I have been reflecting on Travis Umpleby’s article, 3 Qualities of a High-Performance Pricing Team, and I wanted to share some observations from my recent client work about teaming and its impact on project success or failure.
First, many people on a cross-functional team who do not set or deliver price may view pricing as a science – plain ole’ math – but that could not be further from the truth. Pricing also involves an element of art, from asking the right questions to uncovering value drivers to identifying negotiation tactics to fitting all the customer clues together to win the deal. So if you are someone who sets price or delivers price, take the time to explain the steps and process to your colleagues. Ask them to “walk in your shoes” for a day or a week – consider involving them in assessing the competitive landscape, planning a negotiation, or sitting in a negotiation as an observer. Taking the time to understand one another’s challenges goes a long way to building empathy and trust amongst team members.
The next issue I see with commercial teams is an overreliance on processes and systems vs. people and interactions. We have a multitude of tools that are intended to increase our productivity, but often, they may actually limit creativity, problem-solving, and teaming. It’s easy to take a fallback position and say “that group doesn’t follow the process” or “did you fill out that form?” before taking action. But, do the process and the form really add value to the end goal? Let’s think through our day and our reliance on tools and systems – from IT projects, to sales funnels, to revenue trackers, to the ever-increasing email inbox. These systems and processes can be a distraction to our ultimate goal – win in the market and make profit. To win in the market, we have to increase our reliance on people and interactions and utilize some agile principles as we work together, for example – satisfy the customer, quick and decisive daily meetings, iterative processes, an outcomes-based mindset vs. activity-based mindset.
Finally, in many Negotiating with Backbone workshops, we talk about conflict between sales, pricing, finance, and operations – really any area of the company that supports the sales team. Now I’m all for organized conflict, but, in most cases, what I hear about is disorganized conflict and dysfunctional behaviors. I often ask the workshop participants to revisit how they react to their colleagues when it comes to supporting sales, for example – are you approachable, do you help the team find creative solutions to customer needs, or are you the “no” person in the organization and someone who grades the sales team when they need help? One of my favorite sayings from a colleague of mine is, “Don’t say no, say yes this way.” If you can take this approach with your colleagues, I guarantee you will be more successful as a team and a company.
So, in the process of setting and delivering your price, remember, do not be too reliant on the systems and processes in the organization but lean towards creating a collaborative environment where your colleagues know they can ask tough questions, challenge the process, and ultimately drive to the best customer solution. In the end, the best customer solution may be different than the solution you had in mind before you brought others into the discussion.