(Sales) Book Review: “Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play” (2000 Edition) by Mahan Khalsa

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Victor Antonio, Sales Influence

I‘m not easily impressed by a sales book these days because too often they’re just a rehash of some other book or sales approach.  But I have to admit that this one pushed me back on my heels in terms of its sincere approach to selling and selling system.  Let me stop right here and back up a bit since I’m getting ahead of myself.

About a month ago I responded to a sales question posted on LinkedIn regarding building rapport with clients.  One responder mentioned this book, Let’s Get Real or Not Play at All,  which I had never heard of or ever seen.  The title itself was intriguing.  His genuine enthusiasm for the book prompted me to click over to Amazon and order a copy.

Khalsa’s subtitle really describes the leit motif of this book, ‘The Demise of Dysfunctional Selling and the Advent of Helping Clients Succeed’.   Khalsa’s opening salvo is an indictment of how the relationship between the salesperson and the client has become a ‘dysfunctional’ one based on a relationship of fear and mistrust.  Amen!  In Khalsa’s own words, 

“No matter what you put in front or in the back of the word “selling” (consultative, solution, visionary, creative, integrity, valued based, beyond), it still ends up with the sense of doing something “to” somebody rather than “for” or “with” somebody.”

Both salesperson and client are culpable in this dysfunctional relationship.  The salesperson is guilty of not listening and understanding while the client is guilty of often times not knowing what they want or need.  What Khalsa urges is that we take a step back from the brink of non-cooperation and get back to the basic fundamental that we (salesperson and client) want the same thing; a solution that fits their needs.  

Obey the Signals: Red, Yellow and Green
Khalsa’s starting point is an obvious and often stated premise; a mutual exploration of needs and the ability of satisfying those needs.  This is where the book takes a right turn instead of going straight ahead like others.  He takes a page out of Quincy Jones’ book on collaboration by asking the salesperson to ‘check their ego’ at the door and trust the zen-like process of relinquishing control with the sole aim of creating an environment of trust between themselves and the client.

Khalsa’s premise of “no guessing” is the bedrock of his efficient sales approach.  The ‘no guessing’ philosophy is about listening but more importantly asking the questions that need to be asked.  No guessing allowed with regard to what the client wants or may have meant when they made a statement.  Khalsa lays out a sales model that gives the salesperson a clear line of questioning seeking to answer these three milestone questions:

1) Is this a genuine opportunity here?
2) Are the resources available?  
3) And, is the decision making process clear?

The book urges the ‘no guessing’ mindset here and ties your action plan to a Red, Yellow, Green light model.  If the client doesn’t make clear any of the three issues listed above (i.e., there are too many ambiguities or unanswered questions), then obey the red light and simply STOP, exit gracefully and move on to the next client.  What a concept!  

If there are some things said that you’re not sure of, Yellow Light, proceed with caution and ask the key questions.  Remember, no guessing!  If all signals are Green, then go the next step on the sales process Khalsa has laid out. 

The Bottomline
Khalsa’s sales approach may be a bit cumbersome or clumsy initially, but the more you understand it and apply it, you begin to see the simplicity in its complexity.  The model requires a strict discipline in its application and an adherence to the tenets he proposes (no guessing, no jumping in the process, etc.)  

Lastly, in my opinion this sales book is NOT really meant for ‘short sale cycle’ products (i.e., retail products).  Now before I’m accused of being narrow-minded in my thinking, here is what Khalsa says:

“For straight commodity or highly transactional sales, this process may need to be modified to serve you well.”

Translation: This model is not for meant for short-sale cycle products but can be adapted.  Problem: He never shows you how in the book.  So if you’re selling over-the-counter products I wouldn’t recommend you buy this book unless you can’t find anything better on the bookshelves at your local bookstore.  But, this book is a great fit if you’re selling expensive, long-sale cycle (i.e., complex sale) products or service.  If you fall into the latter category and you’re looking for a fresh and bold approach to selling, I urge you to go out and get your copy ASAP!  


5 Responses

  1. Victor, this is a great summary and I’m adding this book to my Kindle. In this tough economy we have to read and sometimes relearn an approach. As the late Jim Rohn say, ” Don’t wish it was easy, wish you were better.”
    I also placed you on my favorites because of your great content.

    • Dennis, thank you for the feedback. The book is truly a ‘hidden treasure’ in selling. And you’re right, the new 2008 version now includes Randy Illig as co-author. I read the 2000 Edition. Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts!

  2. Thanks for the great content and look forward to reading your next post.

  3. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!


  4. Victor, I’m a huge fan of Mahan Khalsa and his sales methodology “Helping Clients Succeed.” He has an updated version of the book (co-authored with Randy Illig) that has an additional section devoted to turning cold calls into warm calls. Well worth the read. Also, Randy and Mahan have started a sales training company called Ninety Five 5 (www.nf5.com).


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