Sam Trattles Founder Other Side of the Table, award winning Deals Consultant and Author of “I Love Negotiating” has developed mastery of a key skill that many of us wish we were better at – negotiating. Sam’s reputation as an accomplished strategic Negotiator saw her rise to the heights of a corporate executive career with multinationals including Telstra as their General Manager Sponsorship and PWC as National Sponsorship and Brand Manager, over two decades.
Sam’s expertise lead her to found Other Side of the Table to help organisations to extract maximum value and return on investment from their deals. With a formidable toolkit of integrated marketing skills, Sam firmly believes there is a solution to any business problem. Her resume includes having negotiated some of the biggest deals in recent history in Australia in sport, the arts, music, community and industry specific programs. If you’re facing a game changing business negotiation, she’s the strategic partner you’ll want in your corner.
In the last 10 years you have negotiated and leveraged more than $450M worth of deals. Share your top tips for negotiating successfully.
I have been very privileged to have the opportunity to close some big deals and learnt a lot along the way. Here are some of my top tips for successful negotiations:
- It isn’t a fight – change how you think and talk about negotiations. You are simply engaging in a conversation. Your aim to reach a fair and reasonable exchange of value. If you can’t then you just say, thanks but no thanks; if you can, then shake on it.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare – if you do your research and consider the who, how, what, why, when and how much of the situation, prior to stepping into it, you will feel in control. Then create a cheat sheet to help you when you’re in the negotiation, so you stay on track.
- Emotions mean it matters – it is normal to feel nervous and a little stressed, but you need to try and keep your emotions in check. Remember it’s not personal. When you find your temperature rising (red cheeks, curt responses) take a ‘time out’. Request a break or excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, take five long, slow breaths to regain your perspective.
You’ve reviewed thousands of pitches by some of Australia’s biggest brands, rights holders and agencies. In what areas do you most often find yourself adding value to the proposals?
Pitches are stressful. The ones I work on are game changers to the business – meaning they will likely have to hire or fire people as a result of the outcome, so the stakes are high. The key is to stay focused. Three key areas I constantly support clients with:
- Assess the opportunity – determine what you will do if you win this tender, or if you don’t, what’s the bigger picture. If you are pitching a lot, create a Go/No-Go assessment checklist.
- Answer the questions – tell them what YOU want to tell them, not what you THINK they want to hear. Really read the questions you are being asked.
- No hot paper – map out your response timeline so you aren’t rushing at the end. You want to be sleeping on it, not pulling an all-nighter. [Why ‘no hot paper’? – bit of an old skool concept, don’t jump in a cab with hot paper from the printer to deliver the documents!]
You have generously shared your negotiating expertise in your book, “I LOVE negotiating: Change your thinking and learn to get what you want”. What motivated you to write a book, and who is it for?
I got frustrated at the fact that so many of my intelligent, highly skilled friends said to me that they hate negotiating, so I decided that perhaps I could take what I know from commercial deals and translate those skills to help people feel more confident in negotiating every day.
Sadly, we don’t learn this skill in school, so my aim was to make it easy. The format is workbook style. So, once you identify your negotiator profile, the book is filled with activities for you to practice and improve on over time. You may never love negotiating like me, but the aim is to help build your confidence, so you don’t hate it.
How has two decades working in corporate sponsorship executive roles with large brands like Telstra and PwC influenced your leadership approach?
The biggest gift from these roles, is the respect I learnt. I’ve had some extraordinary opportunities to work on amazing projects, with impressive budgets, while working with incredible people. But I know that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t respect each part of it. For me respect comes in many forms, such as:
- smelling the roses and appreciating the moments I experience;
- understanding that the money I spend must have a return (accountability); and,
- seeing the brilliance in the people around me (no matter their level of seniority or confidence).
What has been your greatest challenge?
Hmmm, becoming a business owner has been a serious experience! Having spent two decades being given problems to solve, I had to learn a completely new skill set. The art of finding someone who might have a problem, then understanding their problems, work out a way to explain to them how I might solve that problem (without all the facts), price my expertise and close the deal – THEN solve the problem!! OMG, I love running my own show, but this was the biggest learning.
What are you most proud of?
Being able to do the work I love, with people I like. Negotiating the saviour deal between CGU Insurance and Tropfest was an amazing experience, bringing an icon back from the dead and securing its future – pretty special. The people involved in that project are very special to me, it was a massive bonding experience, it was a moment in time that you couldn’t script.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
Invest in your relationships. Your career runs for a long time and you never know where the person who sat next to you at your first job will pop up. Stay in touch, grab a coffee from time to time, ask about people’s lives outside of ‘what they do’, take time out from just doing.
When the opportunity presents itself make the effort to connect good people to other good people just because you can. Also, invest in yourself by building a group of advisors, mentor and mentee relationships, people you can go to, to give and get advice from.
You are the female economy. Whether you are a female consumer, business owner or a woman in the workforce, you can create gender equality by choosing female led brands.