JER Online

Buyers Extraordinaire: Agents of Action

By Dr. John Reid, President, JER Online

As buyers of online certificates and courses office administrators and staff members should be rethinking the decision making process. The approach of adding to existing inventories rather than maintaining what is currently offered requires a buyer mentality. Consider that the products and services purchased by consumers at Wall Mart, Home Depot, etc. are made possible because seasoned purchasers are committed to meeting marketplace demand. They work at many different levels with many different vendors. Why then would the Continuing Workforce Education unit operate any differently in their approach to business?  

Staff need to be focused on how to be more effective at working though the milieu of programs made available to us. In this regard two key questions can be asked: (1)are you running your online vendor program like a business to the extent that significant profitability is being realized and (2) is there a bottom up and top down buyer mentality at work within your unit?  And if so, is staff acting in the capacity of buyers who are extraordinarily effective at what they do?

So who is the buyer extraordinaire? Consider the following. This individual or unit understands that the “sales” word is to be embraced and acted upon in order to achieve outcomes that favor their programs, students, employees and clients they service. In doing so they characteristically exhibit a “big picture” mentality and way of looking at things. There is an expert level of applied knowledge on how to position products and services that consistently generate revenue for the self-sustaining program they operate in. These buyers are always looking to build and expand inventories. In the role as a buyer extraordinaire persons of this caliber have an insatiable appetite to learn all they can about programs at their disposal. They are skilled negotiators always looking out for the best pricing and value. Here are some other key characteristics:

1.  Accustomed to taking chances to get a big pay off.
2.  Skilled at perfectly matching up content based on varied customer demand.
3.  Customer retention—they have a history or getting repeat business.

 As Agents of Action, the opportunities they act upon serve as beacons for other staff members and peers. Their work ethic is contagious. The ability to transition from status quo to “status go” is well documented in bottom line sales reports. These individuals see every reason to open up new business and move from the methods of the past to innovation and collaboration of today. They are dynamic individuals.  A buyer extraordinaire is a solution seeking staffer who responds proactively when business presents itself regardless of mission. They know their product line and are always looking for new additions that will benefit the unit and customers alike.  

Ralph Elliot the former vice provost for Off-Campus, Distance and Continuing Education at Clemson University has written about this subject from a slightly different perspective. As the now Executive Director at Effective Seminar Marketing Institute he comments that, (1) evaluating your processes, (2) structuring your marketing, and (3) most importantly, selling more contracts in today's economy is key to repositioning your brand for more business in 2011. According to Dr. Elliot, “How to sell on value and price to make a profit is exactly what is needed.”  I concur. 


The landscape is changing dramatically in continuing workforce education. We are certainly not returning to all of the “tried and true” methods of the past but fast forwarding to the present and beyond. In this sense the buyer of online certificates and courses acts in the capacity of an “agent of action”.  It is time for CE departments to look more closely at how they conduct business on the buying end. The programs that really succeed, and gain local, regional and national success and prominence are going to be those where vision and action are melded with the capabilities of individuals that are amply described as visionaries, innovators and collaborators. In this capacity they are indeed deemed “buyers extraordinaire”.
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