Hybrid jobs are on the rise worldwide: A major study of the US professional jobs market by Bentley University has labeled 2016 “The year of the hybrid job”. A key finding of the survey is that in order to navigate a successful and lucrative career in almost any white-collar job it is no longer enough to excel at just one thing.
Many lawyers would argue that their own roles are hybrid in nature, combining “hard” technical skills with “softer” client relationship skills and wider business acumen. As recruiters our search for these top-flight lawyers is aided in no small part by a broad consensus as to what attributes make for a good lawyer.
When it comes to targeting and attracting quality lawyers to the fold law firms have good experience of what works (and even more painful and costly experience of what doesn’t). Similarly, when it comes to recruiting for other areas such as business development, finance and marketing, these are all by now well-understood established and measurable functions within law firms. Management and HR teams do or certainly should “get” what these roles require and how to go about assessing candidate suitability for them.
As the slow but steady trickle of Strategic Pricing Managers/Pricing Directors into UK law firms begins, we can see that the roles these pioneers are occupying are truly hybrid in nature. What distinguishes them from other law-firm hybrid roles though is that there is as yet no established blueprint in the UK as to what a successful law firm pricing strategist looks like.
For starters as a community we haven’t as yet even reached consensus as to what these mysterious beings should be called. I have used the terms Strategic Pricing Manager and Pricing Director above but could just as easily have offered up Head of Pricing, Head of Strategic Pricing & Analysis, Director of Pricing, Chief Value Officer or numerous other equally valid titles that already exist.
On a deeper level, those roles that do exist vary significantly, both in terms of their scope and also in their remit to direct or influence pricing decisions at a strategic level. There is no one-size-fits-all and so the skills toolkit required will very significantly from role to role. The lack of a formalised training path, or recognised industry-specific qualifications adds further complication to the challenge of quantifying candidate suitability.
That said, there are certain key characteristics that, although varying in importance from role to role, are nevertheless regarded by leading experts as being fundamental attributes of a great pricing strategist. These give us a good baseline to start from and they are outlined below. As new pricing roles start to emerge it is likely that we will see reference to all of these attributes in the “essential skills” section of the job profiles that we help our clients to draft:
- An appreciation of the sales process is regarded as extremely important. Whilst the current crop of leading pricing managers have come from backgrounds as diverse as sales, science, telecommunications, R&D and finance, most have had some practical experience of sales and a grounding in the dynamics of client relationships. Many can demonstrate previous success, in terms of promotion through various sales-focused roles within an organisation.
- A commercial mindset is also key. Strategic pricing managers need to have a genuine understanding of what makes their own business and it’s clients businesses “tick”. A commercial mindset can’t really be taught or learnt but behavioral-based interviewing can help us to understand how an individual has and likely would approach business-driven decisions.
- The ability to unravel and probe at data is a crucial skill. Big data is here to stay and is absolutely vital to the effectiveness of the pricing function. Whilst the strategic pricing manager may not need to be the one to work through the numbers, she/he needs to be asking the right questions to unearth new information from the data and to translate this into new strategies. This presents an interesting requirement for both the ability to think analytically and also to think creatively.
- The ability to communicate well and to influence will determine the success of the new pricing function. Management teams and business functions such as business development and marketing all need to be persuaded in order for the pricing function to succeed. The strategic pricing manager cannot thrive by technical skills alone. The winning of hearts and minds will be a key requirement. Given the challenges of these new hybrid roles and their inevitable impact on other business areas, it is fair to say that the ability to communicate and influence would also best be accompanied by a reasonably thick skin! Instruments of change need to be able to roll with the inevitable punches that come along the way.
- The willingness to take calculated risks and to be held to account is recognised as something that can make the difference between a good and a great pricing manager. This willingness forms part of what can enable the pricing function to truly transform the way a business operates, potentially bringing maximum impact to the bottom line. Without it, any market-disrupting pricing opportunities revealed by data are unlikely ever to see the light of day.
The successful recruitment program for any new appointment begins with establishing the “core competencies”, those essential skills that a candidate should be able to demonstrate in order to show his/her suitability for a role.
Thereafter we work with clients to help them identify and unearth suitably talented individuals and to devise a recruitment program to assess candidate suitability for the role. The newness of these strategic pricing manager roles gives those of us working at the forefront a unique opportunity to establish and develop a new blueprint, and to translate a broad mix of desirable hard and soft skills into a more recognisable format for success.
Get in touch with me directly at [email protected] if you are a law firm looking to develop your pricing function, or an experienced pricing expert looking to enhance your career.