What Pricing Leaders can Learn from the Olympics

By Hila Segal
August 18, 2016

It’s the final 150 meters stretch of the race. Three riders are making their last push. After a grueling ride and over 10 kilometers of leading the pack, American Mara Abbott is left in fourth place at the finish line of the woman’s road cycling competition in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Abbott was in prime position to win a gold medal heading into the final leg of the race, but she couldn’t hold off her competitors. Watching it was heartbreaking. Fourth place in the Olympics is known to be the worst place. It represents a missed opportunity that often comes by fractions of an inch or happens in the blink of an eye.

The Olympics is the ultimate sporting event that brings together the world’s finest athletes. There’s so much hard work, preparation, dedication, planning, and precision that goes into competing in such an event. But at the end of the day, like in business, practice helps, but results matter.

Organizations, like athletes, plan, strategize, and execute to win. Much like athletes, they set goals, monitor their competition, and perform regardless of the conditions thrown at them.

So what can pricing leaders learn from the Olympics?

Focus on Improving Weaknesses, Not Strengths

Alex Gregory is an Olympic rower and a world champion. In 2012, he won gold in the coxless four on his home soil at the London Olympics. But success didn’t come easy.

He battled nerves and asthma and at some point considered giving up.

He ended up attending the 2008 Olympics in Beijing as a spare man for the team and had an “aha moment.” He realized he had excellent technique, but his physical strength was lacking.

It’s easier and much more fun to work on your strength. You get an immediate positive feedback. But you were already good at the thing you’re practicing. Working on something that needs improvement takes more hard work, but is equally rewarding when seeing growth.

This concept is as true in business as it is in sport. Organizations conduct business at scale and need to take a closer look into underperforming areas where margins and other financial metrics are not meeting the corporation’s long-term goals.

Once identified, root causes can be discovered and plans can be put into action to take corrective measures and improve overall performance levels.

Working on a weakness is harder, but it’s those improvements that will give you the greatest returns and help you reach the highest levels of commercial excellence.

Be Prepared for the Unexpected

Rio divers will battle the elements at the first outdoor Olympic diving facility in 24 years. For the first time since the Barcelona games in 1992, divers will have to deal with the effects of wind and temperature fluctuations.

When diving outdoors, it is harder for divers to gauge where they are in the air and what elements of wind or rain (or both) will be thrown at them, especially for athletes accustomed to diving inside.

READ MORE: 3 Pricing Lessons I Learned From Being A Parent

Markets fluctuations have become the new reality in business. From volatile exchange rates to changes in demand and supply, oil prices, and other commodities, businesses are subject to changing market conditions that require a new mindset and supporting tools to help navigate and stay afloat.

Just like the Olympic divers who had to adjust their training regimens and techniques, corporations need to leverage data and science to plan for the unexpected. They need to build in flexibility and forward-looking analytics into their business processes.

With these support systems in place, they can dynamically adjust prices, cascade policy changes to their sales teams in real-time, predict customer defection, and optimize quote approval process to fend off new competitors.

Always Set Goals and Strive for Improvement

Past wins don’t guarantee future success, and champions are always operating under the goal of self-improvement, regardless of their achievements.

USA swimmer Katie Ledecky won the Olympic gold of the Rio Games with a world record in the 800m freestyle. She now owns 13 fastest times for the 800m. Her only competition at the moment is her past achievements.

Corporations get rewarded for hitting their targets. But if hitting the targets came as a result of elaborated cost out programs or efficiency gains, that success might be short lived.

Sustainable profit growth is the ultimate goal, allowing companies to drive more profit and set new targets irrespective of business complexity. Intentional and optimized price management has proven to help drive profit performance to new levels.

The business world is like an elite competition. Not everyone comes home with a gold medal, but corporations can develop the mindset of a champion that learns from mistakes, practices to improve, and always wants to win!

  • B2B Pricing , Katie Ledecky , Olympics , pricing , Rio 2016 , Rio Games

    Hila Segal

    Hila Segal is Director of Product Marketing with Vendavo where she’s responsible for developing and executing go-to-market programs for Vendavo’s enterprise margin and profit optimization suite. Prior to joining Vendavo, Hila led product marketing at Kapow Software, a Big Data integration company bringing to market solutions across key industries including Financial Services, Retail, Consumer Packaged 
Goods, Pharma, Logistics and Government. Earlier in her career, Hila held several marketing and corporate strategy positions at Amdocs (NASDAQ: DOX). She holds a B.Sc. in Industrial Engineering from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology.