All the buyers taking part in our forum agree that the buying and selling roles share a set of skills. They list relationship building, negotiation, an ability to think on one&'s feet, communication, organisation, planning, project management, persuasion, decision-making, the need to hit targets, customer focus and retail knowledge as common attributes.
There is also widespread belief that suppliers are keen on applicants who have seen the other side.
&"There is huge value in taking on someone who understands how retailers work and what makes them tick,&" says one buyer.
And respondents are also convinced that there are benefits to both sides.
&"Much can be gained both personally and corporately for the supplier and retailer by personnel who are prepared to make the switch,&" is one comment, while another buyer, who has done both roles, adds: &"The experience of seeing both sides of the desk is invaluable and has totally changed the way I approach dealings now.&"
There is consensus that switching from buying to selling is easier than the other way round, and it is certainly more common. Dan Jago, who has taken over as Tesco&'s BWS category director, having been joint MD at Bibendum, is a rarity.
&"Even though many of the key skills are the same, I know a number of buyers that have moved to the supply side but none the other way,&" says one buyer.
&"It is possible for suppliers to make the switch, as long as they have a good understanding of what the consumer wants.&"
However, going to work for a supplier may not be as straightforward a move as most buyers seem to think.
John Gee, former Tesco buyer, now a food and drink specialist for recruitment consultant Nigel Wright, says the roles&' intrinsic links mean that buyers like to think that they could adapt easily to the opposite role.
However, he warns, there are different principles involved: &"Buyers see sales people for an hour at a time and get a feel for what makes a good salesperson, but trying to replicate this is very different.
&"There is often a lot going on behind the scenes that retailers don&'t need to know, so buyers don&'t get to see that. Sales is a discipline and buyers are not trained in it.&"
What prompts the switch is often the desire for a change of location; it is a move rarely motivated by financial concerns, at least in the short term, as Gee points out: &"Buyers wanting to move will often be up against proven sales people and will probably have to take a significant drop in salary until they&'ve proved themselves in a sales role.&"
And there are other considerations. Working conditions vary, as most retailers are office-bound, whereas suppliers work more flexibly from home. And there is also quite a shift in the balance of power, with the retailer usually having the upper hand .
Gee&'s advice is to expect a huge learning curve and be prepared for big changes. &"It&'s a major cultural change. As a buyer, you get a buzz from salespeople who are vying for your attention. As a seller, you&'ll get more knockbacks but you must not take it personally.
&"You&'ve got to prove yourself before qualifying for the big money and you&'ll have to be prepared to take a realistic view of salary.
&"There are no hard and fast rules. Some senior level buyers or category controllers have gone on to senior sales roles within suppliers but they&'ve generally had many years experience; it&'s not that easy for someone with just a few years behind them.&"
What buyers say: