Duties and responsibilities
Buyers, who are supervised by purchasing managers, buy products and services for businesses. These products or services are either for the business to use themselves, or for resale. They are responsible for evaluating suppliers, negotiating contracts and reviewing the quality of the products – they handle less complex procurement tasks than a purchasing manager. Their typical duties and responsibilities include:
- Evaluating suppliers on the basis of the price, quality, and speed of delivery of their products and/or services
- Interviewing vendors and visiting suppliers
- Attending meetings and conferences to learn about new industry trends
- Analyzing price proposals and financial reports to determine reasonable prices
- Negotiating contracts with suppliers on behalf of their organization
- Maintaining and reviewing records of items bought, costs, deliveries, product performance, and inventories
Although not always necessary, it is advisable to achieve a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as business, finance or supply management. Many employers prefer candidates with degrees and having a degree will give you the best career progression opportunities. Buyers typically receive extensive on-the-job training for a few months. During this time, they will learn how to perform their basic duties, including monitoring inventory levels and negotiating with suppliers.
There are several certifications available to buyers. Although some employers may require certification, many do not. Most of these certifications involve oral or written exams and have education and work experience requirements.
Skills and relevant work experience
Buyers will need skills such as:
- Verbal and written communication, as this will allow buyers to successful negotiate contracts, write emails correspondence and keep files up to date
- Negotiation skills, as buyers will need to negotiate prices and contracts with suppliers
- Decision making skills, as buyers must be able to make informed and timely decisions
- Customer service skills, as buyers will need the interpersonal skills to interact and communicate with suppliers
- Mathematical skills, as buyers need to be able to compare prices from different suppliers to get the best deal
Most buyers will work full time. They may often find themselves working overtime and long hours, as well as travelling to different locations (nationally and internationally).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for buyers in the United States was $64,380 in2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,230, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $107,510.
Buyers can progress into more senior roles, such as a purchasing manager. To get to this higher role, buyers will need to have substantial experience in the role. Buyers may also decide to specialize in a particular area of buying. Such areas include agriculture, wholesale and retail.