How to Talk Yourself Into a Deal By Taking Yourself Out of It
I often say the best way to find good reasons to do business is by first finding and eliminating reasons not to do it.
This is a variation on a theme descended from the Book of Genesis; we are, as human beings, defined to a significant extent by what we are not (animals) as by what we are (creatures that share some characteristics and traits of animals, but fashioned and formed by the hands and in the image of God).
Another One of Paul’s Stories
(Actually this isn’t mine, it belongs to God; I stole it from Him. He gave notice he intends to sue. For my story, click the link below to get your copy of Business Beyond Business.)
There’s a lovely Cinderella story in the Bible, if you know where to look for it. The Book of Ruth tells of a young woman from the hill country of Moab, a nation that bordered on (and was commonly hostile to) ancient Israel.
During an Israelite famine, two Jewish men migrated into Moab, and one of them took Ruth as his wife. But both men perished, leaving Ruth and her brother-in-law’s wife widowed with their mother-in-law, Naomi.
The other sister-in-law disappeared with the sands of time, but Ruth remained emotionally and spiritually connected to Naomi, pledging to return with her to Israel. There she eventually met and charmed Naomi's wealthy, landowning cousin, Boaz, to the degree he extended a offer of marriage.
Standard Israelite custom concerning deceased relatives impeded Boaz’ desire to marry Ruth. An unnamed cousin of Naomi closer in lineage held “first right of refusal” to purchase her estate. This relative got first dibs at all land, titles and property - which included the responsibility of marrying spouses and siring children - of his deceased kinsmen.
So Boaz had his work cut out for him; he needed to talk his way into a deal by first taking himself out of it, because law, custom and tradition totally opposed his expressed wishes.
Boaz had the heart and mind of a Radically Generous Entrepreneur. He was, after all, willing to wed a Moabite woman, which would have ordinarily subjected him to disgrace in the eyes of his fellow Jews. It was Ruth’s golden heart that he saw, rather than her cultural identity, when he took this risk.
He also knew a thing or two about human psychology, as the tale reveals, because his approach could hardly have been more shrewd and unattached to the outcome.
Land of Opportunity
Naomi’s nearer relative, a man of decent means, must have been asleep at the wheel. He was unaware of his status and title when Boaz approached him, but delighted to learn he could acquire more land.
For agrarian ancient Israelites, this news was equivalent to learning you have an inside track to purchase a profitable online business in 2019.
But Boaz, being a thoughtful and strategic man, understood the immediate appeal of a brand-new plot of workable land carried responsibilities that could become logistical snares. He also knew this man well enough to know he would reconsider when he learned of them.
“I thought I should bring the matter to your attention,” Boaz artfully framed the exchange, “and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.”
Now, everything hinged upon the kinsman’s reply. Boaz officially declared aloud that he was unattached to the outcome, however difficult it might have been to say so. But notice how he approached as an asset rather than a salesman; the kinsman did not know of his opportunity, and Boaz instantly created magnetism between them by sharing valuable information.
Next, Boaz led with the single most compelling reason he himself should not inherit the land and Ruth as his wife. What salesman do you know who does such a thing? “Here’s this brand-new 2019 Mercedes-Benz, and let me tell you the number one reason you should not buy it.” Such a salesman would not hold onto his job very long if the mysterious "manager" car salesmen always check with overheard it.
“I will redeem it,” replied the kinsman.
And it would appear all was lost … except we must pay equal attention to what Boaz did not disclose as well. That changed everything.
“On the day you buy the land from Naomi,” Boaz continued, “you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”
Uh-oh. He hadn’t thought of that.
Reversal of Fortune
One imagines perhaps a wince or a slow pause, although Scripture doesn’t say so. Reality tempered the kinsman's initial excitement: if he married a Moabite woman, he'd have to divide his inheritance between his Jewish sons and whatever mixed-breed children he’d be obliged to procreate with Ruth.
“Then I can’t do it,” he concluded, “as I’ll endanger my own estate.” He turned to Boaz. “You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”
Now this has many theological implications, but we're talking about sales and persuasion, not thee’s and thou’s.
What’s evident, though, is that Boaz could easily have walked up to this man and said, “Could I buy out Naomi’s estate from you? I’ll pay you whatever it’s worth.” That may not have altered a lot in the grand scheme of things … it might have even worked. The Bible leaves it to us to deduce why he didn’t use that approach.
My Spider Sense is Tingling
Any experienced salesperson reading up to here knows why Boaz went the route he did - because the man he was dealing with was no more greedy than Boaz was. He too was unattached to the outcome, because as soon as he realized he’d endanger his own estate, he backed off and renounced his rights of refusal before the elders of the town square.
To that end, Boaz marching right up and offering to pay double is unlikely to have been useful. It would probably have diffused any chance of them doing business at all.
This goes to another point I make in Business Beyond Business - and that is that Radically Generous Entrepreneurs do business with curated customers, not with anyone and everyone who applies.
Another way of understanding this is to supplant the kinsman with a stingy, morose character like Ebenezer Scrooge and ask, “Would Boaz have used the same approach with Scrooge that he did with this man?”
The answer might be complicated, but it’s probably safe to imagine Scrooge’s greed would have taken over and Boaz would have talked himself out of the deal completely, sealing Ruth’s fate to another man - an incredibly unkind one at that.
Another Happy Ending
Most people can recall a time when the stars just seem to “magically align,” but Radically Generous Entrepreneurs see things like this happen all the time, and purposefully rather than at random. I have a hard time imagining Boaz walked away with his signed papers in a state of shock, bewildered that he'd actually pulled it off.
Radically Generous Entrepreneurs are likelier to be in a state of co-creating reality with God, constantly improving and renewing their inner lives to be correctly positioned for maximized increase. Like Boaz, they certainly love good things coming into their lives, like good-hearted spouses and monetized assets.
But they are equally content to walk right by them when they’re exposed as counterfeits … and that can only be done when one insists on dealing in the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So help them God.