Impact by the Numbers

Despite its high-quality offerings and coveted market share, an industrial products manufacturer was missing margin targets and furthermore, not taking advantage of its expansive product portfolio. Transforming from a product-focused operating model to one that is customer-centric is not standard in the manufacturing sector, but ZS built our client’s muscles to add value for customers and in turn, profitability for the company.


The ZS team leveraged its deep experience in commercial effectiveness to improve our client’s agility and resilience in response to increased global competition. Within the organization, the new high-performing culture drove accountability at all levels, from the very top, down to individual sales reps who were expected to “win” each week by meeting and exceeding fair, yet challenging sales objectives.

The challenge

The company’s growth potential was impeded by the industry’s tradition of managing from the inside out—versus outside in. The laser focus on product quality and production efficiency stifled growth despite strong market share because the strategy did not fully consider external drivers such as customer needs and emerging market opportunities.


Ever-shifting trade policies, product commoditization, intensifying competition and complex macroeconomic dynamics demanded the company rethink its commercial strategy, organizational structure and customer engagement processes. The goal was to become agile and resilient, as well as customer-centric.


Product-oriented sales teams historically did not leverage the vast portfolio to offer solutions and value-added services because they lacked visibility into the unique needs of customers and end users. Distributors were viewed as customers, instead of as strategic partners who could work together with our client to meet the needs of the market. Sales representatives clung to the transactional mindset to get the next order rather than rise to the role of value creator.

The solution

ZS designed a customer-centric operating model based on deep insights into needs and preferences across segments in the marketplace. Our team then deployed the new model and empowered sales reps to create value for customers by taking full advantage of the company’s extensive product portfolio and value-added services. ZS built new capabilities and completed the transformation over 24 months’ time. Through the project, the ZS team:

  • Analyzed each vertical market the company serves, identified and prioritized opportunities to enhance existing relationships and attract new customers
  • Designed a new commercial engagement process and operating model for marketing, sales and customer service
  • Created new sales roles, behaviors and activities; defined optimal territories to balance workload; quantified performance objectives
  • Implemented a top-down organizational Win the WeekTM framework to sustain sales performance, drive margin and build momentum for the transformation 

ZS created new sales roles, territories and goals for each member of the sales team. Over a 14-week period, ZS helped multiple Early Experience TeamsTM sharpen their observation and investigation to better identify needs unique to customers in their respective segments. ZS gradually added new customer engagement activities, such as sharing industry intelligence and insights, to build trust and encourage customers to discuss additional strategic growth opportunities our client could support. 


ZS examined the company’s annual financial objectives and broke them down into quarterly and weekly targets. Tasked with clearly defined, achievable goals, sales reps were coached to “win the week” to meet short-term targets that validated the impact of their performance and kept them energized.

The impact

Motivated sales reps exceeded financial and portfolio-selling performance goals previously thought unachievable, resulting in a 16% increase in volume invoiced overall. The company’s first inside sales team, which was established by ZS, fared even better than their peers, achieving a 17% increase in volume sold to existing accounts; key account sales reps increased volume sold by 14%.


Attuned to accounts’ unique needs and market challenges, sales reps sold an average of two more products to each account, representing most of the increase in volume sold. Prior to the transformation, the sales team aspired to sell 20% of the company’s vast portfolio; two months into the transformation, that share spiked to 28%, thanks to reps who were more observant, asked sharper questions and engaged with accounts more effectively using the new customer-centric strategy.