In my previous blog post, I suggested some practical ways procurement can drive value through business networks.  But what about sales & marketing?

It’s not just procurement that struggles to understand precisely how to leverage business networks to tap into today’s Networked Economy.  In conversations with many of their suppliers, the standard story is that those suppliers were dragged kicking and screaming onto a business network by a large customer, only to realize it was the best thing that happened to them.

Why is that?  In most cases, they simply didn’t understand the benefits and how easy it is to realize them.  So, for everyone in a sales, marketing or e-commerce role (including all you entrepreneurs), here’s a primer – the top ways to leverage business networks. A new infographic produced by SAP illustrates many of these points through the story of a fictitious seller named Naledi, and it links to some real world stories.

1.  Be discovered.  Every company can benefit from a hot lead for a large contract, especially if your brand isn’t well known (in which case you are being left out of deals left and right). When large companies (and some smaller ones, too) are looking for new suppliers, they increasingly post their requirements over business networks, which automatically match and notify qualified suppliers.  But as the saying goes, “you have to be in it to win it.”  So register on one or more of the leading business networks that offer such discovery services, and you will be notified when you are a possible match to a buyer’s requirements, allowing you to respond.02_Social_Twitter_Increase.jpg


2.  Save time and money.  Once you are ready to transact with a customer, connecting to your customer’s purchasing system via a business network can help you in a few ways, including:

    • Reduced error handling.  Business networks can provide you with a “perfect PO,” eliminating most causes of errors.
    • Save time updating profile information for each customer.  Update shared company details once in your network profileand all customers receive the updates.
    • Automated eInvoicing via PO Flip functionality.  A simple click can convert a PO into a tax compliant eInvoice, saving you time and paper.
    • Increased share of wallet by driving compliance at your customer’s users.

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3.  Increase customer satisfaction.  Order errors or delays can cause major customer satisfaction issues.  Unclear or incorrect POs are a big source of such issues and are frustrating for all parties. The same “perfect PO” that saves you time and money, also ensures your customer gets exactly what is expected, when its expected and at the right price.  Visibility into order/shipment status is also appreciated by customers.  Happy customers buy more and save you headaches.

4.  Know when you are being paid, and get paid faster.  Business networks digitize information flows, including invoices. This lets all parties see when an invoice was received and the payment status.  And, since payment terms are frequently based on receipt of an accurate invoice, errors can cause significant delays and confusion.  Business networks that incorporate intelligent invoicing rules and that let you “flip” POs into tax compliant eInvoices ensure touchless, error-free invoicing that gets you paid faster.

5.  Access new sources of credit, at competitive rates.  In today’s market, credit can be hard to come by, especially for SMEs. Some business networks let you manage negotiated early payment discounts or supply chain financing with your customers, or connect you to 3rd party financing options to auction your receivables.

There are certainly more benefits, but these are the key ones for most companies. The size of your company may affect which benefits matter most to you, but all companies can benefit from business networks.  All you need to do is register and connect to your customers (punch-out or online catalogues are both viable options).

Today’s Networked Economy is creating entirely new ways to grow and manage your business.  Let’s follow Naledi’s lead, and embrace the innovation.

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