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Outgunned?

How to contend with a more experienced opponent

No matter how long you've been making deals, sometimes you're up against someone who is simply far more experienced than you. Some tips for dealing:

1. The outcome of a negotiation has more to do with need, greed and leverage than your opponent's resume. Reassess the battlefield. Your position may be better than you think.

2. Get up to speed. Prepare; do your reading; call a friend. Experience is just another name for knowledge, and in deal making, knowledge really is power.

3. The simplest way to level the playing field is to get expert help from an attorney or other professional beforehand. When selecting a professional, don't be stingy or arrogant--the consequences can be severe.

4. Once you start talking directly to your opponent, masking your inexperience may be tough. Unless you have a real flair for double talk, don't play this game.

5. You don't have to go into a deal as a know-it-all to get what you want. Use your inexperience to your advantage. Force your opponents to explain themselves and to educate you.

6. Get them talking, and ask questions, but discourage your opponent from lying or spinning the truth by letting him or her know you can double-check everything. One big caveat: Make sure you actually can triangulate what you hear. Don't rely on your opponent's sense of decency or your genius at interrogation.

A speaker and attorney in Los Angeles, Marc Diener is author of Deal Power.

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This article was originally published in the February 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Outgunned?.

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