Kralijc’s (1983) purchasing portfolio approach holds that different types of purchases need different sourcing strategies, underpinned by distinct sets of resources and practices. The approach is widely deployed in business and extensively researched, and yet little research has been conducted on how knowledge and skills vary across a portfolio of purchases. This study extends the body of knowledge on purchasing portfolio management, and its application in the strategic development of purchasing in an organization, and on human resource management in the purchasing function. A novel approach to profiling purchasing skills is proposed, which is well suited to dynamic environments which require flexibility. In a survey, experienced purchasing personnel described a specific purchase and profiled the skills required for effective performance in purchasing that item. Purchases were categorized according to their importance to the organization (internally-oriented evaluation of cost and production factors) and to the supply market (externally-oriented evaluation of commercial risk and uncertainty). Through cluster analysis three key types of purchase situations were identified. The skills required for effective purchasing vary significantly across the three clusters (for 22 skills, p<0.01). Prior research shows that global organizations use the purchasing portfolio approach to develop sourcing strategies, but also aggregate analyses to inform the design of purchasing arrangements (local vs global) and to develop their improvement plans. Such organizations would also benefit from profiling skills by purchase type. We demonstrate how the survey can be adapted to provide a management tool for global firms seeking to improve procurement capability, flexibility and performance.