Much focus is often placed upon the ability to sell. Countless lectures, classes, videos and column inches have been dedicated to strategising techniques in selling products to various customers, but with this emphasis on educating people in the art of persuasion, it could be argued that the ability to buy well is just as – if not more – important.
A lot of pressure sits on the shoulders of a retail buyer. Responsible for planning, selecting and purchasing quantities of goods and merchandise that are then sold in stores, the success of a company could very well come down to the ability of a buyer. It’s not exactly a straightforward job, either. Various complexities can arise from any angle – budgeting complications, relationships with salespeople and tough decision making all come into the equation on a daily basis; so how can a buyer perfect their profession?
The job of a buyer begins with choosing brands or suppliers to do work with, and if you’re employed by a company working on a global scale. Whilst choosing distributors that remove the frustrations of dealing with brands across borders is a simple way around this problem, the chances are you will eventually bump into some international barriers.
These come with a string of potential roadblocks: culture, language and timezone; oftentimes, all three at once. Different corners of the world perform all sorts of differing business practices. For example, diving straight into business before getting to know someone is heavily frowned upon in Turkey, and during negotiations, the use of pressure tactics should be completely avoided.
In these instances, it’s vital to remain patient, to listen and adapt to the environment. In any situation, do your homework into cultural practices in wherever you may be heading.
Due diligence behind a company or product is a must anyway, and going that step further to take the time to understand who you are dealing with (and where) will be very well received.
Another key factor in choosing new suppliers is taking the time to assess every opportunity.
The life of a buyer is a very busy one – and being approached by different distributors will become a frequent occurrence. It’s vital that buyers don’t become too focussed on ignoring new business, and cutting any chance of new opportunities as a result.
Buyers want to work with someone honest, open, and with a strong plan to grow, and while they might already have that in who they are already in business with, the best buyers are always on the lookout for better; to constantly improve and expand.
The importance of relationships
Just as dealers trust that buyers are giving them the best prices and services as possible, that good will needs to be replicated on their side too. Honesty, trust and mutual respect are key in a strong working relationship, and even if it means missing out on a short term cost cut, long term reliability is a much more valuable asset for a business, let alone a buyer.
Holding good relationships with salespeople can give buyers access and insight exclusive to them. Companies will share information for upcoming projects unavailable to the public, and this inside knowledge can promise huge benefits in the buying process – allowing for a much more accurate forecast.
Not only that, but these relationships can offer stability. A well known supplier grants reliable products, prices and services for as long as that feeling is sustained. Couple this with the inside access and the buying process becomes much easier.
Making tough decisions
As a buyer, it is your job to make decisions. Be it negotiating, choosing between suppliers or picking products – difficult decisions come up on a daily basis. Making them would rarely be considered ‘easy’, and a lot of it comes down to experience and knowledge. But the bottom line is that the numbers don’t lie, and while it is easy to go off personal interest, these decisions often don’t work out unless backed by logic. The numbers don’t lie; a simple assessment, but a hard truth that should be adhered to.
Prioritise your brand and make calculated choices in sales and targets – and ensure they tick every single box before coming to a conclusion.
Though making a purchase is almost instantaneous, when buying, you have to play the long game – and patience is a key element. We’ve already established that the decision making process can be tough, so why rush into a decision? Relationships take time to build, and selecting suppliers can take no end of meetings and calls.
Research comes into play in every department – take the time to look into a product’s target market and competitions to see how it stacks up. Even going as far as looking into customer reviews on various channels, and which countries it’s available in.
The pricing of a product is important, but not definitive, and after sale support can make or break a brand. It’s the long game – does a company have a robust repair/return system? There’s more than spending money to buying – everything has to be followed through thoroughly, and it takes a lot of patience.
The responsibilities of a retail buyer are more complex than ever as the landscape becomes increasingly more competitive and pressures on the role intensify. As budgets continue to be pinched and anxiety around political issues such as Brexit persists, having the right buyer in place to navigate the minefield of purchasing the right products could make or break a business.
By David Feakins, CEO and founder of Modus Brands