Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.
—IT entrepreneur, Steve Jobs
This chapter demonstrates how important the players involved in a deal are to the successful outcome of a deal.
Core Deal Team Roles
It is important to map out the key players on the other side as you are ultimately going to have to convince them all of your proposals. As part of the process of information gathering to bolster your deal-closing power base, you need to try and determine who is on the other side’s deal team and each person’s respective power, influence, and final say in the deal-closing process.
Generally speaking, while there are many potential categories and variations of deal team members and most roles often overlap, there are a few common core deal team roles:
• Strategist: This is the person who ultimately determines the deal strategy, the deal zone parameters, and often the deal finances. He or she may not be pivotal to the actual face-to-face deal discussions, but they will play an essential role in setting the deal direction;
• Dealmaker: This team member obviously leads the face-toface deal discussions around the proposal, right through to the deal close;
• Interpreter: This team member usually focuses on information gathering and determining the other side’s positioning and requirements. He or she is a diligent listener and watches and listens out for all verbal and non-verbal clues, and then recommends changes in deal direction if necessary;
• Coordinator: This team member needs to be as objective as possible, as he or she runs the deal process by keeping the discussion on track and managing the agenda and summaries. This role is particularly important in multi-issue deals, which are bound to get tense and difficult at times. A coordinator needs to be both firm and serene;
• Implementer: This team member is expert in successfully implementing the outcomes from a successful deal. I find this role is often lacking in a deal team and that the people making the deal will not always implement it operationally (which often leads to sub-optimal results).
Regardless of your strategy and planning, the success of any deal is reliant upon the people involved.
There is real value, strength, and impetus to your deal-closing power in having a well-chosen, well-briefed, and well-run deal team. Of course, having the availability of an ideal deal team could be a luxury. Also, you are better off not having a team than having a badly chosen one.
Unless you are running a deal alone, which is rare from a corporate perspective, your choice of deal team is critically important as the shape of your team has a dramatic impact on your power (see Chapter 3). The right deal team members can enhance the knowledge, credibility, authority, and perception of your team. So, who to include, who to leave out, roles, and reporting methods are extremely important.
For example, there is nothing worse than the other side seeing your team at loggerheads and internally arguing. Disharmony is seen by the other side. Unfortunately, I have experienced the negative effects of the other side in a contract discussion seeing discord amongst stakeholders on my side of the deal. My overseas parent company was not as committed to local collaboration with the target company as its own local subsidiary, with which I was involved. This caused confusion and concern in the mind of the target company’s senior management. And so, eventually, the deal did not transpire.
There is real value and strength and impetus to your deal-closing power in having a well-chosen, well-briefed, and well-run deal team.
Be Smart in Your Use of Experts
Always listen to experts. They’ll tell you what can’t be done, and why. Then do it.
—Science-fiction writer, Robert A. Heinlein
Simply put, lawyers, bankers, engineers, accountants, technicians, and other subject matter experts provide their expertise to the deal mix through their professional advice.
In my experience, the timing of their use is very much dependent on the specifics of each deal. One factor to consider is whether bringing in an expert assists or detracts from having sufficiently results orientated deal discussions—does it sharpen your deal position or conversely detract from this.
There is no definitive guidance as to when experts should be engaged in a deal journey. Cost is often a contributory factor though it can be false economy to bring them in too late just to save on costs. Also be aware that delaying the engagement of an expert may send a message to the other side that you are perhaps not sufficiently confident of your position to warrant the expense.
Speaking as a lawyer myself, your expert is only as good as his or her client’s instructions (at least initially). So it is essential to brief your expert advisors as carefully and comprehensively as possible. As the old adage goes “garbage in, garbage out.” And, of course, while your advisors can steer you, fundamentally they can only follow your instructions. It is up to you how much risk you are willing to take.
In structuring a recent business fund, our company was extremely careful to ensure that in our sub-manager’s trust deed with our company’s expertise was not only reflected accurately but also that our involvement as the expert in the field in question was accurately reflected at exactly the right times and in the right ways. The trust deed successfully encapsulated all this information because we went to great lengths to ensure that our advising lawyer knew what we were trying to achieve. Involving experts at the right time can enhance their effectiveness.
Work Out Who Is Who on the Other Side of the Table
You must never underestimate your opposition.
—Former UK senior intelligence officer, John Scarlett
It is important to map out the key players on the other side of the deal table, as you are ultimately going to have to convince them all of your proposals. As part of the process of information-gathering to bolster your deal-closing power-base, you need to determine who is on the other side’s deal team and each person’s respective power, influence, and final say in the deal-closing process.
Assume at your peril that the other side’s intentions are the same as your own. So, the more you understand the other side’s motives, intentions, strengths, and weaknesses, the more you can use that to your advantage. Try to leverage a champion on the other side. Spending sufficient time to get to know, as much as you can, the people on the other side—their roles, motives, agendas, and so on—can only improve your chances of developing the all so important trust from the other side, which is like putting cash in the bank for the deal journey as a whole.
Again, back to the two blocked technology deals, it very quickly became clear to me that pass of the blockage was caused by a misunderstanding of who was on the other side’s deal team.
Have you experienced this?
What did you do?
What did I do?
To move things along, I decided to determine very quickly who was on the other side’s deal team and each person’s respective power, perspective, and influence in the deal-closing process.
• Core deal team roles.
• Choose your deal team carefully.
• Be smart in your use of experts.
• Work out who is who on the other side of the table.
Tell me about a time where having the wrong player on your deal team undermined your ability to close a deal.
There’s no doubt that assembling the right team for a deal is very important. On the one hand, you want to have people along that will contribute constructively to the negotiations, but on the other hand though, in most organizations you have different constituencies of thought around the place, that needs to be represented in the team, as well.
So, the key thing really is, preparation getting the team into a conference room for preparatory sessions in advance of the meeting, so that you can create agreed positions across the group. And also, create a mechanism for identifying if there are any internal areas of disagreement in the negotiations, call a timeout, slip next door with your negotiating team, reestablish agreement on the relevant issue, and then go back in. The key thing to avoid is any sense that the other side can observe a sense of disagreement on your team. If you do that, it can have fatal consequences. So make sure you take your disagreements offline, outside the negotiating room.
Tell me about a time where leveraging experts was key in your ability to successfully close a deal.
Well, certainly when I was working with the IDA, with the Trade Board, and was working with the Ireland Funds, bringing in outsiders who were experts and who really knew what was going on, was the added icing on the cake, if you like. I was just thinking of one particular example, when we had a very successful technology person from the West Coast, from Silicon Valley, who was passionate about music.
We arranged a dinner in the National Gallery in Ireland, we brought John O’Connor along, John O’Connor is a famed Irish musician. We actually had Seamus Heaney come and give support. We also had Gregory Peck, who was a film star from the United States come. And we used all these three people to create an extraordinary evening, very passionate evening. And toward the end of the evening, we asked this particular person would he be willing to fund John O’Connor to record all of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonatas. And of course, he did. It was a very significant contribution. It was using these outside influences to bring in an addition, if you like, to the overall impact to what we were trying to achieve.
Tell me about a time where your awareness of the players on the other side of the table gave you a distinct advantage.
Knowing the tendencies of this abrasive leader in this other team, I knew what failings he would be able to identify from my own team’s work and that he would essentially use these as weapons in our next engagement. After a few of these run-ins, I adjusted my own style to take a much more self critical, transparent approach with him. In other words, I took the weapons he’d later try to use against us and I put them on the table first thing, full stop. So, without that card in his back pocket, he frankly didn’t have the opportunity to lay into us and we were actually able to shift a lot of our conversations toward solutions to our mutual problems rather than these one-sided conversations about how we’d let him down. And it certainly meant that I had to dial back my own defensiveness, however, and my tendency to want to protect my own team.
1. What are the main deal team roles?
Strategist, dealmaker, interpreter, coordinator, and implementer.
2. Why is so important to choose the right deal team members?
The right deal team members can enhance the knowledge, credibility, authority, and perception of your team. So, who to include, who to leave out, roles, and reporting methods are extremely important.
3. Why is it so important to work out who is who on the other side of the deal table?
As part of the process of information-gathering to bolster your deal-closing power-base, you need to determine who is on the other side’s deal team and each person’s respective power, influence, and final say in the deal-closing process as you are ultimately going to have to convince them all of your proposals. The more you understand the other side’s motives, intentions, strengths, and weaknesses, the more you can use that to your advantage.