A lot of people have asked me for help on how to negotiate more effectively. Whether you're applying for a job, pitching to investors, or buying or selling anything, you need to know what you're doing. Thank goodness I'm here!
Know What You Want
Anything can happen in a negotiation, so you need to understand exactly what you need, what you can accept and why. Be reasonable in what you ask for and map out a few scenarios of where the conversation can lead. Think about the interests driving the person or people you're negotiating with (hint: it's all about the money, all the time). Anticipate their questions and do your best to foresee the unforeseeable. When you can listen, respond and react in a way that makes sense for everyone at the table, you're in a good place. But if you aren't sure of what you want, or you can't explain why, you'll be crushed like an insect.
You Will Be Judged Immediately
Negotiations may take time, but the most important moments are always at the beginning. Everything matters here, from your body language to the way you dress to the way you start out the discussion. Establish your credibility by showing the other party that you're not a bad use of their time. Be confident, clear and get to the point. Whatever you do, don't leave people guessing about what you came to accomplish, especially at a first meeting. I need to know what YOU want within the first minute; otherwise, I'm on to the next thing. My time is my most precious resource (time is money, after all), so I go to great lengths to protect it. Waste my time and I'll send you an invoice.
Help Others Help You
No matter what they tell you, any business person worth their salt won't give you what you want because they like you -- they'll give it to you because it's in their interest. So why complicate things? Don't spend any time talking about why they should do you a favour, what you've done to deserve their favour, or how your plan would make your own life better. Instead, show them how the deal you're proposing -- whether it's an investment, a sale, or a chance to hire you -- will help them make money.
Know Your Facts
Know everything about the companies and people you are going to be negotiating with. Insist on getting the names of everyone participating in the negotiations. Leave no stone unturned; find out as much as you can. From Google searches to business intelligence reports, there are plenty of easily-accessed resources. And don't forget to pick up the phone -- a few short calls can pay enormous dividends. There's no excuse for ignorance, or for a missed opportunity to show the other party that you're thorough and that you respect their time. Imagine how foolish you'd look if, like one clever salesman who once pitched to me, you tried to license your product to a big industry player without knowing they just launched a competing product. With the right background research, he could have avoided that and other landmines -- and so can you.
Know When to Walk Away
I see negotiations as an honest attempt to reach a deal that's great for everyone at the table. But sometimes, for whatever reason, that's impossible. You need to accept that possibility -- don't make a deal for the sake of making a deal. If you do, chances are it will fall apart later anyway, with costs and headaches for everyone involved. And once you walk away, don't come back.
Business Is Not About Making Friends, It's About Making Money
Once in a while, I see my fellow TV investors praise a business just because they like the entrepreneur behind it. That kind of thinking might make you feel warm and fuzzy inside -- but let's get back to reality. I don't do business with people I want to have a glass of wine with -- I do business with people who can make me money. And so should you. There's nothing more important than money, so don't let your emotions take money from you. All business deals are about one thing: money. Everything else is just background noise.
Don't Let The Dark Clouds Of Greed Confuse You
Once you've got a good deal, it can be tempting to try your luck and squeeze more out of your new partner. Be careful. Unless you know for sure that you have a lot more leverage than the other party, you might risk killing a golden goose.
Get as much negotiating experience as possible. So much of life is a negotiation -- so even if you're not in business, you have opportunities to practice all around you. If you make it easy for people to make deals with you, you'll find that your opportunities will start to grow quickly.
Kevin O'Leary is a repeat entrepreneur, chairman of O'Leary Funds, and the bestselling author of Cold Hard Truth.
He appears on ABC's Shark Tank, CBC's Dragons' Den and CBC's Lang & O'Leary Exchange.