What Is the Difference Between a Buyer & a Purchasing Assistant?

by David Ingram; Updated September 26, 2017
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The sales process involves a range of major players and stakeholders, both on the purchasing and the sales sides. In business-to-business (B2B) transactions, buyers and sellers often work together to establish mutually beneficial, long-term partnerships, and sales assistants play a contributing role in these relationships. The concepts of a buyer and a purchasing assistant can easily be confused, but each represents a distinct stakeholder on the buyer side of a B2B transaction. Understanding the difference between these two terms can shed light into the way business-to-business sales transactions take place.

Buyer

The term “buyer” refers to the customer in a sales transaction. In a business-to-consumer transaction, the buyer is an individual. However, in a business-to-business transaction, the company making the purchase is considered the buyer. Obviously, businesses require employees to perform buying activities. Since employees act on behalf of a company, and since corporations and LLCs are considered separate legal entities from their owners and employees, the employees making purchase decisions cannot technically be considered buyers; they're considered agents of the buyer.

Purchasing Manager

Purchasing managers are responsible for handling purchasing activities on behalf of their employers. Purchasing managers develop relationships with suppliers and supply-chain partners to decrease direct costs while continually improving the quality of materials and inventory. A single buyer can have more than one purchasing manager, and managers can come and go within the same company.

Purchasing Assistant

Purchasing assistants perform the routine tasks required to facilitate purchases. Purchasing assistants fill out paperwork to place orders, call suppliers to check on shipments, schedule telephone and in-person meetings for purchasing managers and maintain thorough purchasing records. A purchasing assistant can also act as a liaison between purchasing managers and the rest of the accounting department, passing reports on purchasing activities to company accountants to maintain timely and reliable records.

The purchasing assistant position is a step below the purchasing manager job, creating clear career paths for aspiring purchasing assistants. If there is no room in a company for a purchasing assistant to move up, he may consider becoming an independent purchasing agent to leverage his experience and serve multiple clients as a entrepreneur.

Sales Team

Sales teams are the counterparts of purchasing managers and assistants, facilitating the seller's side of a B2B transaction. Sales teams include sales managers and assistants with similar responsibilities as purchasing managers and assistants. Purchasing assistants are likely to work closely with sales agents or assistants to place orders and ensure payment is sent on time.

About the Author

David Ingram has written for multiple publications since 2009, including "The Houston Chronicle" and online at Business.com. As a small-business owner, Ingram regularly confronts modern issues in management, marketing, finance and business law. He has earned a Bachelor of Arts in management from Walsh University.

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