Donald Trump on Negotiating

Here are Donald Trump’s best ideas on how to be a great negotiator:

  • Consider what the other side wants.

Trump tells the story of how he acquired the tallest building in southern Manhattan, 40 Wall Street, for $1 million plus the liens. He did so because  he spoke to the owners personally, not through an agent, and found out what they wanted — in this case, to get out of real estate.

  • Be reasonable and flexible.

This might not seem like the kind of tactic you’d expect from Donald Trump, but he makes the point that unless you are willing to be open-minded when it comes to deals, to think long-term and not worry so much about the small things, you may miss out on some big opportunities.

  • Trust your instincts.

Against all expert advice to the contrary, Trump had a gut feeling that he could turn 40 Wall Street into the premier office location in that part of town. He ignored his advisers and made it happen.

  • Know exactly what you want and keep it to yourself.

“If you’re careful about what you reveal,” Trump says, “you’ll have more flexibility as you gather more information about he contours of the deal.”

  • Make sure both sides come out winning.

There is an HBO movie in the making about Atlantic City in which Trump and Steve Wynn (the Las Vegas casino developer) are portrayed as belligerent opponents in Trump’s successful acquisition of Trump Marina for $320 million. “That is highly inaccurate,” Trump says. “The bidding contest was friendly and, though Wynn lost out in the end, the publicity helped him enormously in his eventual conquest and development of Las Vegas.”

  • Let your guard down — but only on purpose.

It’s a good idea to make seemingly random, calculated off-hand comments. Sometimes, they provoke responses that are helpful in figuring out the other person’s interests and intentions.

  • Be patient.

Most successful entrepreneurs like to move quickly — but there are some deals that require time. Trump says he’s learned to be patient and it’s paid off. “I’ve spent from five minutes to 15 years waiting for a deal,” he says.

Regardless of whether you like Donald Trump, he’s shown resilience and tenacity at the highest levels of business entrepreneurship. It’s worthwhile to emulate his best ideas.