4 Key Characteristics of Commercial Operations (Plus Skills)

Commercial operations is a professional field that focuses on optimizing a company’s ability to purchase or sell goods or services. Professionals who work in this field help organizations manage their processes and improve their sales while reducing operational costs.

The Alexander Group recently spoke with over 25 sales operations leaders from the high tech, medical products, and life sciences sectors as part of a larger study on best practices in sales operations to understand their aims and missions. The Sales Operations function must proceed through four stages of evolution in order to stay alive and relevant. The overall theme is sales productivity improvement, but the approach taken by the team to drive that improvement varies by phase.

Phase 0: Shadow Operations – This phase is relatively easy to live in. Most businesses launch with a single product, targeting a single market, and using one or a small number of channels. No formal centralized organization exists. Various departments and divisions within the business carry out typical tasks, including: Finance (e g. , reporting, quota setting and territories); Human Resources (e. g. , Sales Compensation, Training and Onboarding) and IT (data management). The distributed nature of the tasks’ completion in this phase determines productivity.

Phase 1: Sales Operations – The sales operations function is under pressure to keep up with the business’s growth and expansion. Activities that were previously carried out by Shadow Operations have been consolidated into a single unit. The unit continues to prioritize essential duties like data management, administering sales compensation, setting quotas, and territories. Special projects and ad-hoc requests address greater needs. “Mirror” businesses emerge across or within new geographic markets and business units as the company expands even more. In this stage, duplication of effort is frequent due to completely decentralized structures. Phase 1 productivity results from a more comprehensive approach to important tasks, allowing for the wider application of best practices and simplified procedures. As “noise” from dispersed activities becomes more centralized, inefficiencies decrease.

Commercial Operations Phase 2: This is where things start to get interesting. Companies need more sophisticated sales operations as their product lines and distribution channels expand. In actuality, the charter is no longer best described by the term “sales operations.” Starting to emerge are concepts like “sales enablement,” “sales excellence,” and “sales strategy and operations.” We are referring to this stage as “Commercial Operations” for lack of a better phrase. ” Certain functions become centralized (e. g. , data management) as the company tries to maximize its investments in systems and personnel. New functions emerge such as sales enablement (tools and training). Key sales operations functions are centralized (and outsourced when practical), geographical and BU sales operations structures are thinned, and they take on more significance within the organization. Phase 2 is when sales operations activities, through accretive responsibility areas like learning and development and business intelligence/analytics, start to naturally generate and push higher productivity. Investments are made in tools to support these productivity-enhancing areas.

Business operations in phase three have advanced to a higher level. Eventually, business models evolve to the point where a fourth and final phase is needed. The team now functions as a true shared service, with the majority of Sales Operations tasks being managed centrally. Territory management and sales support, for example, continue to be aligned to regional sales teams because they require proximity to a business unit and geography, but almost everything else is aligned to a common, global reporting structure. The centralized unit starts acting as an “intelligence hub” that provides insights to influence strategy and predictive analytics to support forecasting and planning, serving as a resource for more than just the sales organization. A strategic and tactical productivity multiplier for the company, the Business Operations function has clear productivity-improving measures. The executive table has been earned by the head of the business operations team, who regularly takes part in important company discussions.

The approach Sales Operations takes to increase productivity, not the charter, changes across these phases. Some businesses increase top-line revenue by facilitating additional sales with sophisticated pipeline tools, training materials, expertly designed territories, and highly motivating incentive programs. Others boost profits by switching out field personnel for predictive analytics that increase the value of each sales call or by adding sales support personnel that delegate administrative duties away from the core selling roles.

AGI is currently funding a thorough study of current trends in sales operations across industries and businesses in all the phases mentioned above. How do others handle the pressure to increase sales productivity year after year? Participating in our free Sales Operations Trends Survey will help you learn more about how leading companies are transforming their sales operations organizations.

A Career in Commercial Operations

4 characteristics of commercial operations

The field of commercial operations is:

1. Growth-oriented

The main objective of operations specialists is to create the best environment possible for the business to expand. Commercial operations leaders frequently forecast the type of growth the company can experience and then create a plan for how to get there by assessing risks, prioritizing tasks, and choosing key performance indicators (KPIs). They may possess exceptional analytical reasoning and problem-solving abilities to accomplish this effectively.

2. Data-driven

Many organizations collect data about their commercial operations consistently. The operations team could then carry out a thorough data analysis and use the results to make decisions and develop practical growth strategies for their business. They may also be able to improve customer targeting, increase customer engagement, and more with the help of this data.

3. Invested in people

Commercial operations managers are aware that employing highly qualified personnel and utilizing cutting-edge technologies can assist them in streamlining and enhancing processes. Because of this, they frequently support their employees’ professional development by providing additional training. These executives may also put emphasis on creating and sustaining an innovative and collaborative workplace culture.

4. Focused on technology

Commercial operations managers frequently concentrate on enhancing their organization’s technology in order to more efficiently collect data. They might select cutting-edge technological options that facilitate productive analysis of large data sets by their team. For instance, some businesses may use customer relationship management (CRM) tools to assist them in gathering data about customers and enhancing the general customer experience.

What is commercial operations?

An area of expertise in business operations is maximizing a company’s capacity to buy or sell goods or services. Workers in this field assist businesses in managing their operations, increasing sales, and lowering operational costs. An efficient operations team typically has a clear strategy for the business’ expansion and makes use of sophisticated data analysis tools to improve its business procedures.

Operations team members frequently have advanced training and backgrounds in business analysis, technology, or finance. Their main responsibilities might be creating reports or maintaining connections with the clients and customers of the organization. Additionally, they could assist the operations group in boosting productivity, which would raise overall revenue for the business.

Duties of a commercial operations manager

If you’re considering a career in business operations, you might want to review some of the key responsibilities in this area. Here are some daily responsibilities that an operations manager might have:

Useful skills for working in commercial operations

The following are some practical abilities you can master to succeed on a commercial operations team:

Analytical thinking skills

Operations professionals can more effectively optimize their organizations’ business processes by developing their analytical thinking abilities. They may employ analytical thinking to prioritize tasks and make sure the plans the company is putting in place will enable it to experience long-term growth. Consider enrolling in an online math course, like statistics, to hone your analytical thinking abilities. This may help you understand how to notice complex patterns.

Decision-making skills

Knowing how to make wise decisions can help your business generate more revenue and run more smoothly. Consider getting training in decision-making soft skills, like intuition and assertiveness, to hone your abilities. Asking for advice from your manager or supervisor on how to improve your prioritization techniques may help you make better decisions at work. Developing your decision-making abilities may enable you to recognize key elements of the business strategy, set goals that are realistic, and give company leaders advice on what decisions to make.

Communication skills

In order to improve their company’s operations, commercial operations managers frequently work with experts in business, management, and sales. They can use their communication skills—both verbal and written—to clearly explain concepts and give direct advice about crucial choices or significant projects. Since they are a crucial component of effective leadership, communication skills are also crucial to develop if you want to advance within the organization and take on a senior role.

Negotiation skills

You might need highly developed negotiation skills if you want to work in commercial operations for a living. Due to the fact that negotiation involves knowing how to influence people successfully, having these abilities may help you uphold positive client relationships and improve teamwork. These abilities could also aid you in landing a new job or negotiating a higher salary if you’re interested in advancing your career.

Emotional intelligence

Usually, this soft skill combines interpersonal and relationship management abilities. These abilities can assist you in more effectively maintaining relationships with customers, suppliers, business partners, and coworkers. Consider getting feedback from friends or family about how you handle relationships in your personal life to increase your emotional intelligence. This may help you identify areas that may need improvement. Then you can apply what you learned in the workplace.

Sales skills

A background in sales may help you succeed in this field even though working in a commercial operations team is different from working in sales. This is so that employees in operations and sales can help the business maximize profits and develop long-term growth strategies. Therefore, improving your storytelling, active listening, and social selling abilities may help you succeed in carrying out your daily tasks.


What is included in commercial operations?

Their typical business operations might include:
  • Marketing.
  • Order management.
  • Web design & development.
  • Sales.
  • Inventory management.
  • Warehousing and fulfillment.

What does a VP of commercial operations do?

The vice president of commercial operations supervises the teams involved in commercial operations. Additionally, the candidate will be in charge of managing and leading the commercial operations team, which includes technical transfers, proposals, commercial…

What is a business operation example?

Key operating costs, key operating revenues, staff, and technology are a few examples of business operations.

What is commercial operations in pharma?

Sales and marketing of the goods and services make up the commercial activities of pharma and life science. Every patient requires individual and special treatments. Sales and marketing should therefore only be conducted for goods and services that correspond to people’s needs.

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