So, what exactly does this mean? A few weeks ago, I was asked to attend a sales meeting for a client with a view to helping the sales manager improve her skills in chairing meetings, communication as well as increasing her general level of confidence and presence in conducting such matters. She was doing a great job as it happens despite the challenge of having quite a polarised group of executives within her team as some were very experienced and others not so.


Interestingly, within the context of the meeting she made a comment to the team, “We need to be more commercial” she said. As I looked around the room, I could see the experienced ones nodding agreement and the new ones searching mentally for an answer they couldn’t find but appearing too embarrassed to ask what, exactly, that meant. 


In our debrief I asked the sales manager what the team may have made of the comment about being more commercial and she said it was just an instinctive thing to say and she hadn’t really given it much thought. It was kind of assumed that everyone would just know what it meant. Fair point.


Having coached team sports in the past I suggested, with some levity, that it was the management equivalent of standing on the touchline and shouting ‘concentrate’ to your charges. I’ve seen it done many times and no one ever really seems to know what exactly to concentrate on. She saw the funny side.


We went on to discuss what it is to be ‘more commercial’, being commercially aware or developing commerciality as it has become more widely known. I asked her what she thought it was and how she might define it for future meetings. She started with a great line; “I guess we just need to know what’s going on in the business and be aware of outside influences that can affect us” she said. A broad definition but not a bad start.


We agreed it was definitely that in a nutshell, as well as developing the ability, acumen and vision to see beyond what is obvious and learning to interpret what these things might mean to you, your team, your business and indeed your industry going forward.


The key to being a real commercial beast in this and many other areas of business is knowledge, interpretation and understanding. If we can amass knowledge of the key factors that affect our business, company and industry, learn to interpret that information skilfully and accurately then this will help our understanding of what we need to do for us to be able to work our way through to finding robust business solutions going forward.


Another buzz word that it often used today in business is ‘flex’ and in this case it is extremely apt. This is because in terms of being more commercial it describes one of the main attributes of a commercially aware leader who can adjust and change with the times. Seeing new developments and opportunities as they emerge and being able to accommodate them into a business plan on the hoof is quite a skill.


A commercially aware leader has the ability to see their market or industry almost like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Looking at the big picture on the box lid, they will know where they fit into that industry and the part they play in it. When a new piece is introduced or even lost, they have the ability to see, interpret and understand what this could mean to their business.


Having this level of astuteness allows them to know and understand what risks they may face. How to combat them and make a high-level assessment of the general state of their market or industry. This can be made obvious to your customers, when in dealings with them, you discuss prevailing trends within the industry demonstrating that you are up to date and on the case, as it were. This allows you to show that you are making informed and knowledgeable comments on how these trends will affect, not just your business and customers, but also potentially your opposition as well. This ability is viewed by business leaders as a serious asset.


“How do I become more commercially aware myself?” she asked me, as the meeting was drawing to a close. To answer that question my mind went immediately to an executive I coached many years ago who was trying his best to get noticed at a higher level. Although he was doing very well in his specific business sector, he didn’t have much knowledge of the bigger picture relating to the company and the wider industry; in short, he hadn’t yet developed his own ‘big picture’ of the jigsaw puzzle box lid, which would have displayed a clearer vision of the world around him.


As I explained to her, the start point for him was simple. Whilst reading the daily red top newspapers may be entertaining, which he did every day, I suggested that ‘also’ reading a quality daily newspaper or a business journal would better help in quipping him with the knowledge of what is going on in the world around him in general as well as the industry in which he operated specifically. To the people around him, it would also present a more business-like image and send a message to his seniors that he was taking learning about the business world operates seriously.


She agreed that this would be helpful. I further suggested to her that subscribing to industry relevant websites and newsletters also helps to broaden one’s knowledge. More knowledge leads to greater understanding and this helps us to interpret more skilfully the ramifications and consequences of what is going on around us. Any form of networking, reading journals and information channels will help to develop personal skills and general business acumen leading to improved levels of commerciality.


The sales manager went away with her own definition of what is it to be commercially aware, and in truth, this just means being ‘generally aware’. Because if we pay close attention to what is going on around us in our company, market, our industry and in every aspect of our business life then our awareness of all this helps us commercially to make the right decision when we need to.


At Maguire Training, not only do we offer classroom-based courses and programmes, but we are also proud to offer a versatile and intuitive suite of over a hundred e-learning modules on our website, which covers a range of sales and customer service topics. Have a look at the on-line modules ‘Maximising Incoming Business’ and ‘Winning New Business’, which would be a perfect complement to the classroom-based commercial awareness courses we offer.


If you need further information then you could always call us of course on 0333 5777 144 for a no obligation discussion about your training requirements. Alternatively, simply hit the ‘Contact Us’ on any page of our website at and we’ll get right back to you.

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