Buying agents –also known as purchasing agents– are increasingly used in foreign trade operations: exports and imports. Buying agents are responsible for buying supplies, products, materials and services at the lowest possible price while maintaining a high level of quality. Buying agents must be skilled in assessing current market conditions as they directly affect supply and demand for services and products. Factors that are considered during the process include evaluating quality and reliability, price and availability in addition to customer service available after the purchase. The goal of a buying agent is to locate suppliers and to negotiate the best price without sacrificing quality for those goods and services needed by their organization. Here are some helpful tips and suggestions on how to become a buying agent.
A buying agent is a professional who is charged with the responsibility of maintaining adequate amounts of essential materials on hand for the operation of a business. In addition to being concerned with making sure the business has what it needs to produce goods and services, the agent is often actively involved in the task of negotiating prices for those materials. A buying agent may function alone in a small company or be part of a buying team for a larger company. A large part of buying agents work on their own through a Buying Agent Contract that they sign with their clients, through which they receive commissions for the operations carried out.
A basic job description for this position will provide data on the specific range of tasks assigned to the position. Depending on the culture and structure of the company involved, the agent may be responsible for managing the inventory for everything from office supplies to raw materials used in manufacturing goods. Within the scope of making purchases for the inventory, the agent may be granted the authority to enter into contracts with vendors on behalf of the employer. In other instances, the buying agent may be actively involved in negotiations to secure the best unit pricing on the goods ordered, ultimately referring the matter to an executive for approval before actually placing the first order.
With most buying agent positions, it is necessary to constantly compare pricing for different goods and services in order to save the company money. This is especially true when the business operates multiple plants at various locations. In this scenario, each plant will normally have a supply clerk who manages materials inventories at that level, but coordinates purchases through a buying agent. Typically, the clerk submits a requisition for goods to the agent, who then evaluates the request. If it is approved, the agent determines where to get the best deal on those goods and matches the requisition to a purchase order. At that point, the order is placed with the approved vendor and the goods can be shipped directly to the plant where the request originated.
In order to be a successful buying agent, it is necessary to have strong organizational skills, understand the industry involved, and be able to research and qualify vendors with a great deal of efficiency. Since an agent typically must interact with others within the company as well as vendors and suppliers, the ability to communicate clearly is also extremely important. Since purchasing work in a large company can be somewhat stressful, a buying agent must also be able to deal with difficult deadlines and often manage more than one project at a time in order to fulfill his or her responsibilities
Steps to become a Buying Agent
1. Conduct some research on the Internet to explore the industry and to learn more about the type of work performed by a buying agent. This is an important initial step if you have no experience or training in the field.
2. Know that a general requirement to successfully enter the field and become a buying agent is to have a Bachelor’s Degree. Many firms prefer that applicants have a Master’s Degree. Some sectors or specializations require certification
3. Think about your lifestyle and personal obligations when considering a career as a buying agent. The work environment often will include irregular hours and a tight schedule due to production requirements and meeting deadlines. Peak periods may extend the work load into evenings or weekends as well as holidays.
4. Understand that the work of a buying agent often includes travel to meet with potential suppliers to negotiate prices. Buying agents also attend conferences that entail long distance travel
5. Evaluate your skills and abilities to assess if you have the aptitude to succeed as a buying agent. Work within this field requires strong communication skills and the ability to negotiate.
6. Consider your ability to analyze technical data and to perform financial analyses. You must have strong mathematical and computer skills in addition to understanding the work flow of supply-chain management.
7. Assess your level of business expertise, marketing and leadership skills. Buying agents must have solid organizational and decision making abilities.
8. Consider registering with professional associations for those working as buying agents. At the same time explore career options to learn more about the industry as well as having the opportunity to network with those already working in the field as buying agents.
Buying Agent Commission
Usually buying agents obtain their income through the commissions they charge their clients for the purchase operations carried out. Sometimes they can also receive income from travel expenses to visit potential suppliers. The commissions usually oscillate between 1% and 10% of the amount of each operation carried out. As a general rule, the higher the transaction amount, the lower the commission received by the purchasing agent.
Buying Agent Contract
Finally the buying agent should sign a contract with their clients. In the Buying Agent Contract one party (Principal) appoints another (Buying Agent) to represent and buy a specific kind of products within a specific territory that can be a country or multiple countries. The responsibilities of the Buying Agent may include, among others, the following: identifying manufacturers and suppliers of products within the described territory; negotiating prices, terms of delivery and payment; managing the international transport of documents which comply with export and import procedures; assisting and serving as a translator of the Principal´s representatives when visiting the country to negotiate purchase contracts or to check on the manufacturing of products.