Don’t lose that deal over lunch

February 13, 2017

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In this Trumpian era, it is important to understand deal-making. I pass on a hint to deal-makers.  Don’t lose the deal you almost won in the morning, by something you do over lunch.

I write, not as a great deal-maker, but as a student of those who claim to be. My case-example goes back some years to a time when executives would swap leadership stories in workshops encouraging the sharing of their experiences.

In one of the workshops, I came across the account of an international deal that had been moving to a satisfactory conclusion. The tale-teller came from a UK international organization. The deal was in a country with a very different culture. Negotiations were made with simultaneous translations on each side.

The technical details of the deal were surprisingly easy to wrap-up. Most had been agreed through professional teams working in advance of the meeting of the corporate leaders. Having reached the point at which a decision to go ahead seemed certain, the final morning meeting broke up for lunch. A celebratory mood prevailed.

The senior British figures were driven to a top dining place in the country for lunch. “They spoke in a few words of English,” the British manager told us “We had been briefed that it was vital to keep up with them in the drinks and the toasts. Unfortunately, the booze got to us more than it did to them. Worse, their broken English was a sham.  At least one understood every word we said about them, our real thoughts about them, not the censored versions they had been hearing before. You could say we won the contract in the morning, and lost it over lunch.”

Please take from my story what you will. As we are learning from events in America and around the world, this is a time when we all have to learn the art of the deal.

The case may also apply to those political figures setting out on Brexit negotiations.