What is commercial excellence in pharma?


Based on conversations we’ve had with clients, it’s become clear that more organisations are wanting to take on the function of commercial excellence. However, as it’s such an ever-changing area, many don’t fully understand what it is or how it is best implemented. We spoke with Max Eldridge, Senior Recruitment Consultant at Real, to find out more.

The team that helps companies improve

As yet, there’s no real firm definition of what commercial excellence truly is; it means different things to different companies. Our interpretation is that the commercial excellence team oversee all commercial functions and operations within a company, ensuring that they’re the same across all affiliates or franchise units and work is carried out to the highest standard. This will involve the team identifying areas of weaknesses and strengths and then managing the change to achieve excellence in these units. 

As Max explains, “Commercial excellence is only just coming into play as a function with increased hiring. In the past, a lot of EU and Global teams found that different countries were doing different things. In pharma, commercial excellence is needed. When a company gets to a certain size or is looking to grow, they need to ensure the processes are streamlined and consistent throughout the business. Otherwise, it can be costly and have a negative effect on customer engagement.”

Providing an impartial expert opinion

One of the many positives of introducing a commercial excellence team is that they’re able to provide an impartial opinion on the current processes and the improvements that need to be made. They have no allegiance to specific departments; they simply want to help the company become as productive and efficient as possible. The team will typically work in either an ‘above portfolio’ position or be focussed per therapy area. If it’s the latter, it’s likely they’ll sit above country and lead excellence in this TA area. 

With it being such a new area, there aren’t many people who have come from a commercial excellence role. Instead, they usually have a marketing and commercial operations background and experience of managing teams at a country and above level. They’re used to making senior strategic decisions and implementing them, which is precisely what’s needed in a role like this. 

A knowledge of the entire business is also needed. A Marketer that’s only worked on brand leadership may not have the experience of how other aspects of a pharmaceutical business affect the end outcome, supply chain, and so on. 

If a pharma company has teams in multiple countries with various portfolios, there’s a need to make sure they’re all working in the same way. Projects and communication with internal and external stakeholders needs to align, and a commercial excellence team is a good way to ensure this happens. 

Why companies should introduce commercial excellence

Having a commercial excellence team in place could help organisations save money in the long run. However, in order to do that, many would need to initially invest money in building the new team. For many, it’s this initial investment that puts them off – particularly as it’s such a new area and there are questions around how it works. 

Having worked with a number of clients that have commercial excellence in place, we’ve seen the number of ways in which teams have been successfully implemented. This includes the various roles that are put in place, situations whereby a consultancy has been used, and options for different budget sizes. 

Considering a commercial excellence team?

We’ll be producing further articles that look at what a typical team could look like, depending on budget, as well as comparing in-house and consultancy options, so keep your eyes peeled. In the meantime, if you’re considering a commercial excellence team or want to know more, click here to email Max Eldridge.

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