Price value: Are prices really relative?

Written by Joanna Wells, Author of TeamBuilder360 and Director of Taylor Wells

A classic tenant in pricing literature is that humans are not great at discerning value regarding prices. As Oscar Wilde paraphrased once “I do not care which shoes are cheaper, but I want the more expensive ones”.

In a B2B industrial environment we can see the relativity of prices (price value) also – I want to give a real world example below which I think highlights a couple of issues in this price value regard (I have changed a few details to protect a certain regional business model!).

We have a B2B industrial market selling services by a unit. The cost base (external) is different in each geography but the cost to serve is the same. All businesses claim to follow a cost plus approach and complain about extremely intelligent procurement professionals bashing them everyday. The example is as below:


StateExternal costCost to serveSell priceActual profit per unit
New York186262
Washington DC66164
Note: price in USD$


It is important to note that regional buying differences should not make much of a difference as the product was procured on a national basis.

It was clear that when the unit price cost base was lower, the profit margin tended to be higher.

Price value take aways?

I have to be honest and say I am not fully certain why this should be so but am interested whether any of my readers have experienced similar?

  1. I assume that as the price is lower in Idaho and DC, the buyer spends less time looking at it.
  2. They are unaware as to the cost base and so spend most time pushing down the higher rates
  3. Is there an element of “free riding” by the cheaper states – i.e. pushing through higher rates as their state is smaller – less attention payed to Idaho and DC.

Many businesses are springing up in different fields, such as: offering pricing transparency and flexible contracts in waste management.

Implications for price value

  1. Even when the business thinks it operates a cost plus – does it really. What else is at play in the pricing structure?
  2. Clear implications for optimisation i.e. making the profit on the tail of services
  3. Are we presenting prices correctly to the customer – would more or less info on the cost base help or hinder a price rise?
  4. I suppose people have to be compensated for living in Idaho!

Are prices really relative is written Joanna Wells, Author of TeamBuilder360 and Director of Taylor Wells

Check out our blogs on price leadership and pricing options.

Taylor Wells is a specialist advisory firm that has developed a search, evaluation and recruitment process in the field of pricing recruiters, commercial and analytics.  Our business was started after identifying weaknesses in the traditional agency recruitment model.  Our purpose is to support management and HR to eliminate the risk of a bad hire. Our workshops and diagnostics ensure pricing or commercial teams are deeply engaged with the sales and marketing teams to achieve greater levels of margin and earnings growth.  We have developed our own digital platform to identify and evaluate talent and we partner with subject matter experts to help us operate efficiently.


Joanna Wells


BA/ MA Psych. CANTAB, Msc Org. Psych, Dip.Couns Psych


From losing good staff, changing the businesses’ commodity mindset, dealing with procurement, making sense of complex pricing arrangements and managing talent and skills gaps, you face many challenges daily. The pressure of business, work and everyday life is unprecedented. It is now more difficult than ever to choose the right path for the business.

The right pricing and commercial teams can help you generate low risk, and sustainable revenue, margin and profit growth.

Leading companies like GE, DuPont and Caterpillar have all invested in their people and pricing. Over the past 10 years, they have improved their HR initiatives to build powerful and rare pricing teams to drive revenue, margin and profit growth.

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