What Sales Ops is Missing: Decision Guidance Systems for Reps

A recent article from Harvard Business Review really struck a chord with me. The article, “Why Sales Ops is so Hard to Get Right,” centered on how sales operations leaders are constantly challenged to balance highly strategic, executive initiatives with the detailed nuance of operational support.
decision guidance systems

It was a great read for any leader looking to balance high-level execute initiatives with the day-to-day nuance of an administrative, operational role. If you’ve not already, you can read the full article here.

In summary, the article gives a thoughtful look at the role of the sales operations manager and even includes an actual job description. Someone applying for a sales ops role would have to, literally, “contribute to the 1- and 3-year business vision,” and “oversee sales performance analyses and reporting, territory alignment, customer profiling, targeting activities, and provide data, analyses, modeling, and reporting to support sales force quarterly business reviews.”

Wow! That’s certainly at the intersection of strategic and tactical, and it’s a challenge that the sales leaders I work with every day are trying to overcome. In truth, almost all sales leadership roles are demanding this dichotomy of personality. The article offers up a few suggestions for sales ops to implement like outsourcing and new technologies, but one aspect critical aspect was missing – providing a systematic way to help reps make better decisions.

Why Decision Guidance is Critical

The true difficulty in the sales ops role is effectively helping sales reps profitably grow their accounts. How well sales reps can do so hinges on where they decide to spend their time.

A typical B2B sales organization includes hundreds of sales reps that sell to tens of thousands of customers that buy from a catalog of hundreds of thousands of products. Adding to that complexity are competitive dynamics, new products, new markets and corporate pressures. It’s impossible for each sales rep to know, across the entire customer base, the opportunities most likely to result in a win each and every time.

In this complex environment, sales reps commonly fall back on Pareto’s Principle and spend 80 percent of their time on the top 20 percent of accounts. They just don’t have the bandwidth to identify when smaller customers are beginning the slippery slope to defection by dropping purchase volume in one product category. Or, when one customer is ripe for cross-sell opportunities in a new product category, based on customers who have similar purchase patterns. [Read more…]

Building Material Distribution Dynamics: Construct a Plan for Profitable Growth

Recovery in the building material distribution market from “The Great Recession” has been relatively slow, with the industry still feeling the effects. Most figures for housing starts ended dismally in 2014. Single-family housing starts from October to November 2014 declined by a rate of 5.4 percent. Rising material costs are not necessarily helping to boost confidence. In January 2015, cement rose five percent, steel rose 1.9 percent and lumber is up a whopping 8.1 percent. Overall, annual inflation in construction costs jumped 3.2 percent. (Construction Cost Index, Engineering News-Record, January 2015.)

building material distribution

However, it’s not all bad news, the market is showing signs of optimism and growth. Consider this statement from Brad Hunter, chief economist at Metrostudy, a primary and secondary housing market information, research and consulting firm:

“Metrostudy’s outlook for 2015 is for a modest increase in single-family starts as well as a (smaller) increase in multifamily starts. Builders were aggressive in land and lot acquisition in the past three years, and Metrostudy’s data confirm that the number of new lots getting developed each quarter is rising rapidly, even in markets that were once over-lotted. This strongly suggests an increase in housing starts in 2015, just based upon builders’ intentions and lot supplies. As long as job growth continues to increase, new home demand will rise more rapidly as well.”

This is welcome news for building material distributors that have weathered the past seven years of economic uncertainty. Most savvy distributors are looking to hedge bets against future economic unknowns by laying new plans to profitably earn more share from their existing customer base.

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Planning a Successful IT Project: Go Live Phase

This post is contributed by Zilliant Customer Success Manager Andrew Wilsdorf. Andrew works with customers to ensure the successful implementation of Zilliant solutions in their business. In the previous two posts, Andrew covered the first two critical phases when deploying an IT project. This post covers the final phase – go live.

Three Phases for Successful Project Deployment

Three Phases for Successful Project Deployment

Phase 3: Go Live


• Analyze how the project is operationally being implemented. Is it going as planned? Are there any corrective actions required? Setting measures and reports to monitor trends is a good way to understand what is effectively going on.

• Ask yourself: Is the IT solution easy to use? Is the process simple enough to be followed? Gathering feedback from the users will help you assess this.

• Reward the users that use the solution best. There is no better way to motivate people than showing them that there is something in it for them. You could, for instance, set incentives for the attainment of certain objectives.


• Validate and monitor the quality of your data constantly. You have worked hard to get clean data, but that doesn’t mean it is going to stay clean.

• Don’t think that once you have gone live the job is done. This is only the beginning and systems evolve constantly, you will need to plan for how your project will evolve too.

• Start thinking about where your solution is going. Foreseeing potential developments and gathering feedback will help you angle your project and improve adoption of the users.

Following this advice, as well as planning realistically, but also reviewing your plan consistently and regularly, will ensure that your IT implementation is a true success.

Previously in this series:

Phase Two: Planning a Successful IT Project: Implementation Phase

Phase One: Planning a Successful IT Project: Setup Phase

Read More: Infographic: A Step-by-Step Change Management Guide