Negotiating and Sales Skills Are Critical

by: Tim Randal

When I first started getting active in creative real estate, my skill set at negotiating was very weak. I had done the telemarketing thing for American Express as a financial planner and had studied and learned a few techniques. On the surface one might think that would be a perfect tie-in to talking to sellers about their properties and their financial situation. I can promise you it wasn't.

Yes, I did pick up asking general sales techniques like never asking close-ended ("yes" or "no" answers) questions. Also, it still works to ask multiple choice assumptive questions like "Would Tuesday at 6 p.m. or Thursday at 3 p.m. work better for you?". The basics were not enough.

When I first began asking sellers what their loan balance was, I may have actually received a number for an answer 50% of the time. I had two major obstacles facing me.

First, my belief system was cock-eyed in that having come from a financial/accountant type background, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that no one would ever just give me their house and that only a complete fool would tell me the balance remaining on their loan.

Second, I didn't have a clue as to the right way to ask and I can tell you from experience that it matters greatly.

The first obstacle, belief system, was easily overcome after I met my first truly motivated seller. Okay, beliefs systems are trashed and I must be the complete fool because that was way too easy.

The second obstacle, phraseology/negotiating, is no longer an obstacle, per se, but it is still a skill that I continually try to improve upon. The two key components, assuming you have already properly established good rapport, are timing and the phrases you use.

Here are some quick examples of how NOT to ask a seller what the loan balance is:

  • What do you owe?
  • Are you willing to sell it for what you owe?
  • How much equity would you say you have?
  • etc., etc.

Now, don't get me wrong. If you use these phrases and similar ones enough times and with enough confidence, you will be able to get a numerical answer on occasion (as opposed to some of the not so friendly responses I received early on).

Contrast the above phrases to these:

  • How much is left on the loan?
  • So, the property's not owned free and clear?
  • etc., etc.

The first set of questions personalizes the issue and attaches the debt, and thus the problem, with the seller. The second set of questions creates detachment and since it's no longer "their debt" or "their problem" or "what they owe", it's just simply a number and not a problem to share.

Since I first picked up on this one little tactic, I would estimate I get all the information I want on 99 out of 100 calls with almost no real effort. Granted, it does take time and practice to develop decent phone skills. The ability to naturally create rapport and flow with the call, yet still get the information you want will come with time. My point is that it's important to begin testing and tracking different approaches. If you do this, you will notice some very interesting results.

Here's another example when asking about whether or not the seller would consider a carryback (financing it for you). I'd suggest actually trying this one out just to verify the reality. If I ask a seller something like:

  • Would you consider owner finance?
  • Would you do a carryback?
  • Would you carry paper on this?
  • etc., etc.

What do you think my responses will be? Yes, I know that we like to use our fancy terminology once we've mastered it. I'm probably as guilty as anyone in that regard. However, what the above questions accomplish is forcing the seller into a corner. Either they have to admit they don't understand, and thus appear foolish, or simply say "no". Which do you think happens most often?

Compare the above questions with something like:

  • Are you in a position where you could take payments?
  • Would it be possible for me to make payments for a while and pay off your loan later?

These questions almost always lead to a "yes" or a "tell me more" type response. You'll be amazed at the difference.

These are just two quick examples of how the phrases you choose can affect your results. Take a minute to consider how many questions you ask and how much information you attempt to extract from a seller in a single call. Knowing what to say and when to say it will improve your performance more than you can imagine.

I highly recommend picking up some books and/or taking some courses on sales and negotiating. Roger Dawson has great materials available on this web site... and you can visit his site at

I'd also recommend reviewing our recommended book list for materials on sales and negotiating which can be found here...

Grab some books by Tom Hopkins, Zig Ziglar, and other topsales and negotiators and begin the quest. I firmly believe no other action will make you as much money as fast as developing these skills and practicing them.

Regardless of your specific approach to your business, these skills will absolutely be used in every aspect of your life.


Tim Randle


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