4 top tips for negotiating better deals

ONE MINUTE BRIEFING: The man who struck the original O2 sponsorship deal of the Millennium Dome shares his advice for getting what you want.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 23 Jan 2019

A good deal is one that works for both parties - despite the view of a certain orange faced, Twitter wielding US politician.

If anyone knows what it takes to negotiate such a deal it is Russ Shaw. The former O2 Marketing Director, Skype VP and founder of Tech London Advocates brokered the original agreement to put O2’s name on the then Millenium Dome (his name is on the contract).

It was no easy feat. The Dome had a reputation as London’s white elephant and there were significant concerns over the site's transport links from within O2 and across the table.

After two years of hard discussions, the eventual £6 million a year decade long contract would turn out to be a master stroke. The O2 arena has emerged as the world’s leading indoor entertainment venue (in 2017 O2 extend its sponsorship for double the original price).

He shares his top tips for getting a deal done.


1. Keep your eye on the strategic rationale

"Keep on drilling it so that people understand the specific benefits of doing the deal. They can easily get lost.

"There was a very strategic nature to the O2 deal in that we were shifting our business from just being a customer acquisition business to being an acquisition and customer loyalty business. We were trying to break new ground as a mobile operator in treating our existing customers as good if not better than our new customers. So stuff like mobile ticketing, O2 priority were all part of that."

2. Be transparent

"You will always get questions and possible push back, but instead of avoiding them or twisting them, you have to be clear about where you want to get to and fundamentally demonstrate how you will actually implement it once the deal is closed.

"In the case of the Millenium Dome, I was always transparent in why O2 wanted to do the deal. Although of course there are certain economics and mechanics that you don’t share."

3. Keep a great team around you

"I have done some significant deals in my career but that doesn't mean I am necessarily a good deal maker. Having people around you who are very skilled negotiators and understand the legalities is vital.

"The aim of the chief negotiator is to keep it at a high level with the other leading party and maintain focus on the strategic reason. If the wider team need to pull you into the reeds, they can do so."

4. Know your partner

"Assessing the other parties before you ramp up the negotiations is critical. It helps you understand their mindset and what they are looking for in a partner.

"AEG (who we were negotiating with) were speaking to other partners, but we knew they were comfortable with O2 because of our reputation of treating customers well, so it gave us leverage and the opportunity to reinforce that they were making the right choice."


For more information

Here are 7 business tips from an FBI hostage negotiator. For more information on Russ Shaw, the O2 deal and London’s future as a world leading tech centre, read this profile from 2018. Sometimes the hardest negotiations can be with those within a company. Here’s what Linklaters COO Matt Peers learnt trying to modernise a company that didn’t want to change.


Image credits: scyther5/Gettyimages

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