Negotiating job offers
Learn how to think like a Shark
by Josh Doody
Negotiation can be intimidating. One way to improve your negotiation skills is to practice negotiating, but what if you aren’t ready for that? How can you improve your negotiation skills without practicing actual negotiations?
You can improve your negotiation skills by just observing and thinking about negotiations. The trick is to find negotiations to observe and think about. Fortunately, ABC’s Shark Tank is on almost every Friday, and every episode has several negotiations you can watch.
Here’s a four-phase approach to improve your negotiation skills by watching Shark Tank.
Each episode of Shark Tank has four negotiations. Just watching these negotiations will make you more comfortable with negotiating.
Here are some things you can watch for:
Once you have a good feel for the factors mentioned above, you’ll naturally start forming opinions about the offers being made. That’s when it’s time to move on to Phase 2.
The goal of the negotiation is to get to a deal that’s “good” for all parties. They don’t always get there, but they usually do.
Each time someone makes an offer, consider whether it seems “good” or “bad”, starting with the entrepreneur’s initial offer during their pitch. You’ll notice that an offer is often “good” for one party and “bad” for another—that’s why they’re negotiating.
Any time you have an opinion, try to articulate why you feel that way. “That’s a bad deal for the Shark because…” or “That’s a really good offer for the entrepreneur because…”
At first, you’ll find this difficult, but the more you watch, the more you’ll realize that each Shark has a preferred way to structure deals and get a return on their investment. Once you have a good sense for how each Shark approaches a deal, you’ll start anticipating the kinds of deals they pursue, and even the details of the offers they make as they pursue those deals.
Put yourself in the entrepreneur’s shoes and think about how you would respond to a Shark’s offer. Here are some things to think about from the entrepreneur’s perspective:
The more you do this, the better you’ll get. You might guess that Kevin will suggest a venture debt deal with a payback period of 2 years at 7% interest. Or you may think that Barbara is interested in doing a deal, but only if Robert and Lori will join her and they can get at least 10% equity each. And sometimes Daymond will simply say, “I don’t think you need my help.” before dropping out of the negotiation.
This requires understanding how the Shark and entrepreneur are thinking during the negotiation, and then considering how the other Sharks would approach the same deal and how they would evaluate the ongoing negotiation even if they’re already “out”.
You’ll realize that the Sharks are actively doing this exercise (the one I’m writing about here) for every deal in the Tank—they’re watching the negotiation, trying to anticipate the next offer by a Shark or entrepreneur, and evaluating the deals in real time to determine if they can make a better deal or add more value. They’re also gathering information they will use to their advantage in future negotiations.
You can do this too. The more episodes you watch, the better you’ll get at anticipating offers and evaluating deals. And that means your own negotiation skills will improve, just by watching Shark Tank.
I'm Josh Doody, a professional salary negotiation coach who helps Senior Software Engineers and Engineering Managers negotiate job offers from big tech companies. On average, Software Engineers and Engineering Managers improve their first-year compensation by $47,273 with my help.
Apply for a free 15-minute intro call to learn how I can help.