Commercial Excellence, simply put, is the achievement and maintenance of competitive advantage in all commercial activity – this covers the spectrum of activity typically classified under “marketing” and “sales”, and many supporting contributions from other functions such as production, finance, HR and distribution
Our previous post on the subject of Commercial Excellence has prompted a series of questions from readers that I have summarised as:
What are the main building blocks of Commercial Excellence?
How does each contribute to “growth”?
How do we improve in these areas so we can grow our business?
We attempt to answer these questions below
The “Building Blocks” of Commercial Excellence
To build and maintain competitive advantage in all commercial activity requires success in three main areas:
1. Winning the battle for Commercial Talent
2. Building Competitive Advantage through Commercial Capability
3. Invigorating and Sustaining Commercial Performance
How do these “Building Blocks” contribute to “growth” (or at least a better commercial outcome)
We define “growth” as a sustained improvement in the business result over a period of time – this excludes “short term spikes” in results caused by factors such as seasonality, short term pricing and promotions events (inter alia). Each of the “building blocks” contributes to growth in its own way and collectively
Winning the battle for Commercial Talent ensures the organisation has the right pool of talent for the task at hand and for its plans to grow – this “talent pool” provides the raw material for building and sustaining competitive advantage. Without the right talent in your organisation you are unlikely to achieve the competitive standard you need to win in your market place, despite spending a fortune on development and reward schemes.
Consider the circumstance where after years of building wooden structures, you need to build a steel bridge – and all you have in your talent pool are carpenters. Your carpenters could well build a bridge with your stocks of wood, and it might seem able to do the job, but it will never do the job of a steel bridge and, at the moment it is tested by the circumstance that defined the need for steel, it will fail.
How do you recognise that the talent pool you have, although outstanding at the current task, needs to be modified to deal with the “new” competitive requirement?
In order to win this battle your organisation needs to have strengths in Talent Assessment, Talent Planning, Talent Attraction, Talent Development and Talent Retention – and these strengths need to be aligned and integrated with your strategic planning as well as your operational requirements
Building Competitive Advantage through Commercial Capability turns talent into productive human assets by providing the development, support and infrastructure required to facilitate their effectiveness and efficiency in completing the commercial task. Think of this as building people to build the business – thus investing in “commercial capability” should be seen as an investment in your competitive advantage and sustaining that advantage into the future.
Considering the analogy of the bridge builder, transforming their talent pool from master carpenters to precision steel engineers would require not only a highly effective Talent management capability, but also an organisational development effort to transform their leadership, organisation, skills, and quality standards, not to mention their design, production and installation capabilities.
To achieve competitive advantage through commercial capability, your organisation must excel at developing Business and Commercial Leadership, whilst putting in place the Commercial Enablers that facilitate competitive advantage in the Commercial Tasks you undertake and that result in highly effective Commercial Activity being implemented.
Invigorating and accelerating Commercial Performance ahead of your competitors is what you reap from your investment in Talent and Commercial Capability – the fruits of competitive advantage.
A company that has competitive advantage must learn to focus its advantage on winning where it matters so as to grow in a sustainable way. This then presupposes its ability to anticipate and judge market trends so as to get ahead of their competitors
Back to our analogy of the bridge builder – their talent and capability must be focused on designing, building and selling better bridges than the competition, as judged by the decision makers in the market (those that use and buy bridges) and doing so in a profitable and sustainable way. If they were the only bridge builders to anticipate the market’s move from wooden to steel structures they would gain an immediate advantage.
To invigorate and sustain your company’s commercial performance requires a relentless focus on your market’s needs, ensuring a deep understanding of the influence your (and your competitors) commercial activity is exerting and how the market responds to such influence so as to drive consumption, purchasing and sales to the benefit of your business result.
How to improve your company’s “building blocks for growth”
First and foremost, there must be a recognition of the need to improve or sustain your competitive position
There must be support at all levels of the organisation
The “building blocks” must be defined against the strategic and operational requirements of the business – these are your critical success factors
There must be a clear vision of what standards are required for each critical success factor to enable you to win in the market place
There must be a shared understanding of the company’s strengths and weaknesses against those required standards – so an assessment must be completed
A pragmatic action plan must be developed to address any priority weaknesses
New standards must be integrated in a non-disruptive manner to ensure continuity and improvements
Progress must be tracked, as must the competitive standard required to win.
We’d be delighted to help.