Impact Pricing Podcast

Ep157: Human Part of Pricing: The Business Case of Curiosity in Relation to Pricing with Ebrahim El-Ebiary

 

Ebrahim El-Ebiary is a Pricing Manager at Goodyear Tires. He’s been with Goodyear for six years now, having worked in Revenue Management at FedEx before that. Ebrahim is a Professional Certified Coach and he’s genuinely interested in people and how they think.

In this episode, Ebrahim talks about the importance of curiosity and good relationship to your pricing practice as you continue to make money through helping your customers do the same.

 

Why you have to check out today’s podcast:

  • Learn about what revenue management is and the relationship it has with pricing
  • Understand why it’s important that pricing people understand their customers’ future while having the customers take part in the creative process
  • Find out about the benefits of having a good relationship with your customer and keeping that relationship until it lasts

              

Before launching a very detailed analysis, ask the question, ‘how will this be used?’ 

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

           

Topics Covered:

01:11 – How Ebrahim got into pricing

01:59 – Revenue management’s relationship with pricing and yield management

03:48 – Does Goodyear have revenue management?

04:40 – Defining a coach and what a coach does; Is Mark a coach?

06:05 – Pricing and coaching as different sides of the same coin

07:50 – Why curiosity is important in keeping relationships with customers

09:27 – Questions to ask in order to better understand a customer’s future

11:53 – Why it’s important for tires to be talking to each other

14:26 – Where the idea of communicating tires came from

15:42 – Having the customers take part in the creative process and keeping that relationship with them

19:08 – Being in a zero-sum game situation of price negotiation

23:12 – Expressing complex analysis into simple statements to not lose your customers

26:32 – Pricing advice for today’s listeners

         

Key Takeaways: 

“A coach is someone that supports people getting from where they are to where they want to get to, not where he or she wants to get, where they want to get to. A coach does not tell you or does not impose their point of view.” – Ebrahim El-Ebiary

“Making money is “the easy part” of it (doing business). Having the story and the vision, now that’s where moneys truly made in a sustainable manner.” – Ebrahim El-Ebiary

“Discovering the future comes from asking about the legacy that they want to build mixed with free flow working sessions where we pick on each other’s ideas jointly.” – Ebrahim El-Ebiary

“One thing remains at the heart of business is people. Once we lock in that relationship of trust and joint creativity, then we come back to do business together. That relationship then grows and flourishes, and with that, profits grow and creativity grows and the demand for new products that didn’t exist or new services from existing products come to life.” – Ebrahim El-Ebiary

“Know the question you’re trying to answer before jumping into a detailed analysis or investing in a pricing system software, hiring more people. Just know what question you’re answering.” – Ebrahim El-Ebiary

             

People / Resources Mentioned:

                 

Connect with Ebrahim El-Ebiary:

                    

Connect with Mark Stiving:   

                          

Full Interview Transcript

(Note: This transcript was created with an AI transcription service. Please forgive any transcription or grammatical errors. We probably sounded better in real life.)

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

Before launching a very detailed analysis, ask the question, ‘how will this be used?’

[Intro]

Mark Stiving

Welcome to Impact Pricing, the podcast where we discuss pricing, value, and the personal relationship between them. I am Mark Stiving and my mission is to help your company win more business at higher prices. Helping us do that today is our guest, Ebrahim El-Ebiary. I apologize if I mess that one up.

Here are three things you’d want to know about Ebrahim before we start. He is a Pricing Manager at Goodyear Tires. He’s been there for six years, working on that. He was in Revenue Management at FedEx before that, and he is a Professional Certified Coach. And he’s genuinely interested in people and how they think.

This will be fascinating. Welcome, Ebrahim.

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

Hi, Mark. Thanks for having me.

Mark Stiving

It’s going to be fun. How did you get into pricing?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

By mistake. No. Joking aside, I worked in finance and then I worked in sales, and then I worked in finance again, and I started getting attracted to pricing as an area that is so undervalued, where so much value could come from, and where a lot of growth and people adding value and adding different points of perspective and expertise coming together. So that’s how it started; just curiosity.

Mark Stiving

Nice. One of the things that I’m always curious about, and you were in Revenue Management at FedEx, what is the difference between revenue management and pricing? What does revenue management actually mean?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

Well, on the core, both are the same. Revenue management just means you’re focusing on developing your top line. You’re maximizing your P X Q formula as your main KPI. That’s one way of interpreting it. But the heart of pricing and revenue management works at improving your yields.

Mark Stiving

So, yield implies some limited capacity? Is that it?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

Yup. So, how can you maximize your value output from each product that you sell, or each service unit that you sell?

Mark Stiving

For a company like FedEx, and I’m going to just grossly simplify this, for a company like FedEx, they have planes and trucks, and so, there’s a limited amount of packages they could put on a plane or pick and put on a truck, and now we’re talking about yield management, just like people on an airplane, for American Airlines or United or somebody like that. In fact, that’s almost always when I hear the words revenue management. It’s when somebody is doing yield management. Does that make sense or is that true?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

Yeah, that’s very accurate. FedEx and other logistics handlers, they look at maximizing the space, the shipment that’s going, and you consider not only the number of packages but the kilograms or tonnage that you’re moving and how that improves your operational cut off times because it’s all about delivering on time – well, at the right time – and maximizing that yield that comes out of it.

Mark Stiving

Okay, so that makes a lot of sense. Quick, stupid question. Does Goodyear have revenue management?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

It’s more of pricing.

Mark Stiving

Because there’s not a yield problem, right? It’s kind of like the Jay Leno’s commercial, Doritos commercial, ‘go ahead and crunch them; we can make more’, right?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

Yeah. The challenge comes more of, how more can we deliver of the right tires and the right services? Because it’s not only tires, it’s also the services that come with the tire.

Mark Stiving

Yup. That makes all the sense in the world. Okay.

So now, let’s switch topics to probably what you really want to talk about, and let’s talk about people, pricing. First off, you are a Professional Certified Coach. Define for me what is a coach before I tell you a story.

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

A coach is someone that supports people getting from where they are to where they want to get to, not where he or she wants to get, where they want to get to.

Mark Stiving

Okay, that’s actually a really nice answer. I like that a lot.

Now, I know lots and lots of coaches in the types of businesses that I do and work with, and what I find fascinating is one of my best friends always says to me, “Mark, you’re not a coach.” And the reason she says that to me is because I like to tell people what to do. I like to solve your problems, and so you come to me and say, “Mark, I’ve got this pricing problem.” It’s like, “Well, let’s go do it this way.” She goes, “No, no, no. You don’t get to tell them what to do.”

So, tell me, am I a coach or am I not a coach?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

In this scenario you highlighted, that would fit more the definition of a consultant or a trainer. A coach does not tell you or does not impose their point of view.

Mark Stiving

Okay, I think that’s fair. So, I like to call myself an advisor.

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

That fits.

Mark Stiving

That fits there. Okay, good enough.

So now, let’s talk about how does coaching or even human thought processes apply to pricing in the way you think about it?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

Well, I see them as different sides of the same coin.

In coaching, you’re listening and you’re present with your client for their own wellbeing. And so, you’re listening for what they’re saying and what they’re not saying to be able to reflect it back to them, so that with that awareness, they can find their own path and their own answers.

In pricing, you’re asking questions to your colleagues, to the market, and you’re listening very, very carefully via the response you’re getting from your customers, from the response you’re getting from your sales colleagues, from the demand to your products, from the shifting and market dynamics that tell you how to better ask the next pricing question and how better to ask questions of your own capabilities in terms of analysis, in terms of AI (Artificial Intelligence) if you employ any, and so forth.

So, at the end, they’re both gravitating towards listening and engaging people to challenging people to finding their own answers.

Mark Stiving

Okay. I actually love what you just said. What I often teach people is they have to listen a lot, that they got to talk to their marketplace, and I say the word talk and I really should say the word listen, but I say you need an intense curiosity because you’re trying to understand what this other person’s thinking.

Now, let’s do one half of the puzzle for a second. Let’s talk about customers. So, if I’m out on the market and I’m listening to customers, do you have anything in particular you’re driving them to listen for?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

You mentioned a word which is pivotal, which is curiosity.

So, with customers, we are curious about how can we serve the current and the next thing that’s coming up, not just, let’s do a deal today and we go our separate ways. It’s building towards the future. And that requires curiosity, because we don’t know what the answer is yet, but we’re willing to find that together. And as a customer, I want to increase my profit. As a pricing guy, I want to make sure your profits are improving and I’m part of that growth, so that we’re both winning. And even if we don’t get to a deal, we both walk away with respect for each other, knowing that when the next cycle comes, I know who to contact because I know that they’ll be curious with me and they have my wellbeing at heart.

Mark Stiving

Yeah. So, one of the things that I love that you just said, and I think this is true with all of us in B2B business, especially B2B pricing, but in B2B business, our job should be to figure out how to help our customers make more money. Because if we can help our customers make more money, we get a piece of that. That’s where our profit, that’s where our pricing, our revenue comes from. So, I love that.

Now, what kind of questions can you ask to try to understand the future? So, I want to know what you’re going to need next year. What can I do to help your business grow next year?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

Well, first of all, I need to understand what does success look like for them, what are they in business for? So typically, we get things that are, “I’m in this to make money.” Yeah, and what is your legacy looking like? Because making money is “the easy part” of it. Having the story and the vision, now that’s where moneys truly made in a sustainable manner. And once we understand together what their legacy and what their story looks like, that’s where we start saying, “Okay, I can help you deliver products in that manner.” And they then go like, “How about we change the setup to that?” And then it becomes kind of a work session flow, where things we end up with, we didn’t know they exist. I mean, who knew that we would have tires talking to each other on the road, tell us insurance policies or how weather conditions would determine the consumption rate of tires in certain conditions, and then the tire would tell you, “It’s time to replace me for your own safety, and I know which dealer to get you to.” A couple of years ago, that was just science fiction. Today, that’s just some of the conversations we have with our customers.

So, to answer your question, discovering the future comes from asking about the legacy that they want to build mixed with free flow working sessions where we pick on each other’s ideas jointly.

Mark Stiving

Yeah, I like that. And if I could add something to the story, I think that if we could come back to problems, if we can always get customers to talk to us about what other problems do you have, so I can imagine someone saying, I’ve got a problem where we don’t know when it is that we need to replace tires, or some tires wear out faster than others, or my tires aren’t talking to each other. No, that wasn’t a problem, I’m sure.

But what’s fascinating about this is, okay, let me just ask you this question. Why do I care if tires talk to each other? What problem does that solve?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

Well, first of all, it gives a good reading on traffic. It also gives reading on safety. So, if tires are too close to each other, something is not right. So those are two things that are of prime importance these days – traffic and safety.

Mark Stiving

I love this, because no one in their right mind would ever say, “I’ve got this brilliant idea. Let’s have two tires talk to each other.” But what they would say is, “You know, we have the safety problem. Sometimes cars get too close to each other, and we’d really like to know when that’s going to be” and you say, “Well, you know, we don’t make the whole car but we make the tires. Maybe we could help you solve that problem.” So, I think that’s brilliant if we’re going to start with the problems, because as we start to see problems, then we can say “okay, now I got it. Now I know what we can do, how we can solve that.” So, I think that was absolutely brilliant.

Advertisement

Some companies pay $1,000 per hour to talk with me privately about their pricing issues, and yes, they get their money’s worth. Implementing just one suggestion can yield incremental profit much, much larger than that small investment. However, some companies have found a way to hack my business. They join insiders for just $100 per month. Sure, that gives them access to all of our courses, but many use it just to come to office hours. During that time, I answer all sorts of pricing questions. I’ve reviewed upcoming price increases. I’ve helped price new products. I even helped one insider prep for a job interview for Director of Pricing, and yes, she got the job. Sometimes, only one person comes to office hours and it’s like they get the value of $1,000 one on one private session. So, if you want to take advantage of me – and in this case, I don’t mind – become an insider. Go to www.insider.impactpricing.com.

Mark Stiving

Do you ever focus just on problems?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

No, because after a while, problems could get heavy.

Mark Stiving

How did somebody come up with the idea to get two tires to talk to each other?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

It started from a different industry altogether. You know, our mobile phones are talking to each other, and the technology there, someone had the idea of, “what if I can get that technology to the buyer? What if, let’s play around with that.” Yeah, that will look like that. And then someone else was curious enough to say, “okay, so what?”

Mark Stiving

That would be mean. So what?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

As long as certainly at that point, that ties in with your question, it was not to address a problem; it was to create an opportunity. It was to generate something that we might not be familiar with today. And toying around with that idea, and saying, what else? So what? and what if? How about? And bringing all that without judging it or saying, “You know what? That doesn’t work” but just sticking with it for next question develops something that is defining our future.

Mark Stiving

Yeah. So now what we’re doing is we’re talking about the power of curiosity. What if we could do this? What else could we make work? And to do that, we have to have a really good relationship with customers to go in and say, “Hey, what if I could make tires talk to each other? What do you think we could do with that?” And now they get to be part of the creative process and try to see, you know, I’m going to come back to problems, try to see what problems could you solve for me if you could get my tires to talk.

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

Mark, products have developed so much over the past 20 or 30 years, and they will continue to develop. One thing remains at the heart of business is people, right? And once we lock in that relationship of trust and creativity, joint creativity, then we come back to do business together. That relationship then grows and flourishes, and with that, profits grow and creativity grows and the demand for new products that didn’t exist or new services from existing products come to life.

So, you know, Goodyear is a really good example. It’s not about selling tires anymore. It’s about growing mobility and being part of that growth of mobility, be it EVs, electrical vehicles, with autonomous vehicles, still, there are tires being sold, don’t get me wrong, but we’re getting out of that product much more, and that is going with the customers. Call it a success journey.

Mark Stiving

You know, what I love about what you just said is the word Trust. And I often teach a concept I call value conversations – I didn’t create this by any means – but it’s where a salesperson doesn’t really know the value of customer is going to get from a product, a customer doesn’t really know the value they’re going to get from a product, but a salesperson and a customer talking together, working together, they could jointly determine how much value there really is. And it’s this joint trust. It’s this joint of working together that allows us to get there. And I had never expanded that beyond to what I just heard you say, which is if I could get two companies to trust each other – truly trust each other – then we could jointly be creative, and yet that feels so weird to me. Because I feel like companies have this reputation of ‘how can I get more from you?’ as opposed to ‘how can we grow the pie?’ So, what are your thoughts on that?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

I think, you nailed it. It’s ‘how do we grow the pie together?’ versus making a quick buck and moving on. A critical part in pricing, working with customers is what sets you apart from the playing field? How can we stand taller together?

Mark Stiving

I’m going to ask you a really hard question, given what we just talked about.

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

Sure.

Mark Stiving

So, in the world of business, right in product development, in marketing and sales, there’s this constant ‘how do we grow the pie?’ But once we’ve decided I’m going to sell you this item, and the customer said I’m going to buy that item, and all we’re doing now is negotiating on price, so before that, it was not a zero-sum game, but in this one situation, we’re in a zero-sum game. How do you handle that?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

It happens, right?

Mark Stiving

All the time, that happens.

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

Thankfully, it happens, because it gives us an indication that we’re no longer seeing the value, we’re just seeing a bare price. We are not growing the pie together; we’re doing a transaction – a simple transaction. And a very good indication that ‘okay, we need to take a step back and look at the total picture before diving in again’ is this specific part where you said ‘this is the price and you know what is not growing the pie together’. That is a very good alarm to say, “Alright, let’s pause for a minute. What’s the total benefit we’re looking at?”

Mark Stiving

So maybe I’m not being clear, because I’m just curious how you think about this for a second. Let’s pretend that I go sell to the committee and they’re convinced I need to buy your product and they go to procurement and say, “Go buy this product for Mark” and procurement calls in me and it says, “Mark, your price is too expensive. You got to lower your price.” And I say, “No, it’s not. These guys love me. Look at all the value,” and he goes, “No, your price is too expensive. You got to lower your price.” So we are in a battle, a negotiation, and it’s all about the price. All the other stuff has already been hashed out and delivered and understood, so now it’s a zero-sum game. If I charge him $1 more, I get $1 and he gets $1 less. And this is the hardest part.

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

So, when you were describing it, the thought that came to my mind when I’m sitting in customer’s office and we’re going through those negotiations with the purchasing managers or directors, I think the answer is it depends on what are we building. If it’s true value and if it’s true partnership in the future, the price is the easiest part, and very rarely was about, alright, it’s a zero-sum game. For me to win, you got to lose. But in other cases where it was more transactional, at that point, from a pricing perspective, I say, alright, am I willing to lose the dollar for them to gain – which is fine – but am I investing in that customer to grow, and I will get more than that dollar value or dollars’ worth tomorrow? In this case, if yes, then I don’t need to be penny wise pound foolish, you know, that’s fine. At the same, time if it’s a recurring pattern, I’m not seeing that true partnership without investment resulting into any outcome, then I need to ask, are the value items clear enough? Are they being truthful enough? And then the conversation would emerge. So, I think it depends.

Mark Stiving

And what’s interesting about what you just said is it implies you’re thinking lifetime value of the customer even if you’re not calculating it explicitly. You’re saying, look, are these guys going to grow with us? Are they going to give us more money over time? Is this a one-time transaction? So, I think that’s spot on.

Before we go, when I asked you what you were passionate about, one of the things you talked about was expressing complex analysis into simple statements, and I just want to know what you were thinking when you said that because I love the idea.

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

What I think about is, when we’re in office, we’re looking at the different segmentation that we’re doing for the products, the customers, everything in between, competitive products, competitive offering, customer capability, growth within car registrations, margin to spend on specific items, and all those brought together. You weigh them, you average them, you slice or dice. It’s a lot of analysis in the back end. But once you talk to the sales directors or the general managers or the customers, they get lost and they get bored very fast. And so, it needs to be expressed in a simple sentence that they can comprehend, see the value in, and want to listen for more. And at that point, you need to be ready with the next layer of details, not too detailed, that hooks them enough for wanting to know more. So, it’s like peeling an onion. If you do it right enough, it’s very nicely done. If not, you just tear up, and you lose you lose them.

Mark Stiving

So, can you give me an example of the one simple sentence you would give to sales to hopefully get them started down the path?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

A recent one was selling more of product A will overcompensate the price concession that you’re looking for. Anything less than that, we’re just burning a hole into your next salary paycheck.

Mark Stiving

Okay. And then they want to know more and you can give them the next layer down, which is really nice. And I think that’s brilliant. A good friend of mine once had a philosophy where he said, you had to have the answer to one back – it’s what he called it. And so, you could make a statement like that and they ask you a question, and then you give them a really good answer to whatever question they asked, and then they ask you a question about that answer, and you’re not expected to know. It’s like as long as I can go one back, I’m good.

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

That’s a good one. I’ll keep it handy.

Mark Stiving

And after you’ve gotten your one back, I think it’s fair to say, “well, let me go find that out for you” and go do a little research and find a way to express that simply. So, nice. I agree with you completely that we often get so lost in the details, and that we understand them, but our customers – and you can think of our customers as the salespeople – don’t know that, right? They don’t care to the depth that we care. They care about the results and how it affects them. And so, just like selling a product, we have to sell our ideas and our concepts to the people inside our company.

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

Different languages, we speak pricing. Some other functions don’t, rightly so. So, if we cannot speak their language, for the sales guys, if we cannot speak sales, we can say all we want, we can show them all the figures. It won’t land.

Mark Stiving

Then we can show them how it maximizes profit for our company and they’re like, “I don’t care. How does that put money in my pocket? Oh, got it.”

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

There you go.

Mark Stiving

Ebrahim, this has been fabulous, but I will ask the final question. What’s one piece of pricing advice you’d give our listeners that you think could have a big impact on their business?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

Before launching a very detailed analysis, ask the question, ‘how will this be used?’

Mark Stiving

And is that for a product?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

It’s for a product, for a customer, for a new launch.

Mark Stiving

I’m sorry. Now, I understand. So, if we’re going to go do a ton of analytics before we go either do the analytics or at least go talk to people about it, say, “look, what are we going to do with this once we find the answer?”

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

Yeah. Know the question you’re trying to answer before jumping into a detailed analysis or investing in a pricing system software, hiring more people. Just know what question you’re answering.

Mark Stiving

Yeah, nice. I like to say, know what problem you’re trying to solve. So, very nice.

Ebrahim, thank you so much for your time today. If anybody wants to contact you, how can they do that?

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

Feel free to reach out via LinkedIn. My name is Ebrahim El-Ebiary. I’ll spell it out.

Mark Stiving

We’ll put that in the show notes. It’ll be okay.

Ebrahim El-Ebiary

Alright. Great. Thank you. Thanks for having me, Mark. It’s always nice to hear and talk about pricing topics with pricing passionate people like yourself.

Mark Stiving

I always find this fun. There’s no doubt.

Episode 157 is all done. Thank you very much for listening. If you enjoyed this, would you please leave us a rating and a review? Those are very valuable to us. We’d appreciate it. And if you have any questions or comments about this podcast or pricing in general, feel free to email me mark@impactpricing.com. Now, go make an impact.

Related Podcasts