Today’s professional buyer: An intriguing mix of intelligences and abilities
Many who choose procurement as a career have an intriguing mix of intelligences and abilities. The buyer personality is not one to underestimate.
UK student advisory service, Prospects, introduces procurement as a profession with a telling summary : "If you're good with numbers and enjoy negotiating and communicating, procurement could be the job for you"
Recruitment agency Target Jobs dives deeper into the job of procurement officer, describing it as an "intense and varied role that demands logic, numeracy and long-term strategy" and has a long list of skills needed in the industry:
- Be flexible and versatile
- Balance long- and short-term goals and juggle several projects at the same time
- Dedicated and willing to work long hours
- Enjoy a demanding environment and taking responsibility
- Face challenges head on
- Be personable and sociable
- Trust your gut
- Be a great communicator and be able to influence sales people and suppliers
- Be quick and concise in explanations
- Be a good listener and have the emotional intelligence to connect with others, to keep the communication channels open and be able to identify ways to fill knowledge gaps
- Be entrepreneurial
- Able to use initiative
- Have a genuine interest in the industry
- Inquisitive nature
- Positive attitude
Going beyond skill
Tom Birrane, Head of Procurement and Supply Chain recruitment at Uniting Ambition, says “Ambition and passion are essential personal qualities for any procurement professional, but they have to blend well with personality, attitude and integrity. Procurement is a role which requires problem solving and organisation. To succeed in the industry, you need to be confident, creative and comfortable communicating at all levels. Skills are important, but to impress procurement recruiters you also need to have a winning attitude and an engaging personality.
When interacting with sales people, negotiation skills are absolute key, but so is the ability to influence and inspire. “Being a strong influencer requires high levels of empathy and understanding”, says Birrane, “as well as a good degree of personal authority and professionalism.”
A buyer for TK Maxx, David Byron says “A lot of people seem to think we just go out, buy products, send them to the store and that’s it, but the process is actually much more complex. Much of the work revolves around analysis, so most days will begin with checking sales data from the day before, and reviewing what is working and what is not. This is crucial in helping to decide which products or product ranges to buy in the future. Buyers need to think ahead, often making decisions months in advance of when the products will be needed to ensure that they are available for the consumer on time.”
If that is not enough, there is also general consensus that says a good buyer should be willing to relinquish a little control and trust the salesperson to help solve problems.
By forming close ties with suppliers and developing inter-departmental relationships, good buyers keep their finger on the pulse of industry and procurement developments, being ready to spot a gap for innovation or improvement within the department or company, industry or along the supply chain, whether product, service or logistics driven.
Target Jobs points out that buyers also “need to liaise with colleagues and other teams within the retailer in order to make the best decisions. A buyer in charge of men’s shirts, for example, would need to stay in close contact with the buyer responsible for men’s ties.” 
On top of that, senior buyers need to audit production factories to check they are managed ethically and legally, which needs refined cross-cultural communication skills and tact.
To stay ahead of the game, many buyers read Procurement Leaders Magazine http://www.procurementleaders.com/magazine/magazine and CIPS website https://www.cips.org/en-gb/news/, where they can also stay ahead of the game with information from the knowledge hub. For a more detailed understanding of the buyer, keep a copy of Procurement Principles and Management or Procurement and Supply Chain Management by your bed to truly get inside the buyer’s head.
The role of the buying department and its employees is vast and varied, so the sales team should take a moment to appreciate buyers’ diverse abilities and intelligences and not be too quick to dismiss them, make assumptions about them or fail to ask the tough questions of the buyer. Building a meaningful relationship with buyers can be incredibly beneficial for both parties and, quite possibly, the industry as a whole.