Day in, day out, sales teams come up against a relatively new breed of professional: the procurement officer, or the buying manager, or the purchasing officer.
“Buyers are the people responsible for sourcing, selecting, developing, and introducing new and existing product ranges that suit their stores and customer base. [The buyer’s] decisions are vitally important to the business: even the most well-known companies can run into trouble if their buyers get the products wrong.”
But who are these people and how did they get to where they are today?
Procurement is a fast-paced industry, having only come into its own in the last couple of decades. The path to a buying role in any procurement department and in any industry is still quite haphazard, with some employers looking for practical, hands-on experience, others looking for degree-level industry education, some wanting specific business-related qualifications – and many wanting a combination of all three.
Procurement is not a career for the lazy or faint of heart.
The majority of buyers sales team will come up against will be well educated, highly trained, very demanding and have multiple areas of expertise.
Education for procurement
For the most part, buyers have degrees related to engineering, logistics, supply-chain management and business management. Some employers prefer a research-heavy degree – in humanities or science – and offer graduate training programs, so the company can create its perfect procurement machine.
Buyers are a driven bunch, so it would be no surprise to find an undergrad with an early eye on a future in procurement has chosen a degree in:
Some employers like to see ready-made buyers coming out with MSc degrees in niche subjects like:
In the UK particularly, a Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) qualification and membership, whether before or after a degree, shows an advanced understanding of purchasing and supply management as well as other essential issues which affect business – but buyers also need to show proven aptitude for making the theory work in real business environments before being hired
Skill sets for the procurement world
Buyer recruitment websites recommend purchasing manager applicants in the UK display a heady range of proficiencies:
Even recent graduates must show considerable skills to apply for a buying position or graduate training program:
Everyone agrees, from CEO and CPOs to recruitment officers and award judges, there is a clear set of skills needed, whatever industry the buyer works in. Numerical and analytical skills, excellent communication competence, creativity, innovation and flexibility rate highly.
Obviously not every procurement officer the sales team comes up against is going to be shooting for the stars, but they will all be beholden to the ever-present KPI.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) in the procurement department can be divided into six categories according to the Purchasing Procurement Center:
While these KPIs are important against internal statistics and data, they are also checked against national and international benchmarks to ensure ongoing development and staying ahead of the game.
For all this pressure and expectation, education and assessment, what will the buyer opposite the sales team likely to be earning?
In the UK:
A salary survey by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) reports that the average wage of a procurement professional is £42,000. It also states that salaries are highest in the private sector and in London and the South East. Professionals with MCIPS earn on average 22% more than those without accreditation.
In the US, the average procurement manager salary in March 2017 is $81,621, but can range from $22, 000 to $179,000.
How does this help the sales team?
Having a better understanding of where the procurement officer has come from and what is expected of them helps the sales team understand what the buyer in front of them needs and has to achieve on a business level. Knowledge is power!
30+ years of experience helping salespeople transform their sales dialogues and engage with even the most challenging professional buyers.