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Eleanor Pringle

Mark Cuban reveals his top tactics for successful negotiations

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban attends an NBA game at Footprint Center, in Phoenix, October 2022. (Credit: Christian Petersen—Getty Images)

As a billionaire with a notoriously competitive streak, some might expect Mark Cuban to go for the kill every time he sits down at the negotiating table. But the Shark Tank star said when it comes to a deal he never seeks to “win.”

His aim? Get what he needs out of the conversation without completely crushing his opponent.

Speaking on the interactive video platform Fireside—which Cuban cofounded in 2021—the Dallas Mavericks owner revealed the first trick to a successful negotiation is keeping emotion out of it.

“You can’t ever make it personal,” Cuban said.

The owner of Cost Plus Drug Co. highlighted that negotiations aren’t always positive; sometimes it may be a lawsuit or a hostile takeover, so having a handle on emotions is paramount, otherwise “you give them the advantage.”

“I might get mad, I might get upset,” Cuban told host Chris Voss. “But it’s always before or after the negotiations—never during.”

‘Never try to win’

Anyone who’s seen Cuban on the sidelines of Mavericks games may be surprised to hear the team owner doesn’t prioritize beating his opponent.

“I never try to win the negotiation,” he said. “I try to get what I want, and there’s a difference, because those are two different things.

“Winning a negotiation is, ‘I’ll put my foot on their neck and try to extract everything I possibly can.’ But that’s not the same thing as getting what you want.

“If you get something more, great, but I never try to get to a point where somebody really feels like they’ve been abused, because that’s karma, that always comes around. I’ll let you breathe even if I have a big advantage.”

Cuban, who readily admits he’s as “competitive as they come,” said when he sits down with his opposition he’s trying to learn from them.

“Every time they say something, the way they say it, the way people around them look, the way they shuffle their papers, the way they look at their notes, the look on their faces—it’s like poker in some respects,” Cuban said.

“Everything’s a tell at some level, and the more you pay attention and more aware you are, the better your opportunity to get what you want.”

‘Silence is power’

“What somebody says in a negotiation tells you everything,” Cuban said. “It tells you their strategy, it tells you their mission, what their aims are.”

So if you’re looking to wrong-foot the person on the other side of the negotiation—in Cuban’s case, a Shark Tank contestant or a fellow shark—the best thing to do is say nothing.

“People freak out with silence,” the man worth $6.6 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index said with a laugh. Cuban revealed that during filming for the ABC show he frequently stays silent, with producers later cutting out the moments where he replies to cues for feedback with, “I’m just listening.”

This not only gets the contestants wondering if Cuban might offer a bid, but also pushes his fellow sharks to wonder what he’s doing.

“They say silence is golden, silence is powerful. Silence is money, money in the bank. A lot of people don’t realize that,” Cuban noted.

The 64-year-old added it also gives him the opportunity to learn from his colleagues on the panel.

He joked that costar and real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran couldn’t add up “five plus five” as she’s not a “money person” but said her people skills “dwarf” his own.

“She is so good at sizing up people and understanding who they are. I want to hear what she has to say,” Cuban explained. “I want to get her perspective—just getting that input makes me smarter.”

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