Sumo Advantage: Out-Positioning, Out-Smarting, and Out-Psyching the Competition

The difference between today’s savvy market leading organizations and those who struggle and fail at attempts to achieve market dominance is that the insightful companies—just like a sumo warrior—think in terms of big picture strategy. In the business arena, that translates to a strategic Business Development (BD) mindset that strives to out-position, out-smart and out-psych the competition for an advantage in today’s highly competitive marketplace. To gain this advantage, you need to enlist the power of others—large companies (sumos)—with which you can partner in order to obtain a distinct market advantage. By successfully aligning yourself with a sumo, you can borrow credibility, create an entirely new revenue stream for both organizations, and achieve exponential growth that can double or triple your company’s valuation. That’s the power of the sumo advantage.

Astute companies understand that BD deals are strategic and not transactional. When partnering with a sumo that can transform their company, they don’t send a salesperson to pitch a BD deal. They know sales and BD are both essential to their company but require different skill sets. Nor do they focus on direct revenue generation. They realize it can take up to three years for serious revenue to materialize.

So, how do you find a sumo to partner with so you can acquire the sumo advantage?

1. First, start with your vision. Identify and crystallize what your vision will be in the future. But it’s not just about gaining market share. It’s also important to consider the strategy of how to move your people toward that vision. To achieve that vision many of the market dynamics would have to be different. Whether you have a product or offer a service, focus on answering these questions:

  • In five years from now, what do you want your vision to be?
  • What will need to happen in order to achieve that vision?
  • How will the vision impact the user?
  • How will the vision help accomplish the customer’s goals?
  • What will the market be like when you achieve your vision?
  • What has to change in the next 5 to 10 years to make that happen?

2. Then, ask yourself these questions to assess what must occur in order to implement your vision.  

  • Do you need to gain a greater percentage in market share and if so, how much greater?
  • Do you need a disruptive act to displace an incumbent competitor?
  • Do you need integration with a certain company’s app(s) to propel your company into out-positioning, out-smarting and out-psyching your competition? Killer apps connect consumers with products or services and become so indispensable that demand quickly flips from push to pull—from trying to get customers to try it, to hearing they can’t live without it.

An example of this point is the Box/Microsoft deal. Box, the world’s leading enterprise software platform for content collaboration, implemented two new integrations with Microsoft Office that enable businesses to seamlessly access content from any device or platform. This makes it easy for them to collaborate more effectively in Microsoft’s new Cloud Storage Partner Program. This also supports Microsoft’s commitment to providing people with more ways to collaborate and manage content in Office. Box’s CEO, Aaron Levie stated, “The future of enterprise software is about choosing best-of-breed technologies to solve critical business problems. Often these solutions will not come from the same vendors [and] … To make this successful, these technologies must work together seamlessly.”

3. Finally, think about the knockout blow. What would make the market sit up and notice? Keep focusing on educating and informing your prospect until you finally get that “aha” moment, that moment of clarity when your prospect sees the potential of what you are proposing.

Entrepreneurs by themselves rarely have the weight to deliver a knockout punch. There is a real possibility of being thrown from the ring by a bigger opponent. But that all changes when you have a sumo standing beside you who is ready to support you and help you win.

  • Which sumo could provide access to a new market, or to your current market, but in a more efficient or effective way?
  • If you run a start-up, which sumo could give you instant credibility with other major players in your market?

There’s a Sumo in Your Future

Pull your team together to brainstorm about the right sumo to approach. As you and your team go through each step, remember that one of the biggest challenges smaller emerging organizations face is in assessing the dangers of connecting with a sumo that could turn into your competition. Some deals that started out great can slowly go sour. Other deals are just bad from the start. Since BD deals are long-term commitments where you invest time, money, and resources for an average of two to three years before you start generating serious revenue, the last thing you want is a bad deal. If you sense a bad deal, walk away—quickly. That is the best decision you can make because once you have a sumo, you may continue to collaborate with that sumo for years to come. Therefore, make sure the sumo you select is a company you want to work with and that the deal is one that will continue to be good for both parties now and in the future.

Also, keep in mind that in sales, you can take a price cut on a single order to help solidify your relationship with your customer because you know you can make up the price difference over the next few orders. However, it doesn’t work that way on the BD side because BD is not transactional—there is no money exchanged for goods. You will have to live with the deal you are negotiating now for a long time to come.

When your company is in the BD mindset, this becomes a pivotal moment for the company. That’s when everyone gets behind the BD team to strategically out-position, out-smart and out-psych the competition with the sumo advantage.

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