Leveraging the Sumo Advantage: A Clear and Present Danger to Your Competition

As a startup company or as an emerging established corporation, you need to utilize Business Development (BD) strategies to grow your business and to beat your competition. Unfortunately, many executives think that if they simply get more sales, then they can beat the competition. They quickly realize, however, that directing all their focus and energy into a sales transaction-based platform is not a strategic answer. While progressive sales tactics can help grow revenue, they do nothing to beat your competition. In fact, your company may have copious sales that are generating considerable revenue, but at some point it becomes harder to get the next sale. That’s because sales-focused programs are not BD strategies. Therefore, you need to stop treating BD like sales and focus on developing a long-term BD strategy. Only then can you strategically beat your competition and establish market dominance.

Establishing market dominance is done by partnering with an industry giant (a sumo) to strategically leverage their assets and power to your advantage. In partnering with a sumo, you become a clear and present danger to your competition. The following strategies will help you leverage the sumo advantage to strategically beat your competition.

1. The Big Gorilla Sale vs. Sumo Warrior Intelligence

There is a huge difference between landing the big 800-pound gorilla sale and partnering with a sumo warrior. Gorillas are reactive while sumos are intelligent and embrace rules of engagement to beat their competition. Leveraging the sumo advantage means you will get some of the sumo’s power—intelligence, market share, infrastructure, expertise, etc.—to battle YOUR competition, not theirs.

When you partner with a sumo you can achieve a number of different goals for your business. Whether your goal is revenue generation, increasing your market share or avoiding duplication of effort and reinventing the wheel, partnering with a sumo will accelerate your growth and goal-attainment process. What you accomplish with your sumo depends on your business goals and how your partner can best help you achieve them. Partnering with a sumo can:

  • Allow you to adopt your partner company’s stronger best practices in areas where you feel yours are weaker
  • Gain access to their technology
  • Develop a lower-cost customer acquisition model
  • Build increased credibility in your space

Another advantage of partnering is the validation and authority you garner by aligning yourself with a Fortune company—your sumo. The partnership gives you the same marketplace respect that your partner enjoys. You gain instant credibility through your strategic partner, which in the end helps the execution of your sales strategy.

2. The Exponential Power of a Sumo Partnership

A sumo can bring exponential power to your enterprise. You cannot be great at everything, and you may not have the resources or money to build a needed competitive feature. However, you can be great at many things if you are not doing them all yourself. Determine what you do well and what your sumo partner needs to do well. Then, find a company that is great in that area and use their greatness to your advantage.

For example, your software may require access to a certain process within a customer solution. Do you build that process as well, or do you partner with a corporation(s) that is competent in that process already? If it is not critical to your competency, then partner with the competent sumo and enhance that system with your solution. The combination makes both parties more valuable.

Besides not having to invest huge sums of money in a start-up operation or not having to reinvent the wheel, another advantage of partnering with a sumo is the barrier to entry you’re establishing for your competitors. If you spent the time and money to set up your own product, you are telling your competition that it is not difficult to achieve. However, if you partner with a major player to leverage their capabilities, you’re signaling to your competitors that it is difficult and also that you just leapfrogged them by partnering with the best-of-the-best. To beat you, they are going to have to best your partner—your sumo—which is a very daunting challenge. As a start-up, you suddenly have scale, experience, and additional resources to supplement funding.

3. Anticipate Your Competitor’s Response

Once that partnership capability is in place, anticipate the response from your competitor because they WILL respond.

An excellent example of this is the deal consummated by Coca-Cola and Keurig, which forced the creator of the home-soda-machine market and reigning king of DIY carbonation, SodaStream, to partner with Pepsi in order to stay competitive. Partnering with Pepsi was a necessity for SodaStream since they lacked the branding excitement of a major cola manufacturer to lend brand-name recognition to their cola-flavored syrup. The lack of a brand-name cola product was a major consumer hindrance to SodaStream.

SodaStream was essentially a monopoly with only some minor players in that arena. But when Coca-Cola, the number one soda company in the world, teamed up with Keurig (who was already a well-known name for its technologically advanced brewer systems and K-Cups), the two companies were able to develop Keurig Cold to dispense single serving carbonated and non-carbonated beverages. Naturally, the competition was forced to respond.

Coca-Cola and Keurig’s partnership to create this new mutually beneficial solution is a BD strategy that made SodaStream and Pepsi sit up and take notice and an excellent example of using the leverage of the sumo advantage to be a clear and present danger to their competition.

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