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The Importance of Pricing Postmortems

Ever wonder how the Pixar studio consistently churns out so many hit animated movies?

In his book Creativity, Inc., Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull attributed part of the company’s success to postmortems. At the end of every project they ask everyone to list five things they would do again and five things they wouldn’t do again. That can be an unpleasant process, but Catmull views it as essential for the company’s success. He said

A good postmortem arms people with the right questions to ask going forward. We shouldn’t expect to find the right answers, but if we can get people to frame the right questions, then we’ll be ahead of the game.

Your work as a pricing practitioner is obviously a little different than what happens in an animation studio. But postmortems can be just as — or even more — valuable in our field.

As pricing practitioners, we’re often focused on what’s next. As soon as we get one initiative implemented, we’re strategizing about the next project that’s going to improve our pricing even more. And while we might (sometimes) remember to celebrate our wins, we often gloss over the things that didn’t go so well along the way.

That’s unfortunate.

By taking a little time to look back and evaluate our processes, we have the opportunity to learn lessons. And by documenting those lessons, we can pass on what we’ve learned to people who weren’t involved in the actual project. Over time, we can grow a library of institutional knowledge that helps us get better at pricing and rolling out pricing initiatives.

And it isn’t just big pricing initiatives that deserve a postmortem.

Doing some evaluations with the sales team after lost deals can be tremendously valuable. It helps you understand the broader elements of the deal and where exactly things went sour. That gives the entire team a chance to learn from what happened and find ways to improve for the next deal.

One word of caution — it probably won’t be easy to get sales to go through this exercise at first, especially if it isn’t something your organization has done in the past. Salespeople are hard-wired to celebrate their wins. They are far less likely to look deeply at their losses.

But even if it takes some effort, this exercise is well worth it. It helps you all better understand your customers and the sales team. And over time, that can result in huge improvements in the bottom line.

These postmortems are just one aspect of maintaining a good relationship with sales. PricingBrew has a ton of other resources that can help, including the following:

Pixar has produced some amazing movies. But the company might be even more remarkable for the way it has created a culture and processes that consistently bring the best out of the talented individuals on the team. Doing postmortems is one way to bring a little of that atmosphere into your own team.

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