The great Eric Barker notes that the #1 negotiation principle that HBS teaches its MBA students is being likeable:
“Here’s the equation for getting what you want. Cutting to the chase: You want to get more. You want more money, a better offer, a better deal; here are the components of what you need to do. First, they need to like you. That’s the first component. The things you do that make them like you less make it less likely that you are going to get what you want…”
I love the juxtaposition of Gordon Gekko-esque greed (“Cutting to the chase: You want to get more.”) with the simple statement of likeability (“They need to like you.”).
Yet this advice definitely falls into the category of “easier said than done.” My best advice on how to accomplish this is to develop relationships before you need them. Harvey Mackay calls this, “Dig a well before you’re thirsty.”
In each of the four companies where I’ve been involved as a founder or de facto member of the founding team, we raised money based on personal relationships.
At TargetFirst, both our first angel (the great Hon Wong) and our lead VC were old friends of Jim Fitzsimmons, the experienced manager I brought in as CEO when I went back to HBS.
At Symphoniq, Greylock got involved after my old friend and classmate Michele Law asked if we were raising money.
At Ustream, I was the first angel, but our lead VC (DCM) came in via our CTO, Tim Villanueva, who was old friends with a partner at the firm.
At PBworks, my old friend Dave Feinleib at MDV actually informed me that the company was raising money, and asked me for the intro that turned into the Series A.
In all four cases, the relationships that led to the Series A had been around for years before they turned into an investment. We didn’t have to work hard on likeability because we were already friends.