Case Study: Commercial Excellence combined with Business Intelligence in the Medical Device Industry

Steffen Strubel
8 min readJul 23, 2020


The Target

To make it short:

Sustain or overachieve growth performance of at least 15%/a over a period of 3 years.


  1. The Company
  2. The Project Approach
  3. The Plan
  4. The Execution

1) The Company


After hiring a new CEO, high investments in RnD and the creation of a new Global Commercial Organization, this company built its own success story over the last 5 years. From medium performance products with high quality, low volume to supply and a medium demand (Reactive Sales), to high performance products with high quality, high supply volume and a high demand (Proactive Sales).

New challenges:

  • Rightsizing of the commercial organization
  • Little insight into the activities of the direct sales teams in the field
  • No insight into capacity utilization of the sales force
  • Resource allocation
  • Supply Chain planning
  • Challenging sales targets
  • Development of new Sales Channels
  • Correct Budgeting and Targeting
  • Building an incentive Scheme that suits the new challenges
  • Lack of full transparency of the market structure
  • No competitor and market share data


Sales Organisation:

  • Focus on direct sales
  • 4 Sales Teams in 4 countries
  • Average of 8 Sales Reps per country
  • 1–2 Management levels per country

Product Structure:

  • 3 product divisions
  • Project & disposable driven sales
  • 1500 products
  • 1 focus division

Commercial Excellence approach:

  • non existing

System Environment:

  • 3 stand alone ERP Systems
  • 1 implemented but unused CRM-System


  • Total of 2200 customers
  • Average of 100 customers per Territory
  • Average of 16 active customers per Sales Rep

Reporting System:

  • ERP-individual Excel reporting.

2) The Project Approach

  1. Understanding the business and the market
  2. Collect all relevant data for initial Market Analysis
  3. Process Simulation of the Business PDCA Cycle
  4. Concept Developments for necessary Smart Applications and Reports
  5. Gathering of required Commercial Excellence expectations
  6. In depth analysis of data
  7. Threshold and KPI development
  8. Design Concept for Reports
  9. Workshop to initiate development process
  10. Development of Milestone/Sprint adjustment & approval process
  11. Final presentation

3) Plan

Transparency, Control, Influence

Transparency: To gain clarity we had to objectify the market, products, activities and resources from a commercial perspective.

Control: A system that allows you to define a plan, detect deviations from the plan and then either take action or correct the plan.

Influence: Using the transparency and control mechanisms to generate recommendations for action or plan-changes and build a system that allows to transform them into the processes and behavior of the organisation.

To create the three criteria we needed to create a PDCA cycle that was fully integratable into the everyday business of the commercial organization. This meant to replicate the current standard of:

Plan: Annual Budget

Do: Sales Calls

Check: Annual Performance Evaluation

Act: (N/A)

and build it into a fully integrated and closed, systematic and living PDCA-cycle. By keeping the Data always flowing, we are capable of visualizing deviations from plans or performance targets, keeping the Sales Rep and the Management informed to adjust plans or behavior before bad things happen. The result was:

Plan: System based targeting on customer and product level, including a price, workload and supply analysis.

Do: App supported Activity analysis and market data input.

Check: Business Intelligence based Commercial Excellence Effectiveness and Efficiency Analytics including Sales Funnel Conversion Analysis, Acquisition behavior, Revenue-, Price-Mix,- Volume-Analysis

Act: Application for Plan adaption and recommendations for behavior adaption

3) Execution


We decided to use a pyramid hierarchy for the analysis layers. (Vertically: Disciplinary Hierarchy Levels = Regional consolidation; Horizontally: Data Density). From high level Dashboards that quickly give an overview of the areas that need attention, to Reports that show details and visualize deviations, blind-spots and need for action, to tools that fill the database.

We categorized the content of this structure by the nature of the Data and the recommendations ares for action.

Customer Portfolio Analysis

Market: To get a lower resolution picture of the market for a structured analysis, we had to segment it (Stage & Size). Therefore we needed to collect and calculate potential data on a customer level. Further we collected data of the competition to get a better understanding of the current market set-up and market-share constellation as well as options for new sales channels. Additionally we were collecting standard sales information (revenue, quantities etc.) to live-integrate the market analysis and to show sales performance data on a daily basis.

Territory Capacity

Resources: : How many Sales Reps does it take to achieve planned short to midterm growth and mid to long term market-coverage. Additionally we integrated the information of how many acquisitions and active customers a Sales Rep can manage in parallel into the Budget tool, to give guidance during the planning-process.

Also part of the Ressource Analysis is the continuous data transfer from the Planning Tool and Sales Funnel to the production’s planning department.

Activity Hotspots

Activities: Activities are a sensitive topic, especially in Sales. When it comes to the analysis and control of field behavior it is important to understand the culture of the company and the influence and expectations of the management. We can only control as much as the culture can bare.

Our approach was to use specific visit data, only to keep track on the resource allocation, the budget planning, the workload. Additionally to visit behavior and customer developments, Sales Funnel Activities are being tracked analytically and used for Forecasting and the production interface.

Most of these reports are backwards oriented. This is why we wanted to build something that has a fundamental impact on the future. This is why we developed the Activity Planner Dashboard, showing the Sales Rep the priorities of his next activities in the form of a check list of which customer to visit next and why.

Product Mix

Products: Fundamentally, it was important for our customer to know the split of your products for the analysis of capacity restraints, market positioning, and price mix analysis.

Additionally we built a report, that gave the company the possibility to keep track on product launches in terms of a cross-selling, up-selling and cannibalization-analysis.

Commercial Excellence System

The Commercial Excellence System is the logic and soul behind the concept. It contains all measures, thresholds and analysis of the system that are responsible to increase the effectiveness and the efficiency of the system.

Commecial Excellence Pillars

Effectiveness (Actual vs. Plan)

  • Revenue
  • Gross Margin
  • Customers visited
  • Customers acquired
  • Customers expanded
  • Sales Funnel conversion rate


  • Time & visits to acquire a customer
  • Time & visits to Sales Funnel conversion

The philosophy behind this system is the constant measurement of negative or positive deviations of relevant KPI, resulting in recommended actions. The data collected is in constant interaction with every other Commercial Excellence pillar in the system which makes the system act like a living organism when fed with data.

Processing Components

BI-Tool: What we need to collect and analyze data is a powerful platform that gives us the possibility of connecting every data source necessary, build complex calculations and visualize them in the most intuitive and interesting manner. Therefore we decided to use a Microsoft based Self Service BI Platform (Microsoft Power BI), that satisfied all our requirements. This allows us not, to fully integrate Commercial Excellence and all necessary tools into the PDCA Business Cycle.

Smart Applications: For replicating an annual business cycle of this commercial organization we needed 3 tools.

Planning: A tool that gave the sales reps the possibility of planning the annual budget bottom up on a month, product and customer level including volume, price and rebates. (Advantage Bottom Up: The Sales Rep creates his/her own Accountability and Responsibility ). This tool included a Workload Analysis, a Commercial Excellence Analysis and an Escalation Workflow. The data coming out of this tool, was later used for the building of the annual budget and the production plan.

Visiting: An application that gives the Sales Rep the chance, to document customer visits in less than one minute, only asking for the data that has an impact on business relevant decisions or the Commercial Excellence logic.

Adjustment: We recycled the planning tool for the purpose of adjustments in customer plans. In case there were customers, that were not interested in the product, the sales rep is able to exchange customers, products etc. along the way to adapt the Effectiveness analysis to the new situation and to update the production plan in real time.


PDCA Integration: To make the system become alive it was necessary to make it part of each crucial step in the commercial business cycle (Plan: Budgeting and Targeting, Do: Sales Activities, Check: Effectiveness and Efficiency KPI, Act: Plan or Behavior-Adjustment.) To make this happen, every step of this cycle needed to be managed in the centralized system and database, without leaving it for certain activities that would not be reflected in the set up later.

Budget: The Budget process was changed to a bottom up planning process that was on the one hand used to create the annual budget but also to set targets on a granular level, that gave the management the possibility of checking the success of the activities in detail.

Sales: Sales Activities were accompanied by the Mobile Visit Application that gave the Sales Rep the chance to prepare customer visits with important information and track on the progress of the customer development by entering crucial data.

Review: The BI System gave us the possibility to track on the effectiveness and efficiency of the sales team on every disciplinary aggregation level. The live data shows effectiveness and efficiency achievements, as well as an outlook on the end year result

Plan Adaption: In case of mayor changes in a plan, the Sales Reps are now capable of adapting their detailed plan on a daily basis, as long as the revenue and workload target stays at least the same. The consequence out of this was, that customer level plans could be updated to the Effectiveness KPI were always valid and meaningful.

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Sales-Force-Effectiveness, Sales-Force-Efficiency & The Comfort-Zone