Pulse: The Art of the Buy
Those honored in Dealerscope’s inaugural Influential Buyers issue this month are diverse individuals who ply their trade in both the retailing and distributing arenas.
Their peers, and those from whom they buy, saw fit to single them out for their talent, personal charisma and skills at being able to sense a “good buy” from among the thousands of product offerings they see every year.
Most started at an entry level in the business, and, like so many of you, were bitten by the CE bug early on—and that bite left them all wanting more of the same.
“The best part of the job is that I work in a category where customers don’t technically need what we sell,” observed Magnolia/Best Buy’s Sara Klarstrom, from a retail perspective. “They want it.”
That pretty well sums up at least part of what makes the buying business fun.
As for challenges, there are always some, when buyers are building relationships. Hudson Group’s John Bradley equated a good buying relationship to “a good marriage—one partner doesn’t get his or her way in everything.” “It’s a two-way street,” elaborated Stephen F. Weller of Newegg.com. “If both parties walk away thinking they got a good deal, then in the end, it will result in a better outcome.”
For every buyer, challenges also extend to an occasional misstep in making a buy that shouldn’t have been made—“thinking an item is going to take off once it hits stores and seeing it just sit there, cold. That can be discouraging,” said InMotion Entertainment’s Mike Conway. “However, I’ve learned in those instances to just say ‘next,’ and move on.”
Conway espoused a business philosophy of “treating people the same way I want to be treated”—a way of doing business that echoes in every one of these profiles. That often means “hearing out a person” even if you know five minutes into a meeting that the product being pitched isn’t for you, he says.
Distributor buyers, too, as the frontline helpmates to their dealer clients, have just as much fun as retail buyers do in working to shepherd dealers toward categories that are, as D&H’s Doug Byrne put it, “on the cusp of trends as they develop.” Byrne sees his mission as helping his retail partners venture into new and lucrative areas that might be outside their usual “comfort zone” core-product baskets, but which hold great potential as logical expansions for them.
QDI’s Garry Hill’s behavior is typical of all the best distributors in that he sees his job as a buyer to “read and know as much as possible” and to “be patient, listen and pay attention.
“I like to equate the game of golf with buying,” Hill continued. “Few strokes and a slow swing tallies low scores in golf. Two slow nickels versus one fast dime in buying equates to long business relationships and prosperity.”
Patience is but one of many virtues that these “buying artists” must call upon to stay on their game. It, along with a willing ear and a reliable instinct for “people-reading,” all help to keep these honorees anchored and focused in the endless and rapidly changing parade of new products constantly passing before them.
Having vision, foresight, and an aptitude for market conditions and how to take advantage of them is what spells the difference between success and failure, said Weller. “The actual product is almost secondary.”
We invite you to read in our special section about what else these winning buyers from all walks of the business say about the business of buying. We’re pretty sure you’ll find much in common with your own experiences, but you will probably gain a few new perspectives, too. And that’s something that can’t be bought—only learned.