Thursday, November 10, 2011

My brief life as a consigliere


The assignment was simple – to convey an “offer they couldn’t refuse” and secure a cash for  shares ‘win-win’ exchange.  But I couldn’t close it.  Robert Duvall might have – I’ll study his moves all weekend to understand where I went wrong.

The phones started ringing before 9: a client struggling with a ‘pay or vacate’ ultimatum from their landlord.  This isn’t a situation that I have resources to solve (nor was that my role), but the folks I work with were willing to help.  Initially we talked about covering the rent with a loan, but shifted to a discount share offer to keep the balance sheet clean.  Terms were set, subscribers lined up, we were good to go.

I went in and laid out the terms, a good deal under the circumstances: cash immediately in exchange for 0.5% of the share offering at 50% discount.  I’ve taken worse offers to secure services or supporters that were critical to the business, and know that sometimes you have to be practical in giving some to get some.

But they refused.  No counter-proposal; no discussion.

What went wrong?

I’ve learned that “Time kills deals” – the longer you talk about terms, the more doubts can overwhelm the early enthusiasm. The close has to happen in days.

I’ve learned to “Stay in the room” – given the chance, people will shop around in search of something better.  Car dealers tell you that their offer ends once you leave the showroom, knowing that you’ll go next door to ask if they’ll beat the offer.

I’ve learned to “Guard the exits” – currency is hope: if there’s one offer, there are probably more.   Heartless as it sounds, the alternatives have to be methodically extinguished ahead of time.

But I haven’t learned enough.

It all sounds heartless, I know, but three times, now, I’ve negotiated good, equitable deals that fell through. In each case, our work was leveraged to stimulate a better offer, rather than refused outright.

The job of a  consigliere is to make an offer that sticks, to close the deal.

Maybe its time to bring out the horse’s head.

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