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Building a community of pricing professionals - Interview with Kevin Mitchell of the Professional Pricing Society

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For all those who work in professional pricing roles, or who aspire to do so, the Professional Pricing Society is our community. It is where we go to meet our peers, learn what other people are doing, and to get the ideas that will change the future.

Please take our survey on Pricing and Innovation

The Professional Pricing Society, or PPS as it is known in the trade, has a wonderful website with a lot of resources, puts on a series of conferences (the next one is in Dallas, Texas from October 23 to 26) and manages the Certified Pricing Professional (CPP) credential.

Ibbaka is a member of the PPS and we attend their events whenever possible.

Earlier this month, we spoke with PPS president Kevin Mitchell about the past, present and future of this important organization.

Ibbaka: Tell us about the background of the Professional Pricing Society.

Kevin Mitchell: We began to get organized in the late 1960s and have been formally in business for about 35 years. The PPS was started by my father, Eric Mitchell, who was a pricing consultant for companies like Ford, Xerox and Intel. Early on, he realized how important it would be to build up shared expertise with a community of experts. The pricing community was much smaller back then, and he knew most of the key people. He started things off with The Pricing Advisor Newsletter and things grew from there. Eric retired over 2007 and 2008 and I took over at that time.

We began hosting conferences in Chicago in the early 1990s. Chicago remains an important place for us and we frequently have our spring conference there.

After 9/11, when travel contracted, we began to offer online learning, which has been very successful for us. Then in 2005, we expanded to Europe. Our European event will be in Amsterdam this year from November 28-30.

Since taking over in 2007, I have expanded our presence in Asia Pacific and in Latin America. I have also worked to build our community using social media and invested more in our professional development resources.

Ibbaka: The Certified Pricing Professional (CPP) program is an important part of what the PPS brings to pricing professionals. Tell us more about this program.

Kevin: The idea came from PPS Board of Advisors Member Richard Lancioni who was at Temple University. As pricing advances and becomes more professional it needs certification. People need to be able to offer proof of their expertise. We think of the CPP program as being similar to to a CPA for accountants or a CFA for financial advisors.

We designed the program with the input of both academics and professional practitioners. It is has a strong theoretical grounding but is very practical and is focussed on the real needs in the field. There are more than 1,200 people who have earned the CPP designation and more than 4,000 who have earned some credits.

Over the years, we have extended the material online and most people combine online with in-person learning.

Our goal for the program is to get pricing recognized as a profession in its own right and to build a common body of knowledge.

Ibbaka: What plans do you have for the CCP program in the future?

Kevin: We have been speaking a lot with Chief Human Resources Officers (CHRO) and Learning and Development Leaders who are looking at making the CPP part of their own programs. We are able to partner with these organizations and customize to make sure it meets their needs.

We are also planning to offer parallel paths such that there is a version of CPP for sales people, product managers and finance.

The program is being enriched with more advanced content and we are going to create a more advanced certification for top practitioners.

Ibbaka: How does PPS support the community of pricing experts?

Kevin: Our role is to be the nexus of the community and to be the first place that people come when they are tapped on the shoulder and asked to take on a pricing role.

One of the first things people do is to attend a PPS conference. More than 500 people come to events in North America, 300 in Europe and 150 to our events in Latin America and Asia Pacific.

We are in close contact with the thought leaders in the pricing world and an important part of what we do is to connect these thought leaders to the people who need their ideas and expertise. At PPS, we are the connectors and not the providers of expertise or services.

Ibbaka: How is the pricing profession evolving and changing?

Kevin: Pricing is getting a lot more attention. This is true at the board and executive level. Directors are asking more and harder questions about pricing. One can also see this in analyst calls. The best analysts are asking pointed questions about pricing strategy and execution.

As a result, pricing is getting more resources. One can see this in everything from the adoption of software to investments in training and increased head counts. This all translates into more influence for pricing professionals and improved career opportunities.

Given the power of pricing and its ability to impact business results there is still a lot of room to grow.

We are seeing three main roles in pricing emerge. There were more clerical roles, where people manage price sheets and pricing software; analytical roles where people dive into the data to find patterns and look for ways to optimize pricing; and finally there are people taking strategic roles who are seen as executives helping to guide the company’s overall strategy using the pricing levers.

As pricing plays a larger role the pricing function is expanding to include things like margin improvement, customer success and performance on key unity economics like customer acquisitions costs and the lifetime value of a customer.

After the 2008 crisis, people were looking at how to cut costs. This is now changing. The leading companies are much more focused on how they can create and capture value. There has been a noticeable shift from cost to value.

Ibbaka: How is the Professional Pricing Society helping pricing professionals respond to these challenges?

Kevin: We are expanding the range of our workshops. If you look at what we have planned for the fall conference in Dallas we cover things like big data, artificial intelligence and very importantly data monetization.

You will soon see a lot more online courses on advanced topics as well.

The decision to offer an advanced version of the Certified Pricing Professional accreditation is another example. As pricing becomes more central to the business, more strategic and more closely connected to other business functions we all need to work together to take pricing to the next level.

Ibbaka: Thank you Kevin. The PPS plays an important role for all of us and we look forward to supporting you and our fellow pricing professionals.

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