Buyers and planners work together to keep things running. Buyers typically select vendors, while planners decide what's needed when. In short, buyers focus on vendors and planners focus on numbers. In smaller companies or divisions, one person may handle both positions. In large-scale operations, these roles are divided to allow the right amount of focus to each.
A buyer issues requests for quotes, or RFQs, for goods or services, and then analyzes vendor submissions to determine the best value proposition. Contract negotiations might follow the RFQ process. The final step involves issuing a purchase order to the selected vendor. Most purchase orders are for specific quantities and shipping dates.
Manufacturing and Retail
When buying parts for manufacturing or goods for retail, purchase orders might identify total volume expectations for a given term, and are used to lock in a specific price for that period of time. Quantities are released for shipment against this total volume for daily or weekly shipments. The buyer might issue these releases herself, but this step is often handled by planners, who focus on production schedules or consumer demand instead of costs.
Once a buyer establishes vendor contracts or long-term agreements, a planner determines what is needed to meet monthly, weekly or even daily usage demands. She checks inventory and assesses upcoming expectations to forecast how many parts or goods will be needed for specific delivery dates. Forecasts might be based on market trends, company promotions, sales events, the introduction of new products and other pertinent data.
Media Buyers and Planners
Media buyers and planners have responsibilities that are unique to advertising and marketing. Media buyers work with vendors of advertising services on radio, television, Internet channels and printed materials, such as magazines and newspapers. Media planning uses research data to determine the most effective use of different media channels, often combining them to maximize results.
Which is Right for You?
If you enjoy working with people of all character types and at all levels of an organization, from hands-on workers to executives, a career as a buyer might be a good choice. Make sure, though, that you are comfortable negotiating for the best deal without worrying about hurting someone’s feelings. If you enjoy statistical analysis, planning could be the way to go instead. If you’re great with people and statistics, media planning could be an ideal way for you to combine both, giving you a chance to work with things like demographics and public relations. Media planners are categorized as public relations managers and specialists by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.