From recruiting companies looking to secure government contracts to online retailers who want to get involved in procurement marketing, the Ariba Discovery service has helped thousands of suppliers establish new relationships and increase sales.
In a session at SAP Ariba Live earlier this year, Avi Solomon, director of sales for UnbeatableSale.com, and Bob Rosenthal, owner of JP Promotional Products, shared their Ariba Discovery success stories—along with the strategies they use to realize great results.
- Polish your profile. “Your profile is probably one of the most important things” to help you optimize opportunities, Avi says, since it’s the first place buyers look to learn more about your company. Be sure to provide complete and current information to present your organization, products, and services in the best possible light. And remember that potential customers can see the “last updated” date on your profile, so a set-it-and-forget-it strategy won’t work. Make regular revisions to show you’re actively engaged in seeking new business.
- Focus on long-term connections. “Don’t think of Ariba Discovery as something that’s going to create a quick one-two-three sale; think of it as something you’re using to build relationships,” Avi advises. “The sale is not just whether you got a transaction on the spot or not. It’s whether someone saved you as a preferred supplier that they’ll consider in the future.” Bob agrees, citing many instances where his company established relationships during bids—even those they didn’t win—that led to bigger opportunities later. “What Ariba Discovery gave us is the ability to interact with large companies that there’s no way a little place like ours could do [before],” he says.
- Report positive results. References play a big role in building trust with potential new partners, so ask happy customers to provide them. “You have to really reach out to people and say, ‘If you had a good experience with me, can you give me a good review?’” Avi says. You can easily request reviews by clicking “References” from the “Profile” dropdown within your account.
- Don’t skip the small stuff. Though it’s tempting to only pursue high-value deals, small ones can prove equally significant. Bob tells this story: “We had a young lady working for us who had some friends who started a band. They didn’t have any money; they were a new band. They had $100 to buy pencils, and we said, ‘Okay, we’ll do it as a friend.’ Well, the band turned out to be Fall Out Boy, and they bought from us for some time until their label was taken over by Warner. I learned at that point: let’s not turn down any order. You never know where it’s going to go.”
- Follow the golden rule. When talking to procurement managers, Bob focuses on their needs first, telling them, “’We want to make you look good, and we want to make it easy for you.’ That helps to develop the relationship.” He advocates a high-engagement approach: “Stay in touch with the buyer; I can’t repeat that enough,” he says. And remember, generosity invites reciprocity. “If you’re creating a relationship, you’re looking to both give and take,” Avi says. “You have to give each customer you want to interact with the time of day. In return, they’ll give you the time of day, and that will lead to winning business.”
“The sale is not just whether you got a transaction on the spot or not. It’s whether someone saved you as a preferred supplier that they’ll consider in the future.”
- Get comfortable with trial and error. “To really make Ariba Discovery work for you, you have to give it a trial-and-error stage,” Avi says, adding that this will take many forms. “It’s going to come in learning how to respond to people better, learning what people need, reading their posts, and understanding better what they’re looking for.” An Advantage subscription makes this much easier, since it gives you unlimited responses for a flat fee. “The nice thing about Ariba Discovery is it’s relatively cheap to try out, and that’s a very important thing,” says Avi. “You don't want to spend $10,000 or $20,000 on something just to find out that it either doesn’t fit your business model or doesn’t work altogether.”
- Go the extra mile. When it comes to making yourself stand out, extra effort is your ally. For example, Avi suggests, when you respond to a lead, include an attachment with prices and images of your products to give the buyer a better idea of what you’re offering. “Sometimes, if you just say ‘Yeah, I’m interested,’ they’re going to delete it, because they get 20 or 30 of those.” If the buyer’s identity is available, you can research them online to learn who they are and what they need. This helps you better assess how well you can help them, and enables you to hone a more effective response.
- Be the tortoise, not the hare. As the famous fable illustrates, slow but steady wins the race. So while there’s often a need for speed, consistent effort over the long term can really pay off. “A company was looking for a thousand pairs of socks imprinted with their logo, and it turned out to be a Fortune 100 company,” says Bob. “We established a relationship with the procurement manager. He gave us a lot of information, we went back and forth, and we made a bid on the socks. They never bought the socks, but because of the relationship we established with him, he kept feeding us opportunities, one after another. In 18 months, we’ve done over $200,000 in sales with this one opportunity.”
- Leverage your rep. Having another pair of eyes on your product offerings or another brain to think through strategy is a great way to identify gaps in your approach. An Ariba Discovery representative provides both. “My rep and I speak a couple times a week,” Bob says. “He points out things to me that I may have missed. He wants to make sure I see things, and I ask him to react to things and to let me know what’s going on.”
“We’ve generated a little less than $250,000 in sales from $1,100 [spent on fees]. So that was certainly well worth the investment.”
- Compete through collaboration. Ariba Discovery allows you to find other suppliers who excel at things you may not be able to do. Potential partnerships lie within these situations. By collaborating to provide more complete solutions for larger companies, you expand everyone’s piece of the pie.
- Take the time to do it right. As with most things in life, what you get out of Ariba Discovery depends on what you put into it. “It’s not something you’re going to be able to just sign up for and magic is going to all of a sudden happen so you start seeing conversions and sales,” Avi says. “It’s something that’s going to take time, but if you invest that time, you will see a return on your investment.”
For additional tips and ideas on how to leverage Ariba Discovery to grow your business, watch the complete Slideshare of this presentation.