Print buyers: the three skills that you need for 2012

Are you making preparations for the Olympics?  Many people I know are planning time off work to make sure they see some of the action.  Whilst others are trying to book holiday at this time to avoid sport completely!

But the people doing the most preparation are the athletes.  They are now in continual training.  They are working on improving their skills.

Print buyers should also be in training

Athletes train like print buyers

Athletes train constantly - so should print buyers

Print buyers who train and improve their skills will achieve more.  They will remain in control of their projects.  And they will be able to continually lead new strategies at their companies.

Print buyers who do not invest in their skills will not be valued by their companies.  They will have less input into company strategy.  The projects that they run will be less successful.  They will achieve less.

So here are the three areas that print buyers should focus on. If they improve their skills in these areas they will make sure that they achieve more in 2012.

Skill 1:  Negotiation

Negotiation is going to be a key skill for everyone in 2012.  All companies are suffering from challenging economic times.  A good print buyer is going to need to achieve the best deal for their company.  But getting good deal requires a lot of creative thinking.  Printers cannot always offer what the print buyer wants.  After all, they are facing their own set of rising costs.

Print buyers have to deal with printers effectively.  They have to know what they can offer printers. They have to know how to structure the right negotiation offer.  And how to research what will make a realistic offer to a printer.  Otherwise they won’t get the best opportunities from their suppliers.  The right negotiation skills can help you to achieve a successful outcome.

However, a print purchase needs far more than negotiation skills.  And that’s where the second skill comes in.

Skill 2:  Purchasing skills

Print buying is about far more than technical print knowledge:  it is about being able to buy effectively.  Good buyers will:

  • be excellent at print specification
  • know why they are using their chosen suppliers
  • have a range of buying processes to suit their project
  • be able to instruct their suppliers appropriately
  • deal with problems effectively

Good buyers will also be able to continually review their purchasing processes.  This allows them to make sure that they are working as efficiently as possible.

But good print buyers know that they also need a successful long-term relationship with a printer.  They need the third skill.

Skill 3:  Supplier management

Supplier management allows a print buyer to remain in control of their relationships with printers.  It allows buyers to measure true performance of both themselves and their printer.  It gives a framework for the relationship that everyone understands.  And it gives them a process to deal with issues.

Good supplier management allows:

  • managing issues before they become problems
  • being able to review your suppliers regularly
  • being able to highlight opportunities for both sides to work more effectively and more profitably

Good print buyers will already have a process for managing all these issues.  But they also know that they need to be constantly improving these skills.

Of course, some print buyers will be wondering about what might seem to be a big gap in these skills.

Print doesn’t seem to feature in the print buyer’s skills for 2012

Print skills may seem like a very important omission.  However, I am going to be controversial.  I would suggest that they are not as important as some people say.  Print knowledge is an important part of a print buyer’s skill set.  But it is useless without proper set of purchasing skills.

So I would encourage print buyers to focus on a set of purchasing skills this year. And it is something that they should focus on throughout the year.

Remember:  a single piece of training is not enough

It is important that print buyers constantly focus on improving their skills.  Learning needs to be put into practice.  And it needs to be repeated to make sure it becomes second nature.

Here are three action points that will help you improve your skillset:

  1. Read relevant books.  One you may be interested in is The Print Industry Negotiation Handbook – see here for more details
  2. Consider investing in print training – have a look here for some potential courses
  3. Start a discussion on best practice with your colleagues – LinkedIn is a great place to do this and there are a number of specialist print groups

Make sure you train throughout 2012

And, just like the Olympic athletes, this could be the year when you go for gold!


P.S.  The Print Industry Negotiation Handbook launches soon.  To receive a free extract “How to avoid using straight line negotiation and giving way on price” sign up here.  You’ll also receive updates on the launch and news of a special launch offer.

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