female distribution employee scanning pricing code to determine different pricing strategies

5 Different Pricing Strategies That Kill Your Profitability

Distributors face many challenges that can impact their profitability. Supply chain disruption, inflation, and competitors, to name a few. However, what shouldn’t add any further hurt to your profitability is your pricing. With so many ways you can approach pricing as a distributor, there are bound to be different pricing strategies and missteps that come from years of “how it’s always been done.”

Distribution Strategy Group recently wrote “Distributors’ Dead Skunk Pricing: How to Avoid the Stink,Scott Benfield highlights a handful of common pricing traps that distributors fall into that cause massive profitability “stinks.” Here are the major takeaways.

1. Fixed Pricing

As a business, distribution is transactional and highly susceptible to shrinking margins as costs rise over time. One of the worst things you can do is adopt fixed pricing. We can’t imagine many distributors still operating with a fixed pricing model, but it should be stated. This strategy fails to account for any movement in manufacturing costs, market shifts, or operating costs.

Of course, with possibly hundreds, thousands, or even millions of prices to track, this may seem like the simplest way to structure your pricing. However, what you trade for that “simplicity” is, ultimately, your margin.

2. Cost Plus Pricing

Pricing, or the price distributors present to their customers, encapsulates the value that the distributor brings to the table. That includes things like services related to the products they’re selling. It’s presented as the unit cost the distributor pays + the distributor’s value markup. While understanding your value is important, leading with that is not a solid way to conduct negotiations with your customers.

For a product with a unit cost of $80 and a list price of $125 that you’re trying to sell for $100, the difference is this:


Cost Plus Pricing: Cost plus 25%


Discount Pricing: List minus 20%


In the end, the price to your customer might be the same but cost plus sounds like the distributor is winning a markup, while different pricing strategies, like discount pricing, sound like the customer is scoring a personal deal. Benfield adds, “The behavioral mechanism is called prospect theory, which states that the fear of losing the order is greater than the desire to make more margin.”

3. Using Manufacturer List Prices as Your List Prices

Manufacturer list prices are there for the manufacturer to use. Their pricing strategy is different from a distributor’s. As we mentioned earlier, distributors may have thousands of prices to track for their business. That creates a difficult situation to keep track of if the distributor is the one coming up with the prices. But, if the prices are made elsewhere by the manufacturer, then keeping up with pricing becomes a logistical impossibility.

Creating your own pricing ensures consistency in margins from all of your manufacturers and allows you the flexibility to adjust your own margins on your own terms. Save yourself the headache and stop relying on manufacturer list prices as your prices.

4. Override Overkill

This one is easy to get carried away with, and that’s why it’s so dangerous to your profitability. Sure, overriding a system-based price may help you secure a deal with a customer, but what happens when you get overzealous with handing out overrides? Well, it means you might be selling a lot but not reaping any financial benefits. Overrides should be used strategically and sparingly.

5. Contract Management

Contracts are often remnants of ghosts of sellers past that haven’t been reviewed recently or were never reviewed thoughtfully. Often, they’re done without consideration of the current pricing strategy and are used to appease larger customers. The result is the wrong pricing locked in for far too long.

The Right Strategy Starts with Pricing Software

Considering all the wrong ways to do pricing, you may wonder how to do it right. The answer is simple, perhaps more straightforward than you’ll believe. The reason is that the right pricing software will allow you to be as involved or uninvolved as you want.

A solution like White Cup Pricing can automatically generate a pricing matrix, incorporate a strategy, and generate a 10X return on investment (ROI). Then, as your business becomes more comfortable with the system, deeper customizations can be made to fine-tune your pricing and generate more opportunities to grow revenue.

Different pricing strategies that kill profitability are unfortunately common in distribution. Many come from a history of gut-instinct-based pricing models prioritizing closing a deal over profits. Luckily, with technology, distributors can now make price optimization a strength of their business.

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