In my experience, companies want to work with people who are helpful, responsible, and pleasant. I mean, on the one hand, who doesn't? But if you're an independent product developer who wants to bring your ideas for new products to market, the degree to which you embrace these qualities directly affects your chance of success. There are already so many obstacles to bringing new products to market. Your demeanor -- and the words you choose to deploy and when -- set the tone, especially during negotiations. Put another way? The surest way to kill a deal is by being difficult and acting unreasonably. Your attitude, in short, is everything.
What do I really mean by that? You have more power to dictate the terms of your evolving relationships with potential partners than you may realize. My expertise is in bringing new products to market via licensing. For many years, I approached powerful companies to pitch them on my concepts for new products. Were they interested? If so, we began what I now recognize as essentially a kind of dance. We would tiptoe forward, testing the waters and sizing each other up. All the while wondering: Were we going to be able to work together? Did we want to work together?
To this day, one of the best meetings I've ever been in was at Johnson & Johnson. An experienced negotiator who was there that day taught me a memorable lesson: You can never express your commitment and excitement about working with a potential partner too quickly. After I made a short presentation, this person turned to his colleagues with a sweet smile on his face and said, "What do you think? If you like this as much as I do, I'm 100 percent confident we can make this work." His encouraging words immediately set the tone. They were in. They were committed. And as a result, so was I. I've been encouraging my students to use the same tactic at the very beginning of their negotiations ever since. And guess what? It works. It really works.
It's a strategy you should fall back on when negotiations get off track, or begin to falter, as well. A few years back, one of my students told me that a Fortune 500 company she had met at a trade show had expressed interest in her product idea. But after a few conversations, they'd hit a standstill. Both sides had refused to budge, and shortly thereafter, they'd decided to go their separate ways. My advice was to email them back with an entirely different attitude. That if they were still interested in the product, she should tell them she was committed to making it work. They were! And eventually they signed a deal. In my opinion, there's no better way to build a strong bond than to be upfront and explicit about your desire to see things through.
The thing is, we're all just people. Don't let the size or strength of a company intimidate you. We all have our problems. We all share similar stresses. Monday mornings are rough. On Fridays, we want to get home to our families. Adopting an emphatically positive attitude will make working with you feel like a no-brainer. So find a way to be supportive. The people you work with will love you for it.
It sounds simple, doesn't it? But you'd be surprised. We so often let our egos get in the way. We let our pride and our fear -- our emotions -- dictate our reactions. A book that helped me see the bigger picture is The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz. I highly recommend it, especially if you're faced with a seemingly impossible project.
Remember, positivity is contagious. Use it to draw collaborators in.
Originally published on Inc.com August 26th 2016.