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Negotiations: Developing Business Excellence

No other skill has quite the same impact. And never has this been more important for the sports industry than now, with pressure on sports organisations of all sizes, from clubs and governing bodies to agencies, rights-holders and federations to maximise the value of their assets and reduce costs.

Identifying opportunities to negotiate

The first stage in excellent negotiations is understanding when to negotiate, and in the sports industry there are many transactions that require expertise in this field - not just commercial and sponsorship deals, but player trading, ground and infrastructure development, team transport and travel needs. Even non-commercial influencing negotiations with other potential funding partners such as government, national associations and international federations offer key negotiation opportunities. But it doesn’t end there, being astute to take best advantage of a changing business and sporting landscape can provide significant benefits to a club’s bottom line - but do they have the skill-set to maximize their potential?

Valuing the skills of excellent negotiation

A challenging question for most sports organisations - “when was the last time that your commercial and professional staff were coached to maximise their potential in their role?”

For an industry that spends so much time and resource in coaching the players / athletes to maximise their potential, surprisingly few sports organisations adapt the same philosophy for their professional staff. However, this is standard practice in many high-performing FMCG businesses and other sectors across the world, ensuring that their commercial and procurement personnel are able to deliver ever improving commercial results for the business. In relative terms a small investment here could lead to significant financial benefits in the short to medium term.

So if you value the skills of your professional staff, and are keen to develop their skills and abilities for their benefits, and to aid your commercial performance, how do you go about it?

The principles of effective negotiation

The basic principles of negotiation are consistent across virtually all sectors. Learning from other industries with strong negotiation capabilities, such as FMCG or the retail sector, makes good sense. However, it is important to ensure that each programme is specific to your circumstances, to guarantee a return on your investment by delivering against your objectives. This helps the learning process too, as examples and case studies can be tailored specifically to your business, industry sector or sport.

What can also prove extremely effective for businesses, is having a more recognised and familiar process and structure to commercial negotiations. This ensures that all stakeholders within the business understand how the preparation for and delivery of key negotiations is going to be managed. Following the process allows for a more complete preparation phase, and ensures all key personnel are supportive of the negotiation strategy and helps maintain a consistent message in all communication. Only the proper training can provide that complete structured process.

Training shouldn’t be a one-off hit…

In the same way that training a player is not a one-off session, but a repeated process so that the skills are developed in to a habit, the same is also true of a learning and development programme. Whilst a one-off training programme can have some benefits, these are largely restricted to the short term as most of the new skills are easily forgotten if not reinforced. It is important therefore to embed a programme of regular support into your organisation to ensure that the new techniques and knowledge are not wasted. Individual specific action plans, regular coaching sessions, email hints and tips and bespoke follow-up information all help to maximise the benefits of a learning programme.

A tailored solution for the sports industry

Drawing on the principles developed by parent company Total Negotiation, TN Sport, a specialist sports negotiation consultancy, uses proprietary tools and processes, developed in conjunction with, and used by some of the world’s leading brands such as Diageo, Vodafone, PepsiCo and Disney, in the sporting environment. TN Sport works with professional football clubs, governing bodies and rights holders to up-skill their commercial teams and to help solve specific commercial business challenges faced in the sports industry.

Director of TN Sport, Chris Hornbuckle said, “A growing number of organisations in the UK are starting to understand the importance of growing commercial capability of this type. By way of example, a recent workshop for The FA has already proven a great success for that organisation. Interestingly, helping clubs formulate their negotiation strategy for player trading is also a growing area of business - and what football club can afford to get that important element wrong, or leave value on the table? The Return on Investment in having greater negotiation capability is significant, as we have proven in many sectors and on many occasions, the world of sport is no different, and rights holders are already beginning to feel the benefits”

Total Negotiation provide training and consultancy in over 50 countries across the world, and in a range of different languages and are working with FMMI on a number of projects. For more information contact us.

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