How to Negotiate a Killer Deal

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An investment and entertainment mogul who made his first million by age 26 shares his know-how to masterful deal-making.
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Entrepreneur, business consultant and author Arthur Wylie

Whether in your business or personal life, making deals—from the biggest ones that take months to finalize and involve teams of lawyers to the nominal ones that are sealed with a handshake after a 10-minute chat—is an art. Deal-making is a craft that when done well requires a skillful, visionary and inspired application of key principles and methods to create a desirable end result. When you’ve mastered this art, you will successfully negotiate deals in which all parties involved walk away with a win.

And don’t underestimate the small deals, which can help you gain confidence with the process and also nurture other people’s confidence in you—and reverence for you. Indeed, it’s often the culmination of small deals that lead to the big one. Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg and Sam Walton didn’t start out making headlines. They crawled before they could walk and ultimately made sure they were prepared to win the proverbial race when they approached the starting line of a mammoth business deal.

What are the secrets to masterful deal-making? There are some basic steps to becoming an ace deal-maker—skills that will help bolster your position whether you’re negotiating for a railroad or a rental car, and whether you’re acting on behalf of a worldwide organization, a sole proprietorship or just your own personal finances.

No. 1: Know your value.

While you can’t know every possible result that the other party would want, be sure to understand what your offer or position can do for him. This means researching all the potential benefits and ways that your idea, product and/or service could help the other party whether it is to solve a problem, increase earning potential or simply make his life or business more convenient and enjoyable. If your argument is lacking some key benefit, then it is up to you to figure out how to adapt it so that it can serve the needs of your target audience while also achieving your own objectives. This takes time, effort, forethought and sometimes research. But it is well worth it when it’s clear to the other party that you not only understand his needs, but you also seek to structure an agreement that’s in his best interest.

No. 2: Personal relations.

Relationship management is the key to showing the other party who you are as an individual, what you can do, where your values lie and how the deal at hand will benefit everyone involved. You learn about him; he learns about you—it’s a two-way street. Both parties must feel that there’s synergy—a chemistry of sorts; only then can a mutually beneficial relationship be forged. From there, you present your win-win case, handshakes are offered and agreements are signed. Frequently, deals can close quickly and easily because people have come to know and trust you either directly or by referral, making them comfortable to do business with you. If you create a strong enough brand and a stellar enough reputation, others will want to be part of the success you’ve amassed. Your opposition will clamor to close the deal with you.

[Image caption: Guest columnist—Arthur Wylie, entrepreneur, business consultant and author of Only the Crazy and Fearless Win BIG!: The Surprising Secrets to Success in Business and in Life; Credit: Courtesy of Arthur Wylie.]