HRoth - 8:09 pm on Jan 4, 2012 (gmt 0)
If someone emails to ask where to get something that I don't have, I will ask them what they want it for and recommend an alternative that I do have and how they can use it to address whatever issue they are having. I have found that these people usually do end up buying something from me. What they really want is not the widget itself but some help. They will accept some other thing if they feel it will help them. And they will usually thank me profusely.
I also get people who are looking for something specific, and that is all they want, not help for an issue. Usually these are people who are not in my actual niche and it just so happens that what they want appears in my niche. If I don't have it, I will tell them where they can get it if I can do so off the top of my head. I used to give them a url I would quick look up, but I got sick of the absence of a positive result, like a thank you, much less a purchase, so nowadays I just give them the name of a company. Generally, they don't say thank you. Instead, it they email back if I have their phone number or url, I say no, you can look it up online.
Then there are retailers who are sourcing things. They never say thanks and I never help them anymore. I say I don't know where they can get it, even if I do.
Generally, I get the same same approaches on the phone, where it's much easier to suss out what people want the item for and of course to guide them to something I do have. On the phone, I'm more likely to give them a phone number.