These days, sales teams are met with a number of distractions on the road to conversion, which can really pull their focus away from the task at hand: making sales. Rather than enabling these disruptions and wasting valuable time, sales teams are encouraged to automate applicable responsibilities so they can devote their full attention to the sales themselves.
With the help of innovative and comprehensive commercial excellence technology, sales teams can readily streamline their workflow and gain access to detailed data analyses.
What is commercial excellence?
The term ‘commercial excellence’ describes a series of steps businesses use to identify target customers and fine-tune their value proposition. In other words, commercial excellence is not a singular destination; it’s a continuous process of assessment and improvement, wherein new practices, policies, and procedures are adopted as needed. Without a doubt, commercial excellence is essential to organizations who wish to enter new markets and sales categories, as well as for those established enterprises looking to gain a more competitive edge.
The most influential leaders review (and revise) their commercial capabilities against likely competitors and global best practices, as a way to locate pain points or areas of concern. In general, the goal of commercial excellence is to improve pricing, product mix, sales force effectiveness, and distributor management, to then maximize revenue and customer acquisition.
What’s the aim of commercial excellence?
In contrast to operational excellence, which seeks to maintain profits by decreasing expenditures, commercial excellence aims to increase revenue by gathering a more accurate understanding of customers’ individual needs. When implemented successfully, commercial excellence programs help companies to achieve their financial goals and satisfy their customer base, all without acquiring new clients or making changes to their product offerings.
More specifically, commercial excellence transformation programs create the strategic framework needed to consistently outperform the competition and deliver a memorable experience with every customer interaction. That’s because commercial excellence software is equipped to optimize product pricing, enhance cost-to-serve ratios (via collaborative shipment planning), revamp various management processes, and develop new capabilities within an organization’s sales team and larger marketing department.
According to Bain & Company, both retail and commercial businesses have seen their earnings rise by 20 to 25% as a result of “focusing sales efforts on the right customers” and “optimizing cost-to-serve while improving price realization.” Considering the goal for most companies is to generate over-and-above returns on a consistent basis, it’s clear that implementing a commercial excellence framework allows you to do exactly that.
Prioritizing commercial excellence is the best way to align leaders in their shared decision making — which is ultimately a step toward more profitable (and more sustainable) growth. But just how is commercial excellence defined, and what does it look like on a day-to-day basis among your sales team? Let’s take a closer look.
Commercial excellence framework: the 5 initiatives driven by technology
An intuitive commercial excellence program has the power to incite top-down behavioral transformation and place useful insights into the hands of each sales representative. With this knowledge in tow, a customer-centric culture can begin to take shape — one that guides individual and collective action, and supports sales teams in elevating the customer experience.
But before any of that can happen, teams need a thorough understanding of the commercial excellence framework, which includes five key technological initiatives to pay attention to.
1. Create a thoughtful customer experience
Commercial excellence is intrinsically linked to a positive and meaningful customer experience. And in the competitive realm of sales and marketing, a thoughtful (and purposeful) customer experience is essential to the health and wealth of your business.
The cornerstone of this experience is a deep awareness of the customers’ needs — which means recognizing what they’re looking for before they even have a chance to tell you. One of the best ways to deliver on this objective is by using a sales enablement platform, since this software adapts to your specific and distinct customer journey, and hones in on their needs based on channel preference.
2. Align and automate your sales, services, and marketing efforts
Sales and marketing alignment is best achieved through cloud-based automation, since this approach connects multiple data sources and generates audience-specific content. By aligning your sales, services, and marketing efforts within a cohesive and automated system, you’ll be able to form deeper relationships with your existing and prospective clientele (i.e. the foundation for intentional commercial excellence).
Not only that, but automating your sales tasks or marketing duties makes it easier to track and measure the impact of your sales content, thus allowing for better visibility into customer behavior or relevant buying patterns.
3. Reduce complexity of your teams’ operations
When your sales team is forced to navigate operational complexities, it takes away from the time that could be spent developing quality relationships with their customers. However, if you digitize your operations whenever (and wherever) possible, you can simplify said stressors and reduce the workload of each team member.
This way, your reps can shift into a complete commercial excellence mindset — meaning they can dedicate their time to more value-added activities and/or profitable projects. Using the appropriate software and cloud-based tools, your company can automate things like sales aids and content recommendations to drive revenue even further.
4. Assess opportunities and weaknesses alike
The truth is, very few companies have tapped into the full commercial potential of their customers. This untapped value can have significant consequences, in that organizations wind up leaving money on the table time and time again. To really reap the benefits of your customer relationships, you’ll need to assess how you’re currently serving your customers as well as how you can add to these interactions.
For example, by incorporating commercial excellence technology into your greater business strategy, your company can acknowledge its least profitable segments, which then presents an opportunity to spend your time and resources somewhere more fruitful.
5. Close the marketing loop with actionable insights
While intuition and first hand experience are valuable assets, these qualities can only take your company so far. To truly expedite growth and maintain commercial excellence, it’ll require data-driven decision making courtesy of accurate analytics; only when you leverage the power and capabilities of digital tools can you sufficiently boost sales performance.
That’s why it’s so imperative to partner with a qualified (and flexible) sales excellence platform, especially one that can track customers’ reactions and close the marketing loop with actionable insights. With this type of program in place, your team has access to up-to-date information to make the most informed decisions possible.
Commercial excellence in action
In recent years, the customer experience has become even more intertwined with commercial excellence, meaning it now exceeds the fundamental customer journey. Today, customer engagement goes beyond online and offline channels, and extends to less traditional marketing-related interactions (like customer support and account management).
So because the customer experience — and likewise, commercial excellence — encompasses every possible interaction with your company, it’s become increasingly important to begin a customer-centric transformation by way of your marketing efforts.
This is where personalization comes into play, which helps demonstrate that your company recognizes individual customers as they appear across all touch points. From this perspective, commercial excellence could be interchangeable with ‘personalization excellence,’ where each unique interaction drives revenue and subsequent retention.
Keep in mind, ramping up a personalized customer experience at this level will call for technological capabilities that can handle such differentiation. But as definitively stated in McKinsey & Company’s research, “investing wisely in commercial capabilities can be difficult, because what drives value tends to change over time.”
For that reason, “benchmarking against best practices and identifying capability gaps will not be enough to achieve commercial excellence.” Instead, it’s in your best interest to clarify your strategy and fully support your implementation process by “linking each commercial capability with specific outputs and results,” so “managers know how each capability will help, where it will perform best, and what economic impact they can expect from it.”
A real life case study
A great example of commercial excellence planning and application comes from IBSA, the largest owner-managed pharmaceutical company in Switzerland. Back in 2011, IBSA was looking to better engage with their customer base and become a more data-driven organization.
By partnering with the right sales enablement platform, IBSA was able to drive customer engagement and gather necessary insights into all their sales activities, such as sentiment tracking for both remote and face-to-face content.
And thanks to this sales enablement software, many of IBSA’s sales activities can be tracked automatically (online and offline). With the aid of these automations, the time reps spend on administrative tasks has been dramatically reduced, leaving more hours in the day to foster customer relationships and upgrade sales performance. Since making commercial excellence a company-wide priority, IBSA has grown from 23 MIO to 65 MIO over the last ten years.
The future of commercial excellence
Commercial excellence is about more than meeting your customers’ needs in the present — it’s an integral part of preserving customer loyalty well into the future. That’s why it’s so crucial to understand commercial excellence as an ongoing investment, and one that unites every department under a common goal: to provide the best customer experience you possibly can.