If you’re anything like me—and the audience of 500 fellow professionals I spoke to at the Professional Pricing Society’s Spring Conference in Chicago — you didn’t grow up dreaming of a career in pricing. It’s unlikely that you even considered it when you were in college or starting out.
The reality is most of us began as novices and were drawn from other experiences and educational backgrounds. Maybe your journey started by serving on an advisory team or working on a special project that created a new pricing department. Regardless of whether you now work in pricing at a corporate or local market level, or support your clients as a consultant, we all share one thing in common: we found pricing or pricing found us, and once it did we got hooked!
Developing a Passion for Pricing
My journey started 4 years ago when I was given the opportunity to take on a national pricing leadership role. During that time I’ve discovered and developed a passion for pricing and am humbled by the challenges and opportunities to learn more every day.
Pricing is fascinating because it requires us to navigate across functions, think strategically, act tactically, persevere through inevitable setbacks, and lead change. We have an oversized impact on the bottom line since it’s well-documented that a 1% increase in price realization delivers more profit than the same increase to unit volume or a reduction to operating expenses or fixed costs. Therefore, business owners and executives are realizing the profit potential of pricing strategy and industry disruption is forcing them to rethink traditional approaches.
However, this career path doesn’t come with a road map and though the concepts behind good pricing have been around for years, the role of a professional pricing leader has not. It’s an emerging and evolving discipline at the cross roads of digitalization, disruption, and big data analytics. Therefore, we need to learn how to navigate uncharted territory as we strive to become pricing leaders that drive profitable growth.
Envisioning the Journey
Through my experiences on the job, reading the work of industry thought-leaders, and talking with many of my peers, I’ve learned lessons that might sound familiar and hopefully help you envision your journey more clearly. Decisions about strategic direction, planning and preparation, software and technology, and questions about where to start can feel confusing. My goal is that these three questions are thought-provoking and are relatable to you in your journey.
- Do you have a clear vision for your pricing strategy?
- Obtain input from corporate stakeholders, frontline managers and sales force to hear diverse views about what’s most important.
- Keep your customers at the center – design your strategy to make it easier to do business with a fast, fair, and frictionless pricing experience.
- Put strategy before technology. Prioritize business policy decisions first and then invest in the software or analytical tools you’ll need to enable implementation.
- Do you have alignment from the C-suite to the “feet on the street”?
- Ensure you have CEO and executive support. Do your C-Suite executives, management, pricing team, and sales force agree on how your pricing strategy will benefit your company?
- Build bridges across departments because pricing touches everything.
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable. It’s your job to hold the difficult meetings in the board room, conference room, or break room. Learn to face resistance with an open mind, listen intently, and make the case for change simply, authentically, and with relevant examples and data.
- Since few of us were educated to be pricing leaders, we’ve learned by doing while on the job. Do you and your team have the experience needed to develop and implement your strategy within the expected timeframe to deliver results? Here are some ideas;
- Be a student of pricing, and read the many great books and articles of industry thought-leaders.
- Attend Professional Pricing Society conferences and become a Certified Pricing Professional (CPP).
- Network with other pricing professionals via LinkedIn or other groups.
- Add a consultant for coaching or to assist with specific projects.
Your Road Map for Success
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’re ready to build a road map for success to document where you stand, where you want to go, and what the journey will look like. The key milestones are establishing policies, improving processes, developing a pricing organization, and utilizing the right technology to execute your strategy. Your road map will pull it together with a timeline for implementation and projected resource requirements so that you can communicate the plan and rally support. Also remember to consider the trends of digital transformation, sales force enablement, price transparency, and the emergence of new pricing models.
It’s an exciting time to be a pricing leader! As our community of professionals succeeds in delivering quantifiable profitable growth and ROI, the demand for our expertise will be remain high. We can be confident that someday a pricing career will be an attractive option for students and young professionals because the pricing leader’s journey from novice to career professional and beyond travels on the cutting edge of innovation and technology.
It’s your journey, what’s your next step?