Today's blog is by Jonathan Fiala. He is the director of operations for Next Day Plus, a Chicago-based provider of imaging equipment and supplies.
As a small imaging supply and copier company with fewer than 50 employees, we face some stiff competition from big box retailers. That doesn’t scare us, because we’re confident in our products and the services we deliver.
Our challenge, though, is getting the opportunity to show what we can do. When it comes to gaining visibility with corporate buyers, we often find ourselves hidden in the shadows of our larger rivals.
It’s the classic battle of David and Goliath. But we’re fighting it in a modern way. Every day, billions of people use online sites to find and buy the things they want and need. Lots of companies are starting to do the same. So we decided to get in the game.
Facebook for Business?
We began by searching for ways in which we could do business online. We uncovered plenty of sites where we could list our products and services. But we didn’t want to be a faceless vendor managed by a middle man. We wanted to be able to show our unique capabilities and make direct connections with customers and prospects.
So we kept looking, and eventually came across a business network. Much like the social sites consumers use to manage their personal connections and activities, the network promised a fast, easy way to link with millions of buyers from around the world and collaborate on everything from bids and orders to invoices and payments. Sort of like the ease and accessibility of Facebook but for purchasing and conducting business.
Could it really be that easy? We were skeptical. But we decided to take a chance and joined the Ariba® Network. And it completely changed our game.
Tracking and Managing a New, Digital Sales Cycle
We shifted our business from bricks to clicks and now operate in a dynamic, digital marketplace where – beyond just posting our products online – we can track and manage our sales cycle from beginning to end to accurately predict cash flow, increase revenue, and grow our business.
Instead of chasing leads and trying to qualify them, we automatically receive targeted opportunities through a service that matches our capabilities with buyer needs. And we’re converting them into real business we simply couldn’t access before.
We’re collaborating with our customers on everything from POs to invoices electronically. And this has improved our communication, order accuracy, and, ultimately, our relationships.
Instant Credibility with Buyers
As a member of the network, we have instant credibility with buyers who might not otherwise have given us a look. Before joining the network, it was hard for us as a smaller company to show our value, cost savings, and efficiencies. Now, we’re competing for business against some of the largest players in the industry. And we’re winning. Not only are we able to compete against giants like Staples and OfficeMax, but being on the Ariba Network has also given us direct access to others on the network, leading to a recent deal with a large waste-management company. We’ve emerged from their shadows. And our future looks bright.