By The Numbers | The Most Popular Zilliant Blog Posts This Year

Community is integral to staying innovative and competitive in any industry. The Zilliant Blog aims to provide information and strategies that help companies think differently about optimizing their business decisions to help them make their numbers. Educational and insightful, each post presents a new challenge to the status quo. From infographics to price elasticity, the list below ranks the top five posts of the year thus far, listed by the numbers.

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No. 5: Overcome Profit Leakage: Manufacturers Should Adopt “Pay-for-Performance” Approach with Distributors

In this post from January 2014, Barrett Thompson tackles how manufacturers can overcome the challenge of distributors “gaming” the system to secure lower prices. Here, he advises shifting the burden of performance and planning ahead for rebate programs. “A cautionary tale: A big distributor once held claims for 18 months, then filed a single enormous rebate that caught the manufacturer totally off guard and gave them a huge phantom loss for the month in which they paid out that rebate. Take the necessary steps to avoid that situation.” Read more …

No. 4: The Most Important Decision: Deciding How to Make Decisions

This post from Zilliant CEO Greg Peters calls out a major (yet deceivingly minor) challenge in overcoming B2B complexity: “Even the most well-intentioned employees cannot accurately and consistently make the best decision that aligns with company strategy each and every time. They are only human. While that may sound like a cop-out, humans are, in fact, persistently inconsistent in their decision-making and predictions.” Read his thoughts on how when each small decision is made optimally, the entire company benefits.

No. 3: Price Elasticity in B2B … Who’s Right?

This post from contributor and MindBrew Editor Rafe VanDenBerg delves into a persistent debate in B2B pricing. There are opposing views [Read more...]

World Cup Callback: Did the Predictive Model Fail Me?

I got an interesting call last week from JP Arendt, director of pricing effectiveness at Autopart International. It goes without saying that I love it when customers call to chat, but don’t I love it even more when they call me up … to call me out! JP wanted to discuss the flub I made in predicting Brazil to win the World Cup.

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I have to admit that hindsight vision is 20/20, and yes, I got it wrong. So did Nate Silver and his FiveThirtyEight model, as well as the Goldman Sachs model. In fact, the top three most-popular models only got team positions right, none of the models correctly predicted the winner. The closest was the Bloomberg model, which correctly predicted 68 percent of the ending team positions. Check out this cool infographic for more fun facts.

So when JP called and asked what went wrong, it was a great opportunity to discuss where I thought my approach to selecting a winner was flawed. More importantly, to discuss how to apply these lessons in a business environment to properly leverage predictive models to optimize the overall business.

As we discussed, models are advanced algorithms that take data and make predictions, and the model is therefore only as effective as the data available to it. This is perhaps the inherent flaw in trying to use models alone to predict sports tournament outcomes, which are at the mercy of chance. Weather, injured players, team morale and strokes of luck can turn a landslide into an upset. In this case, the model didn’t necessarily fail, but as chance played out, Brazil would have to play without its captain and central defender, Thiago Silva, who was suspended after the final match against Colombia. Another hit to the team came when Brazil’s best player, Neymar, fractured a vertebra in his back during the quarterfinal and was ruled out for the rest of the competition. [Read more...]

Your Next Sales Call: Tips to Grow Customer Relationships

Have you ever had a sales call go horribly wrong? Chances are, there is at least one sales call horror story in your past. One example courtesy of my colleague Xina Seaton:

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“I recently received a voicemail from a sales representative. He started strong, but about halfway through the call he coughed. Not a big deal. He resumed talking, then coughed again. He could have recovered, but then he said ‘I’ll call you back, this is horrible.’ Needless to say he never called back.”

Flubbed sales calls happen, sometimes due to awkwardness or bad luck, but more often due to improper planning. Meaning, when it’s time to call on the customer, the planned conversation doesn’t foster or nourish the relationship. At a recent event one of our customers put the challenge, and a better way forward, in sharp perspective:

We assume that sales people already know how to select and prioritize their accounts, but their days are hectic. Transaction-based salesforces have to keep calling to hit their sales call quotas. But, if we can coach them to do a better job in front of their customers, they’ll learn to ask better questions and soon they’ll have the confidence to grow accounts.

I couldn’t agree more. In B2B, sales reps are up against massive complexity. It’s typical that a sales force of only a few hundred is responsible for tens of thousands of customers and a catalog of hundreds of thousands of products. Knowing which customers to call on, what products to sell, and what price to charge for each account is nearly impossible. But, if those same reps are given guidance as to the specific opportunities most likely to win more business, they can spend more time doing what they do best: selling.

Below are tips collected from our friends CSO Insights Managing Partner Jim Dickie and ZFactor Group Managing Partner Cindy G. Goldsberry. Read on for insights on establishing a less transactional, and more valuable, relationship with your customer. [Read more...]