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Review of Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play

March 15, 2010

Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play: Transforming the Buyer/Seller Relationship, Mahan Khalsa and Randy Illig

I discovered this book while preparing a series of internal workshop sessions on client relationship building at my firm. I read a number of books that were concerned with relationship building in one way or another, and Khalsa and Illig’s work is head and shoulders above the rest for three reasons.

First, the writing. Khalsa and Illig have put together a tightly organized, well-structured book that makes this complex material easy to follow and digest, even the first time through. Their prose is refreshingly free of sales-speak and jargon, sounding more like an article from The New Yorker than the typical sales how-to bestseller. And the tone is professional and intelligent without ever being academic; friendly without being overly-casual; articulate and eminently readable—in short, it models precisely the tone a professional services consultant should take with their clients.

Second, the content. Even if you knew nothing about their backgrounds, it would be clear that Khalsa and Illig know exactly what they’re talking about in this book, as practically every page offers fantastic advice drawn from their experience and expertise serving clients as world-class consultants. From real-world anecdotes to tips and tricks and the presentation of typical consulting scenarios (see especially their discussion of client “yellow lights” and “moving off the solution”), the material they present is spot on and will benefit both newbies and experienced consultants alike, but for different reasons. Those new to consulting will relish the chance to learn from such effective mentors; experienced consultants will benefit from seeing Khalsa and Illig’s method of presenting tried and true client relationship wisdom.

Third, the methodology. While the advice Khalsa and Illig give is plentiful and spot on—and will be of great value to individual consultants in a wide range of industries—the way they structure the process of qualifying opportunities is the real value here for those looking to make firm-level improvements. Without getting into the details of their ORDER methodology, suffice it to say that it provides a consistent way for firms to explore opportunities with clients and covert them to contracts (or disqualify them as quickly and inexpensively as possible) without having to “sell” in the traditional sense of the word. Their attitude is that clients may have problems that need solving, that consultants have services to solve a range of problems; and that what is typically approached as selling solutions needs to be reimagined as exploring the fit between a client’s problems and a firm’s solutions: that is, if you have a problem that we can solve, let’s do so as effectively as possible, have fun doing it, and make money into the bargain; if you don’t, let’s find out as quickly as possible, shake hands, part friends, and do business another day.

All in all, this is a wonderful book: eminently useful, completely enjoyable, and refreshingly free of jargon or consulting double-speak—an unequivocal must read for anyone in the consulting business. One thing to note: make sure you get the most current edition, which contains some subtle but important improvements over the earlier ones, not the least of which is the contribution of Randy Illig to the book, which takes an already fine work to the next level.

To learn more about Mahan Khalsa, click here.

To learn more about Randy Illig, click here.

To learn more about ninety five 5, the firm Khalsa and Illig work for, click here.

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