Last week I attended the Professional Pricing Society‘s 16th annual Spring Conference in San Francisco. Over 500 pricing people were there, which of course is a lot of pricing people in one place. There were a couple dozen presentations, some by analysts, some by pricing experts, some by people doing interesting pricing projects in their companies. While informative, the most interesting ideas came from informal mingling. Pricing people tend to keep their cards close– who wants to give away sensitive information?– but once a conversation starts, people find they have ideas to share that don’t involve giving away trade secrets. When someone who has spent 10 years managing pricing for a Fortune 500 company sits down next to someone who just got orders to start a pricing group at her company sits down next to someone who specializes in statistical analysis sits down next to me, everyone learns something.

How is pricing wine like pricing semiconductors? How is it different? As several people mentioned to me, the best part of the conference is dragging people away from the daily grind and letting them think about the bigger picture. There was also an interesting discussion about how to get pricing on the CXO agenda. No consensus on an easy answer, but the common theme was to speak the executive language, which thinks of pricing as an administrative function, but whose obsession with earnings per share has a very strong pricing element.

One thing I learned: if you’re interested in this field, companies can’t find enough good people.

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