Anytime you get into negotiations, things can get heated; and anytime things get heated, you tend to hear this popular phrase.
What a CROCK!!!
It IS just business but it's personal too because it's YOUR business.
So you've met three times with an investor who seems interested but each time, he needs more information. He hasn't said "no" but he isn't getting to "yes" either. And now he is challenging you over assumptions you thought were made clear in the first meeting. It seems you are circling back and rehashing your value proposition for the tenth time; and if he makes you explain your business model one more time, your head will explode.
"Is this guy an idiot?"
"Does he think I'm lying?"
"I already answered this question....ten times."
"That's NOT what I said."
So what do you do? You get through it. That's why they say it's just business. There's no way you can get inside the head of the person with whom you are negotiating. Therefore, you can't really know why they are delaying or asking the same question over and over. Typically, they will have their reasons. Here are some things that might help you get through this process. These are more aimed at preserving your sanity rather than negotiating tips but they may work there too.
Have a mentor or advisor in the wings - This is someone you can call after the meeting and unload. This person will listen to you rant, which gives you the chance to hear yourself say the things you bottled up inside your head. "Getting it out" is part of your own way of processing the situation. This person will also be the one to remind you of the bigger picture here and keep you focused on the end game.
"Seek first to understand, then be understood" - Steven Covey was right. If the same question keeps coming up, there's a reason. There is often a question behind the question and you need to get to it. You may not get there but you have to try. Be direct, "Help me understand why you are asking that question." Or, rephrase in your own words to make sure you understand, "what I hear you saying is...."
Bring a friend - Maybe it's your partner or your key advisor. This person's role is to watch, listen and take notes. When you're in the spot light, you can't watch everyone in the room. It's hard to stay focused on your message and read body language at the same time. If your friend is really good, they can read you when things get heated and they can interject with a key question from "Seek first to understand..."
Summarize the meeting - make sure you know specifically what they are asking for and how they want to see your answer. If they are asking for a pro forma financial projection, understand if they want to see 3 or 5 years; quarterly or monthly breakdowns, etc.
Exceed their expectations - Once you understand the questions, think about why they were asked. There are always questions behind the questions. For example, if your business model is questioned, find examples of other successful companies that have employed a similar model. Provide their company links.
Get the next meeting - Get them to commit to a time frame. If it's a week, you may be challenged but do it. If it's two months, there's cause for concern. If it's "we'll call you..." make sure you have a second investor lined up.
Keep a cool head - Your frustration will show through so keep this in mind: If you have a meeting with absolutely NO questions, that's a bad sign. The fact they are beginning to dig into your business means they are interested but they have questions or concerns. The better you understand these questions, the more you learn about your value proposition and how to communicate your business model. You may not get this deal but you will have learned something about your company and about yourself.
Getting a deal is tough, even under more promising economic circumstances than now. Investors manage risk by their due diligence process. More risky times, means more rigorous due diligence. It can be a delay tactic meaning they like your company but they can't invest right now. Our experience has shown that an entrepreneur will pitch his or her company more than 25 times before they close an investment. Less than 10% of the companies seeking an investment get a deal. That's a lot of rejection. But... this is also great feedback... for your presentation, your business plan and model, your strategy and your value proposition. In a strange way, negotiations with potential partners and investors is part of your market research and these experiences will help you validate your business model.
So, take it personally but deal with it. Channel your passion into action.