The role of a dealmaker is surprisingly straightforward. To bring two parties, or more, together to the table and get them to agree to do a deal. And thereafter to enjoy the prize.
Take the the self-styled Moroccan tour guide who persuades a British tourist to step into a leather goods shop in Marrakech’s medina. Or the British businesswoman who arranges a meeting between a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family and the owner one of London’s finest 5-Star hotels. They are both dealmakers and stand to profit from a transaction.
To the uninitiated, a dealmaker’s job involves little more than to introduce two people to one another and allow nature to take its course. But would you say that the only thing a medical doctor does is to insert a scalpel into a patient’s body and remove a malignant tumour? Of course not. Albeit a very important step, it’s but one element of the job. Much goes on before surgery. There is the rigorous process of determining the disease or condition a patient suffers from. In other words, the diagnosis. Let’s not forget the judicious exercise to identify the appropriate course of treatment, to decide if it will be surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. Or maybe even immunotherapy. Then there’s follow up treatment. And much more.
Whether it’s in politics or business, dealmaking is highly complex, with countless moving pieces, and controlling it is as challenging as herding cats. There are more variables, each of which can swing a deal one way or another, at play than there are hairs on a monkey’s backside. This I can assure you.
I always tell people: even when two parties get off to a great start and everything points to the possibility that a deal is going to get done, there are still plenty of things that, in a matter of seconds, can kill the deal. And most, alas, are outside of the dealmaker’s control. You learn to accept it. Depending on your personal beliefs, luck, destiny or the Divine plays a role.
For this reason, I no longer get excited when two parties I bring together show preliminary interest. For I know that it is the very beginning of a potentially long process, filled with setbacks and pitfalls. I’ve learned to put emotions aside.
Importantly, however, for the very reason that so much is outside of my control, I have also come to learn a crucial lesson. One I remind myself about all the time. And that is to pursue excellence. If you do then one day success will chase you.
Every move should be performed as if inspired by a greater power
Pulling off a deal may be notoriously difficult but you should never underestimate the impact of your actions as a dealmaker. What we do as dealmakers will either tilt the odds in our favour or against us. From the littlest things to the more seemingly important ones.
I’ve experienced a situation where an investor called off a transaction because he was repeatedly cut off mid-sentence during a meeting. Another scenario saw a client of mine – the CEO of a UK real estate group – lose a major investor because of the tone he took when asking sensitive questions. I’m sure people have lost deals for having bad breath. You just never know.
As dealmakers we cannot truly control the two other parties. Each have their own agendas, objectives and idiosyncracies. What we are able to control, however, is what we do, which in turn affects the environment we operate in. While that may not dictate the outcome of talks it could help move the discussion in the right direction. Or the opposite, if we fail in our role. So even though as orchestrators of a deal we are limited in what impact we can make, as the two main parties ultimately decide how to proceed, if we are smart then we can, on occasion, give that extra nudge which pushes a deal forward.
To maximise our input and contribution, therefore, we must act with calculated precision and grace, as if inspired by a superior force.
This applies to little actions we take:
- Shaking hands firmly. I’ve literally heard people tell me they’d never work with someone because of a sloppy or limp handshake
- Maintaining proper eye contact. It projects confidence. Looking down can give the appearance that you are shy or lack confidence. So be sure to maintain eye contact, especially when people are speaking. If you find this difficult then don’t worry. With practice you’ll get there
- Dressing smart. Make an effort to dress nice. Not only will others notice but you’ll feel better about yourself. It doesn’t mean you must wear a two thousand dollar suit. Rather, it’s more about putting thought, effort and time into dressing better
As well as to the bigger actions:
- Understanding each party’s motivation. In order to understand what motivates a party or side you need to do your homework and spend time getting to understand who they are and what they’ve done to date. Research and analyse
- Being prepared and having perused relevant documents and material in advance of meetings. When information is shared prior to a meeting make sure you also carefully read the content. A lot of dealmakers I know don’t bother doing anything other than arrange for two sides to sit at a table. They’ll be on the mailing list when important presentations are sent but they won’t take time to read any of them. That’s plain stupid. A dealmaker needs to immerse himself into the deal and understand what the proposition entails. Otherwise, it won’t be long before the parties realise you don’t add much value other than arranging a meeting or conference call
- Stay close to the deal as it progresses. Don’t just introduce two parties together and then stop paying attention to what goes on afterwards thinking you’ll reappear when the deal is about to close. Maintain interest in what goes throughout because at any time things could break down and it’s important for you to stay close to the action in order to help when and where possible
- Invest time and effort into the deal. The more you put in the more you get out. Trust me, many deals will slip through your fingers in life. But that’s okay. So long as you put in the time and work you’ll build experience and wisdom, which in due course will pay off
We dealmakers should see ourselves as generals leading a regiment. And the various soldiers we lead each play a part. One solider represents your handshake. Another, the e-mail correspondences you write. If one looks sloppy then it looks badly on the whole.
It all adds up. So put in 100% and increase your chances of successfully completing a deal!