Bakers Journal

Is the Price Right…or Wrong?

June 12, 2008
By Per Sjofers managing partner Atenga Inc.

A look at the 10 most common mistakes companies make when pricing their
products or services.

Mistake #1: Companies base their prices on their costs, not their customers’ perceptions of value.
Prices based on costs invariably lead to one of the following two scenarios: (1) if the price is higher than the customers’ perceived value, the cost of sales goes up, discounting increases, sales cycles are prolonged and profits suffer; (2) if the price is lower, sales are brisk, but companies are leaving money on the table, and therefore are not maximizing their profit.
Higher cost, lower revenue, lower profits.

Mistake #2:
Companies base their prices on “the marketplace.”
The marketplace is often cited as the “wisdom of the crowds,” the collective judgment of the value of a product. But by resorting to “marketplace pricing,” companies accept the commoditization of their product or service. Instead, management teams must find ways to differentiate their products or services so as to create additional value for specific market segments.

Products sold on price alone leads to lower profits.


Mistake #3:
Companies attempt to achieve the same profit margin across different product lines.
Some financial strategies support a drive for uniformity, and companies try to achieve identical profit margins for disparate product lines. The iron law of pricing is that different customers will assign different values to identical products. For any single product, profit is optimized when the price reflects the customer’s willingness to pay.

Companies are unable to optimize their pricing, leading to lower profits

Mistake #4:
Companies fail to segment their customers.
Customer segments are differentiated by the customers’ different requirements for your product. The value proposition for any product or service is different in different market segments, and the price strategy must reflect that difference. Your price realization strategy should include options that tailor your product, packaging, delivery options, marketing message and your pricing structure to particular customer segments, in order to capture the additional value created for these segments.

Companies fail to maximize their market potential, leading to lower revenue and profits.

Mistake #5:
Companies hold prices at the same level for too long, ignoring changes in costs, competitive environment and customers’ preferences.
Most companies fear the uproar of a price change and put it off as long as possible. Savvy companies accustom their customers and their sales forces to frequent price changes. The process of keeping customers informed of price changes can, in reality, be a component of good customer service.

Companies endure ever-reduced profits, and when they make a price change, it is large and they may lose their customers. Each is leading to lower revenues and lower profits.

Mistake #6:
Companies often incentivize their salespeople on revenue generated, rather than on profits.
Volume-based sales incentives create a drain on profits when salespeople are compensated to push volume at the lowest possible price. This mistake is especially costly when salespeople have the authority to negotiate discounts. Companies need to redefine the salesperson’s “job” as maximizing profitability, and incentivize profitability, while also providing the salespeople the necessary “tools” to do so.

Larger sales volume on lower-cost products and overall lower profits.

Mistake #7:
Companies change prices without forecasting competitors’ reactions.
Any change in your prices will cause a reaction by your competitors. Smart companies know enough about their competitors to forecast their reactions, and prepare for them. This avoids costly price wars that can destroy the profitability of an entire industry.

Danger of costly, unprofitable price wars.

Mistake #8:
Companies spend insufficient resources managing their pricing practices.
Cost, sales volume and price are the three basic variables that drive profit. Most management teams are comfortable working on cost reduction initiatives, and they have some level of confidence in growing their sales volume. Many companies, however, only utilize simplistic price procedures.

Lower revenue and lower profits.

Mistake #9:
Companies fail to establish internal procedures to optimize prices.
In some companies, the hastily called “price meeting” has become a regular occurrence – a last-minute meeting to set the final price for a new product or service. The attendees are often unprepared, and research is limited to a few salespeople’s anecdotes, perhaps a competitor’s last year’s price list, and a financial officer’s careful calculation of the product’s cost structure across a variety of assumptions.

Lower revenue and lower profits.

Mistake #10:
Companies spend most of their time serving their least profitable customers.
Most companies do not even know who their most profitable customers are. While 80 per cent of a company’s profits generally come from 20 per cent of its customers, failure to identify and focus on these 20 per cent leaves companies undefended against wilier competitors. Such failure also deprives the company of the loyalty that more attention and better service would provide.

Lower revenue and lower profits.

The optimization of pricing strategy is as important as the management of costs and the growth of sales volume. Since most companies have never done it, rigorous price optimization has emerged as an important source of competitive advantage and increased profitability.

Per Sjofors is a managing partner with Atenga Inc. ( ). He’s a highly sought-after speaker and has more than 20 years of executive management experience. He has built a number of successful, and very profitable, sales and marketing companies in Europe and in the U.S. Per also co-founded the industry association G-SAM and has published a
number of articles in industry press.

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