What does a typical commercial excellence team look like?

With a commercial excellence function becoming more popular within organisations, we produced an article that answered the question: ‘What is commercial excellence in pharma?’ In this article, we’re looking at what a typical commercial excellence team might look like, and how company budget and product portfolio size may affect them. To find out more, we spoke with Max Eldridge, Senior Recruitment Consultant at Real. 

Approaching your commercial excellence team

There are multiple ways of developing your commercial excellence function. Often this depends on the size of the company and their budget; some choose to use a consultancy, whilst others opt to hire an in-house team. As Max explains, “A lot of the smaller companies are putting in a commercial excellence director from the start. We’re also seeing companies hiring a consultancy to do the ground work and then have someone senior in house to implement the outcomes.”

When implementing a commercial excellence team, it’s important it’s done correctly; you don’t want the team to be seen as merely a support unit. The people working within it need to have an understanding of how the entire business functions – in order to be able to influence internal stakeholders. These roles are often identified as more operationally focussed.

Commercial excellence in global companies with large portfolios

When larger pharma companies have teams in multiple countries, working on various portfolios, the chances are they’ll all have slightly different marketing requirements. Despite this, you need to make sure they’re working together as one unified business and are communicating with internal and external stakeholders in the same way. “We’ve seen companies implement therapy area focused teams, to ensure they’re fully aligned across the globe for that specific unit,” says Max. 

If you were to think of your major therapy areas, you could start to breakdown the team based on these. For example, if you had a major oncology franchise, you could have an excellence team that individually supports on all aspects of the portfolios commercial structure. This could consist of a:

  • European/Global Marketing Excellence Manager
  • European/Global Launch Excellence Manager
  • European/Global Field Force Excellence Manager

The idea of these roles would be to ensure that the brand marketers and sales people are aligned in their practices and customer message, sharing what works and what doesn’t. 

Another way of structuring the team would be to have people working above portfolio, so they wouldn’t necessarily be in one particular business franchise. They’d work across a range of portfolios with different stakeholders in all regions. 

Medium-sized companies’ commercial excellence teams

Many medium-sized companies have successfully introduced a commercial excellence team. And when compared with larger companies, they’re much more hands-on – they don’t just check over what’s being done, they suggest and implement the changes. 

If a company has multiple launches coming up across several affiliates, you need a team in place that can deal with, and align, the global variances within affiliate drug authorities, reimbursement systems, and other areas of commercial strategy. The structure that many of them are using allows for this. 

Typically, there’s an overarching leader – this may be the Global/European Commercial Excellence or Commercial Capability Director, for example. The team is then split into sections of excellence, similar to the above role titles, the difference being that these roles are working above therapy area brands. With so much intelligence available to review, having dedicated managers for individual areas means you can get more from your insights. The head of each area can then voice the changes that need to happen and oversee them within the brand teams. 

It can be more effective to have people in above portfolio positions, so they can align everything across all affiliates and franchise areas. They work to align the company strategy and message, streamlining processes as they go. 

Commercial excellence in smaller pharma companies

Because there’s so much to work on, it can be slightly harder for smaller organisations to put a full team in place and apply changes. Ensuring the right processes are followed could also be difficult with budgetary restrictions.

Max says, “In order for the commercial excellence team to be successful in smaller companies, it’s important to get the complete picture mapped out and for all change to happen at once. This avoids confusion.” 

One option for those that don’t have the headcount required is to hire a consultancy and allow them to do the leg work. Ideally, you would still have a senior person to drive the change, which is perhaps why so many smaller companies put in commercial excellence directors as soon as they can. Otherwise it falls within the managers remit to implement the changes, and they can sometimes be hesitant to do so, if the insights come from a consultancy. 

For many small companies, the main role of the team is to plan the areas of commercial excellence in the future, looking at medium-sized companies for examples. Their focus is on future forecasting, how to build the message, and ultimately grow the portfolio. They make sure that, as they grow out affiliates in countries, they can do so efficiently. So, in many ways, they’re considered more of a project manager. 

The commercial excellence team you need

Whatever the size of your business and portfolios, there’s a commercial excellence team solution that’s right for you. We’ve put together some possible options that we’ve seen successfully implemented by our clients: 

  • If you have large portfolios, it may be beneficial to have dedicated team per brand. This will help to ensure they’re aligned worldwide.
  • If you have a bigger budget, you could consider breaking your team down into sections with one overarching director. This makes area development much easier and means there’s more contact in each area.
  • If you’re a smaller company, you could hire a commercial excellence director and bring in a consultancy to do the bulk of the work. This avoids significantly raising your headcount and means there’s someone senior in place to implement changes internally.
  • Another option would be to work above and across portfolios, working with different stakeholders in different regions. Everyone will have a complete overview of the business and will collaborate, which can help develop and launch drugs quicker.

If you’re considering implementing a commercial excellence team and would like to know more, email Max Eldridge or contact us today. 

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