Why ZS Associates - the Inside Scoop

Why ZS Associates - the Inside Scoop
Picture of Manan Mehta
Manan Mehta

Former ZS Associates consultant

Interested in a fast-growth consulting firm that is strong in the life sciences and expanding to other industries? If so, ZS Associates could be the firm for you.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • What types of consulting work ZS Associates does.
  • The inside scoop about the work and culture from a former ZS Associates consultant.
  • Why you might want to work at ZS Associates and how to answer the “Why ZS Associates?” interview question.

Let’s get started!

What is ZS Associates? A Journey from Academia to Global Consulting

Andris Zoltners and Prabhakant (Prabha) Sinha, while studying at the University of Massachusetts, were researching the knapsack problem, an optimization methodology involving getting as much gear as possible in a knapsack while adhering to space and weight constraints. The knapsack approach is typically used in planning meals for astronauts and the US military. But Andris and Prabha realized it could also be used in solving sales force sizing and resource allocation problems for industries.

The Ph.D. classmates became college professors at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. In 1983, they started helping companies to improve the efficiency of their sales force using their proven territory mapping software.

ZS Associates started strong, helping eight of the 10 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world align territories and resize their sales forces in its first 3 years. The company grew exponentially, having worked with 49 of the 50 largest drugmakers in healthcare and 17 of the 20 largest medical device makers by 2011.

With strong focus and expertise in the healthcare and life sciences space, ZS has helped pharma and biotech clients make strategic decisions across their diverse needs ranging from drug development through commercialization with the analytics and technology to enable it.

Recently, ZS has further expanded its expertise and offerings and has ventured into high-tech, financial services, and beyond.


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ZS Helps Clients to Solve Sales, Marketing, & Strategic Problems

Why ZS Associates: ZS Helps Clients

ZS Associates focuses on serving clients across diverse industries & services including:

  • Pharmaceutical and Biotech: Forming the core of ZS’s work, the company has expertise in various therapeutic areas like oncology, cell & gene therapy, and rare diseases. ZS helps pharmaceutical companies across the research and commercialization lifecycles including projects related to sales, marketing, healthcare ecosystem, digital health, and patient & consumer health.
  • Health Plans: ZS helps clients move towards value-based care and attain their acquisition and retention goals with projects focused on customer experience, sales effectiveness and compensation, and consumer & operations strategy.
  • Medical Technology: ZS’s dedicated MedTech consulting team brings forth extensive experience at tackling product launch, pricing and marketing strategy & transformation, and sales effectiveness across cardiovascular, diagnostics, surgical robotics, and digital technologies.
  • Consumer Goods: With customers at the heart of all strategies, ZS Associates helps clients gather customer insights to build their portfolio and marketing strategy, promotions and marketing mix, and brand & messaging using advanced analytics and artificial intelligence.
  • Financial Services: ZS has ventured into various aspects of the financial world with projects for insurance, banking and credit, wealth, retirement and asset management industries. The company helps clients make business decisions related to sales and customer experience.
  • High-Tech and Telecommunications: Digital transformation has changed the high-tech and telecommunication industry. ZS Associates helps with sales effectiveness and key accounts strategy.
  • Industrials and Business Services: ZS helps clients across various industries like agriculture and food, energy, and chemicals with go-to-market and commercial organizational models, sales effectiveness, and marketing strategy.
  • Private Equity: ZS advises clients on sales and key accounts strategies to build strong revenue growth and market share throughout their investment lifecycle.
  • Retail: ZS Associates leverages AI-enabled proprietary technology to solve business problems around merchandising, store operations, and logistics & supply chain.
  • Travel & Hospitality: ZS helps clients with revenue growth and marketing projects to drive bottom-line impact using analytics.

With clients across the globe, ZS has offices in 35 locations helping clients with various business needs like:

  • Strategy & Advisory
  • AI & Analytics
  • Digital & Technology
  • Life Sciences R&D & Medical
  • Portfolio & Pipeline
  • Value & Access
  • Marketing
  • Sales

This list gives you an idea of the industries and types of work ZS Associates deals with. Let’s see how projects are dealt with and what it’s like to work at ZS.

“Why ZS Associates?” - Interesting & Challenging Work

Why ZS Associates: Data Analysis

As a part of the primary market research team, I helped find actionable customer and marketing insights using highly unstructured and scattered data. Here’s an example of one of many interesting projects I worked on to understand what type of work you could expect at ZS Associates.

ZS Associates Case Example: Effective Drug Marketing

  • Problem: Our client, a key player in the oncology space, had been marketing their combination therapy across different tumor types in different ways. They approached ZS to streamline their marketing efforts without impacting their market share.
  • Approach: We suggested the client to run a multi-phase study involving stakeholders from various business units dealing with different tumor types to facilitate knowledge sharing. We began with the consolidation of insights on effective marketing messages, which helped us redesign the marketing materials. Then, we interviewed oncologists and patients to get a holistic feedback on the updated materials. Finally, we ended with a tracking study to measure the impact of the revamped marketing strategy on the overall product perceptions and market share.
  • Analysis: Based on the overall research, we found that the best way to streamline the marketing efforts would be to leverage the familiarity and usage of the drug in one prominent tumor market and use it as a backbone of the marketing efforts in other markets. Success in one important market would establish credibility.
  • Recommendation: Marketing materials were revamped, keeping the narrative similar to that used in skin cancer where the client’s product had the highest market share. This significantly decreased the investment in training the sales team and streamlined updates to the marketing strategy across platforms.

This was just one of many case examples where I thoroughly enjoyed my work and relished the impact that we created for our clients.

Projects at ZS  Associates are usually aimed at solving unstructured problems which required deep analytics to be done within tight delivery timelines. Let’s see how these challenges make work more interesting and help build skills that will help you throughout your career.

  • Unstructured Problem Solving: Consultants often face unstructured problems at ZS Associates. In the drug marketing case example above, the client knew that their marketing spend on oncology products was high and its value was still unclear to clients. The first step is to figure out the exact problem before suggesting solutions. This helps you to develop a knack for thinking through various aspects of the problem and making the most of whatever data and resources you have at your disposal.
  • Deep-dive Analytics: Projects at ZS seek to answer highly complex problems. This required us to immerse ourselves in multiple datasets (like data from surveys, interviews, and patient records). These data sets can be complex and include both quantitative and qualitative information. Connecting the dots helped us tease out insights about the products’ marketing and sales performance. Thus, we could provide the best recommendations in a quick and informed manner. This provides a competitive edge to our clients. By working on this type of case, you’ll develop the mindset of seeing the bigger picture rather than bits and pieces of information.
  • Effective Communication: As consultants, we deal with senior management across ZS and the client side. This requires juggling between providing the required and essential information, but in a concise and engaging manner. This makes you better at communicating insights effectively.

“Why ZS Associates?” - Continuous Learning Process

Let’s look at how the role evolves as you progress in your professional journey at ZS.

ZS Associates Role Evolution

Back in 2016, when I started working at ZS as an Associate, I worked on day-to-day tasks like performing analysis, creating presentations, and sending daily progress updates to the broader team and clients. I wondered what impact we were creating. As I moved on to become an Associate Consultant, I started managing team members and project timelines. Further, as a Consultant, my involvement with the clients increased significantly in terms of understanding their pain points and discussing possible solutions.

At ZS, promotions happen in steps, but learning is continuous. With so many talented individuals working on challenging projects, there are a lot of great things to assimilate from the environment.

Learning at ZS Associates is immersive and natural with a strong feedback culture.

  • Prompt & actionable feedback: At ZS, I’ve always gotten feedback at the right time and in a way that would help me identify the key areas for improvement.
  • Effective brainstorming: At ZS everyone’s opinion matters and that makes the brainstorming sessions effective. From an associate to a principal, hearing thoughts from everyone helps in creating impactful work for the client, and also gaining various perspectives.
  • Knowledge sharing: Expertise isn’t localized at ZS, rather people proactively help each other out. People are just an email or message away, and willing to discuss unique client problems and share their expert advice.

“Why ZS Associates?” - People as the Backbone of ZS

People form the core of the positive working experience at ZS. Working long hours on solving complex client problems is possible due to the collaborative and supportive environment at ZS. People across levels contribute to projects in different ways, but the impact is always collective.

“Treat people right, get it right, do the right thing” – ZSers live by this mantra and that helps create an energetic and collaborative environment to work in. Being featured in “Great Place to Work” for multiple years is a testimony of how ZS’s culture is all about its people.

When I was a part of ZS, I always felt comfortable with how I was treated, and that brought in me a sense of belonging. Whether it is a small thing like getting appreciated after a good presentation or as critical as my promotion. At ZS, the focus on people’s welfare and development is immense.

  • Supportive Team: My team at ZS was supportive and they helped me sail through various hurdles in both my professional as well as personal life. Whether it is the support provided on a bad day or a project that needs people to be up and working at 4 a.m., I’ve seen it all and appreciated it.
  • Getting me Ready for the Future: The leadership body at ZS Associates has a strong focus on helping individuals grow irrespective of their future goals and aspirations. They were always attentive to what we had to say and acted in a way that was best for us.
  • Friends for Life: At ZS, I’ve known and made friends for life and I feel that is a big feat. It shows how strongly knit teams are at ZS. The colleagues-turned-friends were fun to work and with them, it was always “Work hard, party harder.”

How to answer “Why ZS Associates?”

For any consulting firm, apart from the analytical and critical thinking ability, understanding the company fit is critical when selecting candidates. We have already seen how ZS provides a mentally stimulating, cohesive, and fun-filled work environment which are strong enough reasons of choosing ZS as a career option.

When people  ask me if they should join ZS Associates, my answer is:

“ZS gave me an opportunity to kickstart my career with a steep learning curve. I started as an associate working on a single operations-heavy project and was promoted to associate consultant, where I handled multiple strategic projects and clients. My 5-year journey at ZS taught me a lot of things on the way.

Managing tight deadlines, analytically heavy projects, or multiple stakeholders, ZS gave me a crash course in handling real-world problems. My long-term interest in marketing and psychology was nurtured well with my projects focused on understanding product perception, and assessment of marketing strategies.

The positive experience and extensive exposure were made possible due to the collaborative work culture and great mentorship. With a strong focus on the well-being and growth of the team members, my journey at ZS was paved as per my aspirations and life goals. With such an experience, even the 60+ work hours per week weren’t bothersome.

Being a ZSer was a life-changing experience for me and I would highly recommend ZS Associates to someone who is aspiring to get into consulting.”

Now that you know ZS Associates from someone who has been a part of the organization, I hope you’ll consider applying.

If you are about to interview at ZS Associates, hopefully this article would also help you to frame your answer to “Why ZS Associates?” Do remember, there is no right or wrong answer and the key is for both parties to find the best match.

All the best!

– – – – –

In this article, we’ve covered:

  • What does ZS Associates do?
  • Why one should join ZS Associates?
  • How to answer “Why ZS Associates?”

Still have questions?

If you have more questions about ZS Associates, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s coaches will answer them.

Other people prepping for interviews at ZS Associates found the following pages helpful:


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Nail the case & fit interview with strategies from former MBB Interviewers that have helped 89.6% of our clients pass the case interview.

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