Sonnenfeld to CEOs: 'Don't mess around with the Donald'

Executive Edge: Don't mess around with 'the Donald'

Top-level executives need to stand their ground and commit to their arguments when negotiating with President-elect Donald Trump, Yale's management expert Jeff Sonnenfeld told CNBC on Thursday.

"What Trump responds to very well — and people don't understand this about him — he responds to a different point of view anchored in some research, some facts and some grassroots legitimacy," Sonnenfeld told "Squawk Box."

Sonnenfeld referred to Jim Croce's 1972 folk rock song "You Don't Mess Around with Jim" to make his point. "You really don't mess around with the Donald," the Yale School of Management professor said.

Trump's new administration could mean great things for U.S. businesses, but his criticism of companies moving operations abroad has shaken some top-level executives, who are starting to view him as a threat to business partners abroad, Sonnenfeld contended.

But to negotiate with Trump, CEOs can't come at him with threats, Sonnenfeld said.

"You don't go to President-elect Trump in a position of weakness. You don't go in there groveling. If you're going to negotiate with him, you have to have some strength behind you," Sonnefeld said.

Sonnenfeld was particularly excited about Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, being put on Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum, which will provide a platform for business leaders to share their insights with the president.

"Jamie's always got his homework done. He'll have counterfacts. He'll also have grassroots support," Sonnenfeld said.