Commercial Managers invariably have to wear many hats in their all-consuming role. Their responsibilities stretch across numerous facets of business, encompassing sales and marketing, financial management and contract negotiation. On top of that, they have to lead a team to get results which in an uncertain economic and domestic landscape has proved ever more challenging within many organisations!
With so much falling on their shoulders, it would be easy to fall into the trap of just focusing on the day-to-day responsibilities of the job, putting out fires and poring over sales data.
However, this approach will not move the business forward.
Here are eight ways we believe that distinguish the habits of a highly successful commercial manager, from one who is simply being reactive to events as they happen.
Of course, these habits aren't exhaustive and are open to debate but they are based heavily on our experience of dealing with Commercial Managers and recruiting for Commercial Managers over the last 30 years.
1. They set aside time each day for strategy.
A top-tier Commercial Manager will realistically spend over 50% of their time on activities that drive the business forward.
How to make the grade: Monitor your workflow religiously for a week, then mark down which activities you spend time on are related to business strategy. You should be aiming for 50% or more. When do you get distracted by urgent affairs, consider how you could use it as a lesson for next time - is there an inefficiency? Do the salespeople or marketing team need to get better trained?
You should schedule strategic time each day and continue to track your time to ensure you are using it productively.
2. They view the team as their vehicle towards success and empower them sufficiently.
A commercial manager knows that the way to success is to empower their team. Commercial Managers are invariably exceptional communicators who maximise effectiveness and lead by example rather than force their authority on people. Additionally, they are transparent and share information with the team, which also fosters loyalty and engagement with the company mission.
How to make the grade: Consult with your team on how they would like to be developed, and what might be holding them back. Hold regular performance reviews, share information, remove inefficiencies, automate tasks where possible, and always have an open-door policy to ensure any issues are dealt with promptly before they potentially impact the team.
3. They keep abreast of the Industry.
High functioning commercial managers can predict trends before they happen, they know exactly what the competition are up to, and have a weather eye on how economic and political events may effect their sector.
How to make the grade: Read up on your sector exhaustively. Set google alerts, so you know when your sector or company is mentioned in the news. Keep up with current affairs and economic forecasts. Follow industry leaders on social media, and participate in relevant forums to find out what other bright minds are thinking, as well as getting known as a key player yourself.
4. They know the sales and marketing landscape (and get involved).
A top commercial manager isn't just aware of current sales figures and the latest company marketing campaign. They get involved with generating leads, pitching to new clients, and brainstorming marketing ideas.
How to make the grade: Commercial managers are constantly assessing the sales and marketing data, and strategising for better results, They're not just sitting behind a desk poring over data - they know the best way to understand the market and what challenges the sales team to get involved. So pick up the phone!
5. They're always building their Network.
A strong commercial manager is a relationship-builder. They have famously strong client liaison skills, and attend events and build their social media presence with the keen understanding that each person they connect with is a potential customer or partner for the business.
How to make the grade: Network, network, network. Build your powers of persuasion. Read How to make friends an influence people. Listen just as much as you talk. And don't forget that you represent the business at all times.
6. They are extremely aware of the business goals (and how they change).
A commercial manager who is not in line with the core business aims cannot succeed.
How to make the grade: It's important to be crystal clear with senior management about what results they want from their business and find out how much freedom you'll be given to deliver those results. Be sure to report regularly with quantifiable results of your efforts so far, and be willing to tweak your approach if the situation requires it or if the business goals change.
7. They admit fault.
A commercial manager who admits fallibility is winning on two fronts. They are sending a message that a) it is OK to try but not succeed (thereby fostering a learning environment of creativity and engagement), and b) fostering loyalty in the team by showing they can admit their mistakes.
How to make the grade: When you make a mistake with a new campaign or lose a big sale, the best way is to admit it to the team. (They'll almost certainly know anyway!) The best way to do it is to frame it as a learning opportunity that everyone can take something from, so pull out the lesson and share it freely.
8. They keep up with technology.
A commercial manager who isn't thirsty for new technology to help the business move forward may not be in the right job. It can certainly be exhausting to adopt to new systems, but a commercial manager must know about the latest relevant products and adopt them when they suit their business model.
How to make the grade: Know where your team could be more efficient, and look for tech solutions. Keep abreast on new project management/social media scheduling /CMS systems hitting the market, and read tech and marketing blogs to know how these net products can increase productivity and profitability.
Becoming a top commercial manager is a challenge, but it's a thrilling one where you can really see the results of your hard work.
Can we help?
At Lucy Walker Recruitment, we have been supporting the growth of organisations across the north of England to build high-performing commercial teams through a range of recruitment solutions and products, for almost 30 years.
To find out more call us on Leeds 0113 367 2880 or contact us here. You can check out some of our client testimonials here