fewest sentences are the best!

Here is an example. When I recruit assistants, I will test their level of writing emails. I tell them the Chinese meaning and ask them to write an email in English. The content is very simple that is to tell the customer Mike:

The sample received last time has been sent to the factory, but the people in the factory say that the material is not ABS, but PP, so they need to re-calculate the price. Due to the price of raw materials increasing recently, we hope Mike can confirm as soon as possible so that we can purchase raw materials and arrange the production.

The first candidate writes like this:

Dear Mike,

This is Jenny from EDF Co. Ltd. We’re so pleased to receive your samples. I already sent them to our factory last week and was informed the real material is PP, not ABS as you mentioned last time. What’s the matter?

I’ll give you a reply as soon as we get the offer from the factory. It will take several days. Please be more patient. But they also told me, the cost of raw material increased these days. Could you please confirm the price quickly after you get it? We’ll purchase the raw material and do the production immediately!

Looking forward to your reply. Thank you!


Best regards



Is this email well? To be honest, it is fair to middling. There are many active voices. She writes the content completely, with fluent expressions and simple vocabularies. But it will be better if it is more concise.

Let’s have a look at the email written by the second candidate:

Dear Mike,

How are you?

We received your all samples. The factory checked the details and found the material was PP. not ABS as you told.

Please give them some more time to recheck the price, because of the materials different from the past orders. However, the price of the material was increased very quickly! Therefore, please kindly place the order soon if the price is OK for you! We’ll do production asap.

 Thank you in advance!

 Kind regards

Tommy Xia

I think that this development letter is better than the previous one. It uses both active and passive voices, and the word “We” only appears once. The content catches the point in a simpler way. Most importantly, he only writes “We’ll do the production asap”, without “the purchase of the raw material”. But in my opinion, it is still a bit wordy.

I will write like this:

Hi Mike,

Samples were received and already passed to the vendor. The material was PP not ABS. Offer sheet is being prepared and will be sent to you soon. By the way, the cost of raw material increased these days. Please make a decision quickly to go ahead after price confirmed. We’ll arrange the mass production asap.

 Thanks and best regards,


You only need to point out the theme by a few sentences and express it clearly. Reread it after writing to see whether you need to delete or change any word. Use less first person and more passive voice. When you re-examine, you find that there are no words to remove and no similar sentence patterns, then you can send your development letters.

To be continued…



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