This month, I am celebrating my 1-year anniversary at Wiglaf Pricing. It has been quite the year for me professionally. As a consultant, I gained a unique opportunity to put my pricing training into action and to help executives manage price better.
Recently, I found myself reflecting on the many lessons I have learned in the last 12 months. Here are some of the major ones.
Don’t just analyze numbers. Shepherd decisions
The first major lesson I learned in my new role was also one of the most profound insights to me: don’t just do analysis for the sake of analysis. Rather, always keep the overarching goal of shepherding decisions front and center.
I came to work at Wiglaf Pricing after almost 4 years working as a pricing analyst for a manufacturing company. During my time as a pricing analyst, I became adept at using Excel for transactional analysis. Over time, I learned time-saving keyboard shortcuts, including the magic that is KeyTips. I learned about the memory benefits of using an INDEX-MATCH function combination instead of VLOOKUP. I learned some basic VBA to automate Excel routines that I found myself repeating frequently.
Having developed solid analyst chops, I looked forward to my transition to Wiglaf Pricing and all of the learning opportunities it would provide. What kind of fancy analytical techniques would I learn? What type of novel mathematics texts would I be required to comb? What pricing secrets would I be entrusted with??!
While I did pick up some new tricks (see my article from last year on doing a log-linear regression) and my learning did accelerate, I discovered that how you use a tool is just as important as which tool you use.
It isn’t enough to know WHAT you are analyzing or HOW you are analyzing it. You have to know WHY you are analyzing it. In short, why should anyone care about the results of your analysis? What are the conclusions an executive can walk away with from your analysis?
You must start with the end in mind. Ask yourself how management could use your analysis to make more informed decisions or to drive change. If you don’t have good answers, then it is possible that you are trying to analyze the wrong thing.
Additionally, completing the analysis is only the first step. Next, you must communicate the relevance of the analysis and assist management in drawing accurate conclusions from the results. In order to make the transition from analyst to consultant, you must learn the difference between analyzing and consulting.
If your analysis does not create greater clarity and help lead to a management decision, then you are missing the point.
Collaboration is essential
The second major lesson I learned was that collaboration is essential to any successful project. For many people, this lesson should go without saying. And yeah, I knew before coming to Wiglaf Pricing that working together on a team is important.
But when I speak of collaboration, I mean more than just sitting with your favorite working group in a conference room, trying not to daydream and hoping that your afternoon caffeine kicks in soon.
I mean being actively engaged with your colleagues and working together on a cross-functional team to co-create pricing solutions that address the top concerns of management across all departments. Collaboration requires drive, perseverance, and emotional intelligence.
We work in a client-centered business, and successfully creating any client-centered solution requires true, honest-to-goodness collaboration with the client.
When a client engages us, we show up with our toolboxes full of pricing techniques and insights. But we don’t actually know which tools we need to use or what we are going to build until we complete our situation analysis.
And we don’t build our solution in isolation. We iterate. We co-create.
We start by building a prototype solution. We find out what works for our client and what does not. We make changes accordingly and present the updated version to the client. We gather more feedback and adjust as required. This cycle continues until the client has a solution that they can implement.
Collaboration is essential for success in this type of work. We cannot create a pricing solution without any input from the client. We need the client’s subject-matter expertise, the client needs our pricing expertise, and we must work together to create a workable solution.
Collaboration is important in the client-consultant relationship. In this same vein, collaboration is also very important between different departments in the client’s organization. Ideally, you want Sales, Marketing, and Finance to play well with each other. From the consulting perspective, it is also incredibly important during any change management process to get buy-in from all stakeholders.
Fundamentally, any pricing improvement will involve some element of change management as you prepare people to use new pricing processes and tools. And one of the most important steps is getting buy-in for the solution.
Getting buy-in can turn into a long, painful process, so I suggest that you start getting buy-in sooner rather than later. Sometimes, you may be several weeks into designing a new process before someone even expresses their misgivings about the solution. Perhaps they did not want to slow down the process or appear to be too negative. (If you think that support for the solution is not unanimous, I suggest that you find some way to get feedback in a one-on-one setting.)
Unfortunately, if you are the agent of change (as all good consultants should be), it is your responsibility to seek out those misgivings and effectively address them. Professing your ignorance of rumblings of discontent from the team does not neutralize these roadblocks to successful implementation.
It is important to keep the team abreast of any changes in direction or tactic. Because the client understands their processes the best, the client will generally also have the insight to identify fatal flaws in any process update.
Remember that collaboration is key.
Speak with authority
The final lesson I learned is that when you speak, speak with authority.
This should not be taken as an invitation to hubris or to be a braggart. I do not know of any situations (professional or otherwise) where either of those choices would be beneficial.
Rather, when you speak, speak with confidence. Speak as someone who has something worthwhile to say. Speak as someone who has the experience to know, because you will have that experience by the time you reach this point of your career.
Strangely enough, it is possible to speak with confidence and humility. In that case, you have the confidence to speak with certainty, but you also have the humility to recognize that if the data changes or the circumstances change or the project objective changes, your recommendation may change as well.
So, speak of your experience, when that experience is applicable. And if your experience is not applicable, create a plan to get more applicable experience.
On a parting note, I have also found that the more you read, the more likely you will have something intelligent to add to the conversation.