by Prue Gargano
Imagine the following: you are an upmarket clothing retailer in the Netherlands, and you are interested in importing some of the stunning new knitwear from New Zealand that has made it to the Paris fashion shows in a big way. Your branch in England has supplied you with some contacts in New Zealand, and now you start ringing them.
No luck. All you get are answering machine messages saying that the office is currently unattended, and please try later. You try again an hour later, and again that message. Do New Zealanders have such long lunch breaks? However, rather than use e-mail, you decide to persevere: after all, it is the initial contact that is so important, and e-mail can be rather impersonal. Then you strike it lucky: you are automatically switched to another line. A sleepy voice answers. It is two in the morning in New Zealand, and you have just got the New Zealand sales representative out of bed.
An important lesson for Europeans: check the time in that part of the world you are doing business with. A grumpy reaction from Kuala Lumpur may not be a sales rep with a bad attitude, but a hard-working manager trying to relax at home for a few hours. Find out what is the best time to ring him and what that time is in relation to your time zone. You may find that you have to ring at a time that is not so convenient for you? Perhaps that e-mail is not such a bad idea after all!