In business, big deals mean big stress. The stakes are high, the players are edgy, the politics may be treacherous, and there's barely enough time to gather the info, much less digest and act on it. Although pressure is inevitable, how well you handle it is totally up to you. Here are some ways to keep from burning out at the bargaining table:
Prepare, prepare, prepare. For me, this is the most effective antidote to any form of anxiety. Do your homework before you negotiate. Spend the time to make your checklist of "gotta-haves," "like-to-haves" and "can-do-withouts." Your articulated goals are your road map. Without them, you're sure to get lost. If you're going to need help, get your team in place early. Start gathering facts and performing due diligence immediately. Get each person what he or she needs promptly. Remember, your personal network is the key to dealmaking success. If you cultivate that network before the opportunity arises, you will be able to jump on the opportunity when it does.
Stay positive. "No mariner ever distinguished himself on calm seas." As a summer clerk at a Madison Avenue law firm, I heard this platitude more than 20 years ago-and I've carried it with me ever since. You will face maddening obstacles, not to mention opponents best described by a long string of expletives. But stay positive.
As any motivational speaker will tell you, problems are opportunities in disguise. If you can see difficulties as challenges, you will welcome them as training exercises that will make you a superior negotiator. Here's another platitude from that summer of 1980: "You can do anything if you stay organized." Trite, yet true.
Know when to stop. Don't be a perfectionist. No negotiation foresees every "what if," and you don't have to know everything to close. There will always be one more point to win. Reconsider the big picture. If the expense, effort, time, lost opportunity or additional nerve damage outweigh the benefit of any further concessions, call it a deal and shake on it.
On the flip side, once you've gone round and round on all the major issues (and most of the minor ones) and the deal still doesn't meet your bottom line, walk away. It's not your first deal, and it won't be your last.
Relax. No generation in human history has had more ways to bust stress than we have. But these techniques obviously don't work unless you use them. Exercise, meditate, get a massage, have a glass of wine, watch TV, have a heart-to-heart with your dog, fire up that aromatherapy candle-whatever! Take your business deals seriously, but not too seriously. No matter what happens at the bargaining table, it's your ability to relax and have fun that will really make you a winner.
A speaker and attorney in Los Angeles, Marc Diener is the author of Deal Power.