As a buyer I can recall thinking that, of course I was getting the best out of my suppliers – I demanded, they delivered… It wasn’t until moving into account management, that I began to wonder how effective my previous tactics really had been, and whether I had always succeeded in extracting the maximum value from all my suppliers.

So, as an account manager, which customers got most of the investment and support from my company? It was:

  1. Those customers who could best articulate what they wanted to do – their strategy and needs.
  2. Those customers that were most passionate about their business and delighting their shoppers.
  3. Those customers that could support their demands/strategy/plans with hard data – sales data or shopper data.
  4. Finally, those customers who also showed an interest in our plans, aspirations and strategies.

When I was a buyer, 99% of training I received was in Negotiation – surely, that’s what a buyer does, isn’t it?

In fact, to be able to do the four things listed above, buyers need to develop new skills, many of which have historically been associated with account managers. Learn to present your ideas in an enthusiastic, motivational way to your suppliers, to ensure you get their best buy-in. Use data wherever possible to support your proposals. And finally, learn to ask great open questions to find out what your suppliers’ needs are too.

Remember – suppliers’ resources are finite – they need to decide where to invest.

These are not “traditional” buying skills, but mustering and using them with your suppliers will set you apart from your competitors in their eyes, and ensure you get more value out of the trading relationship than your competitors.