It’s time we actually looked at skills instead of job titles & length of experience

I've had an eclectic career preferring to take on roles that were interesting or challenging over a linear path upwards. To reference the over referenced Sheryl Sandberg; I’m making my way around a jungle gym not up a ladder. While this works for me and I am able to make an impact in the roles I embark on its not always as easy for recruiter or hiring manager to see it the same way. In all interviews since arriving in London I have had explained the same thing over and over; why the skills in strategic sourcing and market research are the same.

So here is 6 reasons why success in market research is the same as success in strategy sourcing/ procurement.

1. You have to research or procure just about anything

Everything in a business is procured, from HR services to the label on a beer bottle & what’s on the inside. Sourcing pros have to learn quickly to not only write tenders but to negotiate with people who have been in their industries their whole career.

Market researchers have to research everything. The issues, contexts and questions are ever changing. The importance & impact of social media is one such example. Success in market research & customer insights comes from being able to research it all.

2. Surveys, discussion guides or tenders, it’s all about the questions

Tenders are surveys to businesses. All tenders are written with the outputs in mind; to be easily evaluated according to structured & agreed evaluation criteria. (That’s why it can be frustrating to respond to them). Then again surveys don’t always match what you want to say either.

In research the questions & answer options are king. Your insights are only as good as the research plan & methodologies applied. Building a well structured survey or discussion guide makes sure your insights to be useful. And that’s what we’re after, the insights.

3. Insights are derived from both quantitative & qualitative methods

Structured, quantitative tenders will only serve to get a shortlist of qualified suppliers. Touching the products or meeting the people delivering the services can make or break the selection. It’s the icing on the cake.

Good research plans have a deliberate balance between quantitative & qualitative research methods. Deciding which to use & when ensures insights are powerful and relevant.

4. It’s all for nothing if the you can’t influence decision makers

Stakeholders tend to vary in tender projects and there are usually competing objectives. Budgets versus quality can be an issue. A strong ability to influence through communication & interpersonal skills is key to getting a final, negotiated contract.

Clients or stakeholders tend to want research to back up their ideas. A strong ability to influence through communication & interpersonal skills is key to getting an insight actioned. After all the researcher is rarely held responsible for the decisions made.

5. Oh wait, it’s all for nothing if you can’t manage multiple perspectives & agendas

Competing stakeholder objectives can make agreeing impossible. The key to success is balancing the needs of budget holders with users or technical people. It involves a lot of management of stakeholder expectation & perspectives.

Ever told a creative person their work wasn’t liked in research? It’s hard & doesn’t make you friends. Understanding the rational or emotional perspectives & agendas makes influencing much more effective.

6. I’ve done both

Years of strategic souring experience around the world, in many industries & in almost all categories makes me a better & more dynamic researcher. I hope this article has explained a little more how success in procurement/ strategic sourcing roles is the same as success in customer insights & market research.

Briar Harte is a London based Market Researcher with experience in quantitative & qualitative methods, from both the client & the agency side. Her skills are built from a variety of business contexts. It’s eclectic & valuable to the organisations she works with. Check out more at or follow her exploring the world @briarexplores on Twitter and Instagram.

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