JF1245: Learn How To Sell Like A Ninja with Ninja Selling Author Larry Kendall
After Joe read Ninja Selling, he immediately had his team reach out to Larry to be on the show. Larry is the author of his book on sales, as well as a real estate investor. If you haven’t read the book, you should. Listen to this episode for a good primer to Ninja Selling. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!
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Larry Kendall Background:
-Founding partner of The Group, Inc., a real estate company that is owned equally by its sales associates and staff
-Author of Ninja Selling and has engaged in the real estate business for over 40 years
-Creator of Ninja Selling, a sales training system with over fifty thousand graduates in the US, Canada, and Spain
-The Group has 190 sales associates and six offices in the Northern Colorado area
-Business Person of the Year by Business World Magazine
-Say hi to him at http://ninjaselling.com/
-Based in Fort Collins, Colorado
-Best Ever Book: Man’s Search for Meaning
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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. We’ve spoken to Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank, Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad, Poor Dad), Emmitt Smith – hall of famer, and he’s also a real estate developer, that’s right. Google “Emmitt Smith Joe Fairless” and you’ll hear his interview.
With us today, we’ve got the author of one of my most recent favorite books, and perhaps it will be an all-time favorite book. Ninja Selling is the book, and the author is Larry Kendall. How are you doing, Larry?
Larry Kendall: I’m doing great, Joe. Thanks for inviting me.
Joe Fairless: My pleasure. It was less of an invite, it was more of a stalk. I stalked you; I had my team stalk you and track you down, because a guest on an episode of this show had previously mentioned your book, your conference and your seminars and your approach. The book is Ninja Selling, and he was speaking so highly about it I had to check it out. After I did, I have already implemented some of the things, and we’ll talk about that in a little bit… But I’m just blown away by your approach and I recommend it to everyone who I personally work with in my consulting program, and then just Best Ever listeners in general.
A little bit about Larry – he is the founding partner of The Group, which is a real estate company that is owned equally by its sales associates and staff. He is the author of the book I mentioned earlier, Ninja Selling, and has been engaged in the real estate business for over 40 years. He has been named Business Person Of The Year by Business World Magazine. He’s based in Fort Collins, Colorado. With that being said, Larry, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?
Larry Kendall: You bet, Joe. As you mentioned, I live in Colorado; I lived there with my wife and 10-month old daughter, and I could not find a job. And if you wanna live someplace and you can’t find a job, what do you do? You go into real estate, or into sales; you can always get a job in sales. So that’s how I ended up in the real estate business.
My background – I’m basically an introvert, and I had to find a way to be successful in the sales industry as an introvert. That led to an approach that I developed and then later taught to our salespeople in our company, and it’s now called Ninja Selling. We have workshops throughout the country, we have eight instructors that teach in the U.S. — primarily in the U.S. and Canada, and this year we’ll surpass 60,000 Ninja Selling graduates.
Joe Fairless: Well, congratulations on that. You mentioned you had to find a way to be successful in sales as an introvert, and that’s how Ninja Selling came about… What is Ninja Selling?
Larry Kendall: The basic fundamental is this – you never wanna put your customer in the position of feeling pressure, because when they feel pressure, they either wanna run away from you if they can, or they will put up a shield to protect themselves… And immediately, your rapport is gone.
What Ninja Selling teaches is how to connect with customers, never put them in the position of feeling pressure – as a result, you’ll never put yourself in the position of being rejected – and by asking the right questions, you’ll find ways to solve their problem, help them, and be more successful.
The basic idea is we wanna teach salespeople how to be incredibly successful and never put themselves in the position of being rejected. One of the other principles of Ninja Selling (and our goal) is to help people increase their income per hour, so they can have a life. So we are very focused on what we call “the vital few” – what are the few things that will make the biggest difference for you and for your customers, so that there’s not a lot of wasted effort. If you can do that, then you can be what we call “an on-purpose salesperson”, versus on accident.
A lot of salespeople are — they’re doing the best they can, and on accident they end up putting transactions together. And we really teach a system – we call it the Ninja Selling System – and it’s built around these core principles of knowing how to align your mindset, your skillset and your actions, and being successful, and not working all the time. A lot of salespeople can end up being a gerbil on a wheel, and our goal is to increase your income per hour so that you can have a life.
Joe Fairless: You said that you don’t wanna put yourself in a situation or position to be rejected… How can you do sales and not be in a position to be rejected?
Larry Kendall: That is a great question. The easiest way to not be rejected is to never make any calls. [laughter]
Joe Fairless: I don’t think you and I would be talking if that was the case… [laughter]
Larry Kendall: And frankly, that’s what holds a lot of salespeople back. They’ve been taught closing techniques, sales techniques… They can sense it; when they start going down that path, they can sense the resistance from the customer, and as a result many times they decide “I just won’t make any calls.”
One of the principles of Ninja Selling is to build relationships. People would prefer to work with somebody that they know, like and trust, and we encourage building relationships and working with people that know you, like you and trust you, and who are your friends, basically. I’ve had people come to my workshops and they say “You know, based upon how I was taught to sell, I was never comfortable subjecting my friends to that, so I kind of siloed my life. I had my sales business over here, and then I had my personal life and my friends over there… And I would never subject my friends to what I was taught in how to sell. Now, with Ninja Selling, this opens up a whole new world for me, because I can be with my friends and I can help them buy and sell real estate, and I never feel like I’m selling and they never feel like they’re being sold.” Everybody loves to buy, but nobody likes to be sold.
The way we do that – back to your question, “That’s great, but how do you do it?” It’s by asking the right questions. We have a philosophy in Ninja that the customer should have time of possession; that means they should be doing most of the talking, and we should be asking questions and listening… Which is the opposite of what most sales training is about. Most sales training is about scripts and dialogues, and “Here’s what you say” and “Here’s how you convince them.” Our approach is much more soft. Our philosophy is this: we’re gonna ask some questions and we’re gonna identify pain and pleasure, and then we’re gonna see if we can solve their pain and their pleasure.
Our philosophy is “Stop selling, start solving.” That’s where it begins. The customer will be doing most of the talking, we’ll be listening, we’ll be listening for pain and pleasure, and we’ll be trying to see if we have a solution, if our product or service can solve a problem for them.
Joe Fairless: When you’re asking questions and you’re looking for the pain and pleasure, eventually I imagine the topic needs to be about real estate, otherwise it’s not as relevant. How do you come up with the right questions to ask so that you’re eventually gonna get around to business?
Larry Kendall: Great question, Joe. Almost all of our questions start with the FORD questions. So we’ll simply start out by asking “How is the family?” The O question is occupation, “How’s business? How’s everything at work?” R stands for Recreation – “What are you doing for fun? What are your plans for the weekend?” And the D question is about Dreams, anything about the future, so “What are your plans for the holidays? Are you going to the game this weekend? Your daughter is graduating high school this year; what’s her plans for the future?” And almost all of our questions start with those FORD, core type of questions – Family, Occupation, Recreation and Dreams.
When we’re asking about the family and how the family is doing, it’s very easy to segue then into “How is the house working out for you?” And they’ll usually talk about what’s working and what’s not working, and you can say “What are your long-term plans for that house?” They may say, “Well, we probably are good to go for another couples years so our kids graduate, and then maybe we wanna do something else”, which leads into another question, which was “What if you could live anywhere? Where would that be?”
The questions are very easy and very soft if you lead into them with the four core questions – Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams. What we know in real estate is this: those four areas (family, occupation, recreation and dreams) are the four core values of most people. And if there is some sort of change – either pain or pleasure – in those four areas, it’s gonna affect the real estate.
So if you think about this, on family, what would be some examples of changes that could affect their real estate? Well, they become an empty nester, or they just have a new baby, or they get divorced. In their business, they just got promoted, or they just got laid off, or they are being transferred. So any change in those four core areas is going to affect the real estate, and what we teach the ninjas is how to ask those questions and listen very carefully for pain and pleasure, and then offer a solution. It’s really as simple as that.
My experience is also when you’re asking those FORD questions, after a while they’ll look at you and they’ll say “Tell me a little bit about yourself. What business are you in?” And they’ll say “I’m in the real estate business”, and almost always their very first question out of their mouth is “Well, how is the market?” This is a question that’s probably the most asked question of real estate people, “How is the market?” And it’s also the question that in my observation is poorly handled by most realtors.
Typically, when they’ll ask “How is the market?” they’ll say “Oh man, I’m really busy.” Or they’ll say, “Oh man, there’s just not enough inventory.” Well, when you say you’re busy or when you say that there’s no inventory, what is in the mind then of the person that asked that question?
Joe Fairless: Scarcity.
Larry Kendall: Their feeling is that you’re too busy for them, right? Or they’ve missed it, there’s no inventory. Instead, what you wanna do is you wanna ask “What have you heard?” and see what’s prompting that question.
Joe Fairless: So you answer the question with a question?
Larry Kendall: Yeah. You say “What part of the market are you interested in?” I was at a party last summer, and there was a group of us standing in a circle with a drink in our hand, and there was a person there that said “How is the market?” There was a realtor in our group and he took that bait like a bigmouth bass, and just that quick he said “Oh man, there’s just no inventory.” And I saw this gentleman’s shoulders slump. It just deflated him. So I hooked up with him later at the party and I said, “You were asking about the market… What part of the market are you interested in?” and he said, “Well, my wife and I have been thinking, with these low interest rates, this might be the time that we should step up to our green home.” And I said, “Well, tell me more about that”, and he started to describe the kind of home he wanted.
I said, “Do you have a price range in mind?” He says, “Well, in searching online, it looks like to get what we want it’s probably gonna be about a million to a million two.” And I said, “Well, have you ever heard of a dual market?” He says, “No, what’s that?” I said, “Well, we have a dual market right now. In the mid to low price ranges, there’s hardly any inventory. But as you go up in price, there’s an abundance of inventory. In fact, in your price range there’s about a two year’s supply. So you could sell your current house in a seller’s market and buy your dream home in a buyer’s market.” He said, “You are kidding.”
Joe Fairless: Wow.
Larry Kendall: Well, today he’s living in his 1.2 million dollar golf course community… And again, he thought it was over, there’s no inventory. He was deflated. Well, the key to it is asking the right questions and listening.
Joe Fairless: That’s amazing. I’m really glad that you shared that story. So we’re talking about — the examples that you have are in reference to real estate agents and brokers, and that’s primarily what your book is focused on… But these principles are applicable to all real estate investors, because I personally am not a real estate agent or a broker.
My business is I buy apartment communities with accredited investors, and we do large deals together. So I work with passive investors, and I just soaked up your book so much because of your approach and how it is applicable to not only real estate agents and brokers, but also people who bring in investors in deals, because it isn’t about the selling, it’s more about building relationships, asking the right questions, and then seeing if you can help solve a challenge. Have you come across other people who have applied the principles that you discuss in ways other than real estate agents and brokers?
Larry Kendall: You know, Joe, one of the people that I learned the most from about the questions is an old friend of mine, Robert Kiyosaki, who you’ve had on your show, and in my mind is one of the icons for real estate investing. He used to live in Colorado back in the day; in fact, we used to teach together… And I learned a lot from Robert. Obviously, he’s a great investor; a lot of people don’t know this, but he’s a great teacher as well, and I took a class from Robert called “Powerful Presentations.” He kept drumming into us, “It’s not what you say, it’s what you ask, and knowing how to ask the right questions, in the right order. And being a good listener is really the key.”
A lot of this Robert applies in how he does his business. I learned it from him. We’ve applied it in a number of other areas in brokerage. We also have trained a lot of commercial brokers, so I think our approach applies whether you’re in residential or whether you’re in commercial. A lot of lenders, mortgage people have taken our courses. So I think that they definitely apply if you’re in any area of communication, really.
Joe Fairless: And one thing I’ve specifically done – because I alluded to this at the beginning of our conversation… After reading your book, one thing I’ve specifically done is I have created a newsletter. But not an e-mail newsletter, because I already have that; it gets sent out every week. But I’ve created an exclusive mailed out, get it in the mail newsletter that only my accredited investors receive. So I get all of their mailing addresses, and they get this newsletter once a month. And in the newsletter it highlights one of the investors and how they got to where they’re at. It also might mention some other miscellaneous things, like maybe top five things I learned from interviewing Emmitt Smith, or Jillian Michaels, or something like that. And that’s something I’ve done after reading your book, because I’ve realized that it’s important to be top of mind… Because I believe — and it’s been a couple months since I read your book, but I believe you mentioned something in that book about if you’re top of mind today, but the customer (in this case my investors, but in real estate agents, the client) if they don’t need a home then, then they’re going to eventually go with the person who’s top of mind at the time. So the key is to remain top of mind consistently, and that mail out newsletter is one way I’m doing that.
Larry Kendall: And I think it’s interesting, Joe, that you decided to do that in a snail mail, hard copy format.
Joe Fairless: Because I’ve got the weekly thing via e-mail, but the snail mail is — to speak candidly, I’m infiltrating their house. [laughs] I’m actually on their kitchen counter, and it’s just another way in to continue that relationship and the conversation and stay top of mind; wow, adding value. Because none of it – the thing in the newsletter, and I’ve learned this partially from reading your book, but then partially just my life experiences – is selling them on anything that I have… I’m gonna take that back, I have one callout for my conference, but it’s a small one. But besides that, it’s all stuff that is profiling current investors to help them either connect with some of my current investors, and maybe help grow together (they can grow together), or just learning who else is investing with me, so they get an idea of “Hey, I’ve got other people who are joining with me, and here’s a couple people.”
So what other ways have you heard of or done yourself or your teammates have done that have helped stay top of mind with potential clients throughout the year?
Larry Kendall: Well, we do just what you do – we do both an electronic, as well as a hardcopy newsletter, and we have found that they both are necessary. The hardcopy is coming back, print is coming back, because so many people — their junk mailbox now is their e-mail, not their home post office box. So we do both of those. Again, we wanna position ourselves number one, top of mind, and number two, as the source of real estate knowledge when they ask themselves “Who would know the answer to this?” Boom! You’re top of the mind, and not only top of the mind, but also in their mind you’re the source. “I know I could call Joe and he’ll know the answer.”
We believe in our research that to be top of the mind you need to have what we call autoflow, which would be in the mail or e-mail or social media, three touches a month, 36 touches a year. And they need to be touched in a way that creates value. It’s not just junk. We’re not bombarding somebody with stuff that isn’t valuable to them. So anything that solves a problem for them, or even solves a problem they didn’t know they had… Typically, market information is very valuable to people, they like to have that. You cannot send them too much of that.
Anything that makes them feel good. Personal notes make them feel good, birthday cards make them feel good… Anything that either solves a problem for them or it makes them feel good is part of your flow program, three per month. And then in addition, we recommend live-flow. This is face-to-face or voice-to-voice. We recommend at least 50 live flow interactions (face-to-face, voice-to-voice) per week. So a lot of times when I’m teaching that, I get the furrowed brows, like “Wow, that seems like a lot. How am I supposed to do that?” Well, first of all it’s pretty easy – if you have your CRMs set up properly, it should automatically populate probably 20-30 calls you need to make that week; who’s having birthdays, who’s having anniversaries of the purchase of their home, your various contract dates that you need to follow-up on for your active buyers and sellers… Those should be pretty much automatic.
And then you’ve gotta come up with 20-25, and if you think about it, if you are at a game and you see 4-5 of your friends, that counts as four or five; or if you’re at an open house and seven people come through, that counts as seven. And the only requirement is that you ask FORD questions and listen for change. That’s all you have to do. You don’t have to go up and say “Hey, do you wanna buy or sell real estate?” or “Hey, who do you know that wants to buy or sell real estate?” The minute you start going down that path, what do they do?
Joe Fairless: Run away…
Larry Kendall: If they can get away, they do, or they throw up the shield. So instead, you just say “How’s family? What’s going on at work? What are you guys doing for fun?” Just engage them, and then listen carefully for change.
Joe Fairless: Just a clarification for my own purposes – you said autoflow, three touches a month that create value, and then live-flow, at least 50. For autoflow, I believe you’re referring to three touches a month per person, that you’re targeting. But for live-flow, you’re referring to in total at least 50 face-to-face conversations, but not with one particular person, right?
Larry Kendall: No, no. [laughs] Right, 50 face-to-face or on the phone…
Joe Fairless: Across many people.
Larry Kendall: Yeah, per week.
Joe Fairless: Got it. Okay. Good stuff. I’ve got a question I ask all my guests, and here it is – based on your experience as an entrepreneur and being real estate, what is your best advice ever for real estate investors?
Larry Kendall: Don’t wait to buy real estate, buy real estate and wait. That’s an old adage, but… My wife and I own quite a few properties; all of them are free and clear. It’s provided us with the financial freedom basically to get up in the morning and do what we want.
I teach a real estate investing course called Wake-up Money, and it’s the idea of “How much money would you like to have by coming in each day, by simply waking up in the morning, from your real estate?” A lot of this started with my first meeting with Robert Kiyosaki back in the ’80s, before he was famous. Back then he was Bob, now he’s Robert. [laughs] I’ve learned a lot from him, and have applied it.
One of my favorite investors is a guy named Don, and he was a carpet layer. He would come into the office and he’d say “What do you have for me to buy?” And his formula was very simple – if he could buy a good piece of real estate, in a good location, with 20%-25% down, have it breakeven or cashflow on a 30-year loan, he said “A man ought to do that. You can get rich doing that.” And I saw Don the other day… When I worked with him as a carpet layer, I don’t think he ever made much more than 30k-35k a year laying carpets. And he would buy these fixer uppers, in good locations, good bones, but they needed carpet and paint; he could do that. And his income today is $47,000 a month from his real estate.
He is a very simple man, with a very simple formula, but I have found that formula to be fairly accurate. In fact, when I can’t buy a property with 20%-25% down and have it breakeven or cashflow on a 30-year loan, I tend not to buy it. That would be a signal to me that perhaps the fundamentals aren’t there in the market at that time. I know we were recommending to a lot of our investors in 2006 — we have a monthly workshop (Wake-up Money workshop) and we actually suspended the workshop in 2006. We said “Go to the sidelines, this is going to get ugly”, because the fundamentals simply are not there. And at the time, I remember a lot of them were kind of distraught. They were like, “Wait a minute, we wanna buy some real estate. You’re telling us not to buy real estate?” and I said “Not right now.” You think it’s location-location-location; that’s one of the rules of real estate, but the other one is timing-timing-timing.
So many of them are so happy that they followed our advice, because they went to the sidelines, they conserved their cash… And we fired up our Wake-up Money classes again at the end of 2009, and they’ve done very well. So I think understanding the fundamentals… Real estate markets are very cyclical; their cycles are long, and they tend to be very predictable if you know what to watch for. And you wanna follow your fundamentals and buy at the right time.
Joe Fairless: Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?
Larry Kendall: Okay… [laughs]
Joe Fairless: We’re gonna do it. First though, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.
Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve read?
Larry Kendall: Best ever?
Joe Fairless: Yeah, best ever book you’ve read.
Larry Kendall: I should have been more prepared, Joe. I apologize. The best book I read recently is —
Joe Fairless: How about this, because I know it’s tough to pick the best… Just a book that has influenced you in your career or just as a person?
Larry Kendall: I’m trying to remember the name of the book that I just read… It’s 9 Habits On Monday Morning by Robbins I believe it was. But probably the most profound book for me when I first read it was Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning. I remember reading that book in 1984; it was written in 1964, and I remember I was sitting with my wife and I pounded my fist on the table and I said “Dammit!” and she says “What?” I said, “This book was written 20 years ago and I’m just now reading it.” I should have read it 20 years ago. I wasted 20 years of my life without having the benefit of this book. She said, “20 years ago you wouldn’t have gotten the book anyway. You weren’t ready for the book 20 years ago.” So I remember that book, Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning. Great book.
Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever way you like to give back?
Larry Kendall: I was taught as a kid “Just give”, and not necessarily give back. I remember giving when we didn’t have anything really to give back. I grew up in a fairly poor family, so if we didn’t have money to give, then we gave our time. We were always volunteering for various organizations, doing things… So I think that’s one of the things that I was taught, and one of the great books on that I believe is The Go-Giver. That’s one of my favorite books as well.
Joe Fairless: Yup, Bob Burg. I interviewed him on the show a couple times. Great guest. How can the Best Ever listeners get in touch with you and learn more about what you’re doing?
Larry Kendall: Probably the best way would be to go to our website, which is www.ninjaselling.com.
Joe Fairless: Great. Larry, I’m so grateful that you’ve spent some time with us. Before we started recording, you said you were in Vegas, visiting family, so even more so thank you for taking some time to spend with us while on your trip. Some of the things that stood out to me… One is the staying top of mind approach, where you’ve got the autoflow three touches a month that create value; it could be a snail mail newsletter, it could be an e-mail newsletter, it could be a podcast, it could be a blog, it could be a YouTube channel, it could be a meetup… Whatever it is, but three ways to stay in touch with each particular person that’s on your list or you’re building relationship with, and then the live flow, which is more of a smattering approach – at least 50 people a week, or 50 interactions a week.
Then also the overarching approach of don’t put yourself in a position to be rejected, and how you are able to do that and still be successful in ultimately sales is you build relationships and you listen, and you ask the right questions. As Robert Kiyosaki mentioned that you said, “It’s not what you say, it’s what you ask”, and asking the right questions. As you said, people want to buy, but they don’t want to be sold to. And you talked about the FORD questions – talk about family, occupation, recreation, dreams… That’s certainly directly applicable to real estate agents and brokers, because that ties into the home situation, but then also it’s applicable to people outside of those industries, because we’re all affected by family, occupation, recreation and dreams.
Thanks for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Larry Kendall: Great, Joe. Thanks for inviting me on the show.