Larry Kendall is the creator of Ninja Selling, a sales training system with over fifty thousand graduates in the US, Canada, and Spain. His mission is to help people bring out the best in themselves and their organizations. Kendall holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from Kansas State University and is one of the founding partners of The Group, Inc., a real estate company with two hundred sales associates and six offices in Northern Colorado. He lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with his wife, Pat, and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
In this interview, Larry Kendall shared some of the insights from his new book, Ninja Selling: Subtle Skills. Big Results, which will be available on January 3, 2017 on Amazon as well as other fine booksellers.
1. What inspired you to pursue a career in sales?
I wanted to live in Colorado and even with an MBA, I could not find a job. There was a recession going on and no one was hiring. The only job I could find was in commission sales. This experience and struggle of getting started in a sales career as an introvert is described in more detail in the Introduction to the book.
2. You are a founding partner of The Group – a large real estate company. During the interview process, how can you tell whether or not someone will be a good salesperson?
We use a two interview process. In the first, preliminary interview, we are looking for 4 things: Character, Commitment, Coachability, and Culture.
1) Character: During the interview I’m asking myself these questions: “Is this person likable? Would I enjoy time with them? Do they have empathy? Are they humble or do they talk too much about themselves? Do I sense they have the people skills to pick up the subtle nuances? Did they show up for the interview on time? How are they dressed? Are they prepared – did they research our company in advance? Would I be proud to introduce them as a member of our team? Am I comfortable giving them the keys to my car and my house (our sellers will)?” These are “knock-out” questions. If we can’t say “yes” to all of them, there will be no second interview.
2) Commitment: Do they have a commitment to a work ethic? What is their work history? Are they hungry? Are they committed to a full time career in sales or is this a part time job to them? What was their first job as a kid? (Research shows that if they had a job for pay (babysitting, mowing lawns, paper route, etc.) by the age of 14, they have a higher work ethic. Do they have a Growth Mindset (see Dr. Carol Dweck’s (Stanford University) excellent book Mindset)?
3) Coachability: We give them an assignment to bring to the second interview. If they show up without their homework, they are flushed out. They have two problems: They have a character issue because they didn’t keep their commitment and it appears there is a coachability issue as well.
4) Culture: Are they a good fit for our team? Will they be a good team member – humble, hungry, smart Are they “we” or are they “me”?
3. Your first principle in the Ninja Selling system is to “Stop Selling” and focus on attracting customers rather than chasing them. How does this principle play out in the real world?
People are naturally attracted to anything that either solves a problem for them (pain) or makes them feel good (pleasure). Pain and Pleasure are two natural motivators for human behavior. We have simply developed a method to identify these motivators in our customers and then offer them a solution. Customers perceive that anyone who provides a solution in these two areas has value for them and is valuable. People are attracted to value.
4. What is a major misconception people have about sales?
A major misconception is that sales is somehow about pressuring or manipulating another person. Modern selling, selling at its best, is about serving and solving (identifying pain and pleasure and providing a solution). One of the principles of Ninja Selling is to never put your customer in the position of feeling pressured. As a result, they will never feel the need to reject you, your product or service. Ninja Selling is about “pulling” rather than “pushing”. Traditional sales is about pushing or pitching a product or service that the customer may not want or need. Ninja Selling is about discovering pain and pleasure (pulling) and then offering a solution.
5. You have taught the Ninja Selling system for many years – what made you decide now was the time to put it all into a book?
I was so busy teaching Ninja Selling workshops (about 200 a year) that I didn’t have the time to write the book. We had training manuals but not a real book. I finally got it done. Now, I’m told by our publisher, Greenleaf Book Group, that I did the process backwards. Most authors write their books to generate speaking and training opportunities. I’ve already been doing that for over 20 years and am just now getting around to writing the book. I will say this, that over those 20 years, there is nothing I would change about the book. The principles and the selling system we teach is grounded in universal principles that are timeless regardless of changes in markets, the economy, or technology.
6. Many of our readers do not work in sales specifically, but have aspects of their jobs that do have sales elements. What could they gain from reading the book?
The book is filled with life skills – how to manage your emotional energy, how to set and achieve life goals, how to run your brain, how to focus, and how to communicate with others. We recently had the President of a large engineering company buy the book and come to one of our workshops. I asked him what he was doing here? He said, “Ninja Selling is the best communications course I’ve ever seen.” We have many of our Ninjas giving the book to their clients and their children because of its life skills.
7. We always like to ask…what is your life motto or favorite quote?
“Live simple. Think big. Make a difference!”