“The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time,” said inventor Thomas Edison. And for M&R Distribution Services—a small, minority-owned distributor of maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) products—adhering to that principle has created significant business success. The story of M&R’s introduction to Ariba illustrates how a proactive approach and positive attitude can turn an apparent loss into a sizable gain, ultimately enabling the company to land new contracts worth millions of dollars.
Looking beyond the obvious
Through exceptional service and a focus on optimizing customer results, M&R instills a sense of trust that enables it to compete effectively against much larger companies. So when casino giant Caesars Entertainment sent an invitation to bid on a sizable national air filter contract, M&R jumped at the chance. The opportunity was posted through the Ariba Discovery™ service, and M&R joined the Ariba® Network in order to participate.
But when the bidding was over, another seller had won. And while some companies would consider that the end of the story, M&R saw it as a beginning. The following guidelines convey how M&R pulled victory from the jaws of defeat—and how you can do the same.
1. Expand your definition of success. Seen through a narrow lens, M&R’s foray into Ariba Discovery failed: the company lost the bid. But instead of being discouraged, president and chief operating officer Quentin McCorvey, Sr., took a broader view and recognized the doors Ariba could open for his business. Participating in the event had introduced Quentin to a Caesars contact responsible for purchasing many of the products M&R sells; by nurturing that relationship, he secured a face-to-face meeting with the buyer. Months later, M&R landed a contract to provide gloves and drum liners to the Caesars property in Cleveland, Ohio. And that was only the beginning.
2. Spend a little to gain a lot. After initially signing up for free access to Ariba Discovery, Quentin realized that upgrading to the Advantage package could give M&R a competitive edge. Through an enhanced company profile and prioritized listings in buyer search results, this investment boosted M&R’s exposure not just to Caesars, but other prospects as well.
3. Dig deeper. “Once I started to see the matched leads and potential opportunities on the Ariba Network, I knew I had more investigating to do,” Quentin says. He began using Ariba for market research, a strategy he recommends to other sellers: “You’re not getting hits daily, so it’s important to be proactive and conduct due diligence on your own.” In addition to monitoring current leads, you can “go back and mine past leads and closed business to really understand who the buyers are [so you can] create relationships with them,” he says. “You want to learn who the procurement professionals are in a certain category, and that’s tough to find, but you can get that through the Ariba Network.”As a result, M&R has been able to connect directly with truly interested prospects, which has led to higher sales. “Being able to articulate to the buyer what competitive advantage we have and what we can bring beyond just the bid is critical for our ongoing success,” Quentin says. In addition, M&R has gained visibility into crucial windows of opportunity for long-term contracts in specific purchase areas, where the chance to bid might occur only once in five years.
4. Capitalize on Ariba credibility. M&R has also leveraged its Ariba credentials to demonstrate that it has the same capabilities as huge competitors—which helps erase buyer reluctance to award major contracts to a small, minority-owned company. “There are some very powerful purchasing organizations who use Ariba, and when they hear that we’re connected to the network, it gives us added credibility,” Quentin says. “The Ariba Network really levels the playing field.”
5. Choose quality over quantity. The ability to focus on real opportunities rather than conducting cold calls or chasing uncertain prospects has considerably shortened M&R’s sales cycle, reducing lead generation time by 50%. Better yet, 100% of the leads it receives are highly qualified. “There are other services that claim to be like Ariba that I tried but found completely useless, because I couldn’t get down to the specific products I sell to generate relevant leads,” Quentin says. “Ariba not only helps me target my products, but connects me to the right people who are ready to buy.”
6. Consider the buy side. “I initially looked at Ariba as a sell opportunity for me to sell to my customers, but I now understand it’s also a buy opportunity for me,” Quentin notes. “I can use it to find other manufacturers and people to sell products to me, so I’m able to not only drive more costs out of my supply chain, but also be more competitive in the marketplace.”
An eye to the future: Upping the game
Strategies like these have helped M&R realize remarkable results through Ariba. In addition to scaling its business both nationally and in select international markets, the company has already achieved 10% year-over-year growth, and expects to triple that number moving forward. To reach this goal, Quentin plans to continue his active pursuit of “greater ways to utilize the network, and greater ways to enhance the opportunities it can provide for me and my company.”