ZS Case Study: A sales force rising

Business Issue

The last thing to change

Whether a company experiences tremendous growth or cyclical setbacks, its sales force is often the first thing affected but the last to change.


Market adjustments can shake a sales operation in ways both minor and profound. Once-solid sales structures and territory designs have poor coverage or reduced productivity; tried-and true segmentation plans and sales playbooks no longer address the most valuable customers’ needs; newly aggressive customers empowered by the Internet flummox top salespeople.

These conditions might be obvious to executives, but it’s less obvious what to do about them. Small changes to the sales force can help, but often executives need to consider transforming their entire sales force.

A true sales force transformation is not for the weak of heart. But in an era in which product differentiation has blurred, value is often ill-defined, and personal relationships with buyers deliver diminishing returns, companies can no longer go to market with a superior product and a sales force ill-equipped to sell it.

The Problem

Acquiring companies—and a disjointed sales force

Global software and technology services provider SunGard has grown on the strength of more than 160 acquisitions since its founding 30 years ago. As some of these business stood separate from the parent company, SunGard’s go-to-market strategy was sometimes fragmented, inefficient and ineffective.

A major issue was sales teams had different engagement approaches, resulting in different levels of penetration across accounts. And when there was success, SunGard lacked a system to share best practices.

The disjointed approach also resulted in customer complaints and lost opportunities, according to Ken Powell, vice president of global sales enablement and learning at SunGard. Worse, disjointed efforts stifled SunGard’s attempts to grow business with major accounts.

“We had to organize around those customers,” Powell says. “[They] said, ‘We want a solutions provider. We want insight before we have problems. And we need a simple way to buy.’”

The Solution

Changes across the board

ZS helped SunGard reshape its sales force and go-to-market strategy, essentially transforming its sales force.

Implementing changes on several levels, the solution included the following:

  • A framework for a major account program that could best target specific SunGard products and services
  • Governance processes across the major accounts program and within individual accounts
  • Analysis of potential by offering area pairings—at the account level—with customers and prospects
  • Sales compensation standards to drive coordinated and collaborative selling on the most important offerings

The Results

Significant, immediate results

SunGard’s sales force transformation created a strategic sales process that delivered tangible results, including:

  • 12% sales growth, or approximately $100 million on a $1 billion sales plan
  • Forecasting accuracy reached 95%
  • Significant deals with new customers

“We went to ZS as a trusted partner,” Powell says. “We needed to know how to organize, and what should be people’s roles and responsibilities. We implemented the right [models] that reward behaviors that are both in our best interest and that of the customer.”