Cash Flow With Joe

Abraham: father of many nations, rockstar negotiator


I recently read a book called “Negotiate This! By Caring, But Not T-H-A-T Much.” I really liked the author Herb Cohen. Not only is he funny, but he has some impressive negotiating credentials, like being hired to successfully negotiate a hostage crisis for the White House.


This book has a lot of great suggestions. In one section, Herb uses a biblical example to illustrate some key negotiation tactics. It’s the story of Abraham negotiating for the safe release of his nephew, Lot, in Genesis 18:17-33 before hostilities ensue in Sodom and Gomorrah.


The first thing Herb notes about this situation is that Abraham subordinates himself to Yahweh. One would think that action would be a given when standing before the maker and master of the universe. But Herb likens this situation to negotiating with a large company or on a big deal where you may feel intimidated.


Herb says the normal tendency is to try and prove yourself, but chances are you’ll overcompensate and end up with an adversarial relationship with your opponent.


This scenario manifests itself for real estate investors when they go on and on about how great they are at what they do. They’ll talk about how many deals they’ve done and how much money they’ve made while sitting at a seller’s kitchen table.


If you do this, you have a high likelihood of hurting the seller’s pride and impeding negotiations.


Herb suggests Abraham’s method.


When Abraham talked to Yahweh, he made sure to make himself look inferior to his negotiating opponent. He referred to himself as “dust and ashes” and asked Yahweh not to get upset with him because he kept coming back with other offers.


If you do this with a seller, you’ll bring down their defenses and have a better shot at closing the deal.


Next comes the actual numbers process.



Abraham uses a technique called the “wouldja takes.” This tactic starts out with an arbitrary offer that you’re sure will be accepted. You say something like, “I don’t know if I could do this, but supposing I could, wouldja take it?” This gets you an initial “Yes!” from your seller, which is a positive thing. You follow up with subsequent lower “wouldja take” offers until your opponent finally says “No.” Then you back up to the previous offer and go with that one.


Abraham starts out with something along the lines of “Supposing there were 50 righteous people in the city, “wouldja take” the idea of sparing the whole city for 50 righteous people?” Yahweh, of course, agrees. Abraham comes back with subsequent fewer offers until Yahweh finally ends the negotiations at 10 righteous people.


That’s an 80 percent reduction from the first offer! If this tactic is that effective with the Creator of the Universe, imagine using it on a mere mortal.


One other place to learn from Abraham’s negotiating skills is in Genesis 23.


Here, Abraham is negotiating for land on which to bury his wife Sarah and has approached a land owner named Ephron.


To begin with, both parties hem and haw about the right price for the land, with neither wanting to divulge a number first. Finally, in verse 13, Abraham uses a phrase that that gets Ephron to speak-up.


Now, I’m paraphrasing, but he basically says to Ephron, “If I were to get you cash today, what would you take for it?” That phrase is gold. It worked back then, and it still works today.



Take note of what happens next. Ephron says he will take 400 pieces of silver. Now, this must be a great deal, because Abraham doesn’t counter. He just quickly weighs out the silver and closes the deal.


From a modern standpoint, if a seller names a price that’s already a deal, don’t counter back lower. If you try to beat them up on a lower price, you may insult them and cause them to walk away. Follow Abraham’s example, pull the trigger and close the deal.


Joe and Ashley English buy houses and mobile homes in Northwest Georgia. For more information or to ask a question, go to or call Joe at 678-986-6813.

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