Apex Blog

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The term ‘Commercial Excellence’ has been growing steadily for the past 10 years. While the term is broad in definition, the underlying theme is to inject new life and data-driven processes into the company’s commercial strategy.

Specialist in commercial excellence recruitment, Curtis Jordan, discusses the 4 backgrounds that transfer well into a commercial excellence role. See his thoughts on important leadership characteristics below.

Commercial excellence is the design and delivery of commercial best practices that maximize profitable revenue, including programs to consistently improve pricing, salesforce effectiveness, product mix, custo (2)


This high-growth, fast-moving business concept is in-demand and is a key area for promoting future executive leadership. For these reasons, I feel it is an important area for professionals to consider exploring career development and would like to offer some insights into how you can transition into working in commercial excellence.

I have identified 4 main backgrounds with skills that most commonly transfer into commercial excellence here in Japan.



Experience in looking at large data sets (quantitative & qualitative) externally) and influencing stakeholders to make strategic decisions are excellent qualifications for working in commercial excellence. I often see consultants with experience in these areas successfully move into commercial excellence roles. These are the top qualifications asked for by our clients as history has shown that consultants can join the company and make the fastest impact in driving commercial excellence initiatives.

Take the next step:

  • What type of environment is best for you? In which industries do you have experience and interest? Keep in mind that every industry is different in terms of their commercial excellence structure and maturity. This means that there will be differences in areas such as daily work, company-wide engagement, and career development potential. Many companies in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries have had commercial excellence departments and sometimes complex divisions with numerous sub-departments for 5-10 years, however, it is a relatively new strategic initiative in industries such as industrial and manufacturing. While there are numerous pros and cons you could draw from this, it is important to consider all options and career paths.
  • Options: Many opportunities will lie in-between on the above spectrum. For this reason, as a recruiter specializing in these positions, I often provide consultants with introductions to numerous companies and industries and encourage them to be open-minded to learn about all options before making a decision. I recommend anyone looking to move into a commercial excellence role do the same and keep an open mind.


Information Technology

I.T. professionals are often accustomed to handling data and making this accessible and digestible to decision makers, managing processes and projects, and leading digital transformation, business intelligence, CRM, and SFE technologies. These professionals understand information at scale: how to receive, organize and process data; often giving them the basis to analyze and then make decisions drawn from the data as well.

Take the next step:

  • How have the technical areas within your experience crossed into the commercial side of the business? (ie. data management will be increasingly valuable for growth areas like big data, machine learning, and AI; all applications that will be beneficial for commercial excellence.)
    • Further develop technical skills and experience in the tools that commercial teams are using. Learn how they are using them and the gaps in knowledge and application.
    • Consider how you can cross the bridge into the commercial environment. Do you have a voice to provide insights and advice to the commercial team on how to use these technologies? 
  • Be proactive - Talk to stakeholders or those responsible for commercial strategy and discuss the above with them (recruiters can also offer advice and direction on best career development steps).


Sales Operations/Sales Planning

Functionally, the mandate is not very different so historically this area is a natural option when building commercial excellence teams internally. Those from sales operations or sales planning understand the sales cycles, customer segments, and KPIs, and in doing so, often have an inherent SWOT knowledge of the sales workforce. The day-to-day use of technologies such as CRM and Business Intelligence is often led by these professionals so I see them transition into further assessing the information and strategic decision-making within commercial excellence functions. 

Take the next step:

  • Does your company have a commercial excellence initiative? Regardless of the terminology (maybe the ideas are being rolled-out but there is not a specific department), what commercial strategies are being driven and changed by the ideas of commercial excellence? Discuss with your manager on how your skills and experience could contribute to this effort. Being proactive and solutions-oriented is a skill you will need to excel in commercial excellence.
  • Look externally – What are other companies within your sector doing? Transitioning within the industry is the most obvious fit due to the nature of the work you have done. If you are looking externally, many recruiters have numerous commercial excellence positions at their clients and would most likely be able to make an introduction for you. I would recommend choosing a recruiter with industry specialization as they can give you deeper insights into the organizations, initiatives, and strategies of many companies in the market.    


Operational Excellence

OpEx is the grandfather of ComEx (Commercial Excellence). For many years, methodologies such as LEAN, Six Sigma, Kaizen, SPC, or even ISO certifications led the way in revitalizing businesses and increasing value and profit. While it is still common that professionals leading such methodologies to continue with a focus in operations, I have seen some very successful commercial excellence professionals come from operational excellence. Both being born out of process and a science of numbers and projected outcomes, it is often not much of a stretch to transition from leading cost-saving to leading revenue-producing efforts through commercial excellence.

Take the next step:

  • While there are inherent parallels, this change will not follow a natural career progression so you should consider how deep your interest in the commercial side of the business is and how you want to develop your career from there.
  • Your largest qualification might be your experience in affecting company-wide change and you should first look internally at your current company. Compared to the other backgrounds above, I have not seen as many operational excellence professionals hired externally into commercial excellence roles. There is a personality or business-thinking chasm and companies are not as willing to take this risk on newcomers. Regardless, you should be prepared to communicate both how your skills and experience qualify you as well as your passion to work in this new area.
  • You will have to learn from scratch in various areas and commit to developing your career in commercial work. The good news is that with a background in both operational excellence and commercial excellence you will be in an ideal position to challenge executive leadership roles.


Commercial excellence is an exciting area where local, regional, and global decisions are made. Successful professionals working in this area have expansive and forward-leaning views of the business and thus often get promoted directly into President or Regional Management roles.


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