What is commercial excellence?
Commercial excellence is simply 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.
Commercial excellence is not another name for “Category Management”, “Shopper Marketing”, “Neuromarketing” or any other “silver bullet” type solution that has been doing the rounds. Rather it is an integration of all of these concepts into a complete commercial programme, driving excellence in activity at all links in the demand value chain – if a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, commercial excellence seeks to ensure all links are as strong as they need to be.
Why do you need it?
Achieving and maintaining a competitive advantage in all things commercial leads to better business results – and in most cases, growth.
What’s different about it?
It would seem obvious that achieving commercial advantage would lead to better business results – and many companies invest millions every year in executing their commercial programmes, building their commercial capabilities and recruiting talent into their commercial teams – yet desired levels of performance and growth remain elusive.
Where most seem to go wrong is not in their desire to achieve commercial excellence, but in their failure to determine what “Commercial Excellence” needs to be in their particular circumstance.
So, the essential difference between a “Commercial Excellence” programme and many that have come before lies in establishing a coherent and shared understanding of what it would take to win within a given market place – in other words, developing a bespoke “Commercial Excellence” programme for each market in which a company competes, with due recognition of the competitive standard that needs to be achieved to win (and grow) in that market.
The pursuit of commercial excellence is essential for companies who wish to maintain or build their competitiveness – for evidence of just how important this is perceived to be, look at the levels of investment made by the best companies in the world in their commercial programmes, capability development and talent.
The advantages of the “bespoke” approach are compelling and include:
A focus on what’s right for your business circumstance
A better business result
A lower cost of implementation
A better return on investment in commercial activity
An optimised level of training and development
A stronger talent pool
A more involved and motivated commercial team
How do you achieve this?
The achievement of commercial excellence needs to be prioritised by the business leadership and driven by the commercial leadership.
There needs to be an integrated multifunctional framework within which commercial excellence can be developed – great care must be taken to avoid silo mentalities developing within teams and functions
The business needs to understand where they stand at the outset of the programme – and be able to prioritise the areas requiring focus – the scope and depth of understanding is critical to avoid over or under estimating competitive status
The business needs to concur on what “Competitive Excellence” looks like, and in so doing, set developmental goals – here the trick is to avoid internal arrogance and get an external perspective, if not support.
An integrated and prioritised development programme needs to be designed that will deliver the Talent, Capability and Performance standards set by the business – content and delivery methods must be carefully weighed against the expected outcomes of each component of the programme
The development programme must be rigorously implemented – it is a bad idea to assign this as an added responsibility to an employee without ensuring the space is created for them to succeed
The impact of the development programme must be monitored and action taken to ensure standards are being achieved – impartial, regular measurement and reporting of progress on key standards should be de rigueur.