Shortening the Sales Cycle

Whether you sell door to door, in a mall kiosk or to a Fortune 500 company, the signals prospects emit are usually as bright and strong as a lightning bolt.  Verbal cues (what they say and how they say it) and nonverbal cues (body language) abound in most meetings.  Unfortunately, most of us are so focused on getting the order, we don’t take the time or have the discipline to watch and listen for their clues.

In his highly intuitive and useful book, Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play, Mahan Khalsa expertly illustrates how recognizing these not-so-subtle signals are critical to moving the sales process forward. In the book, Mahan describes that even when we as salespeople sense a propsect’s hesitation, confusion or apprehension, we rarely have the guts to stop the process and confront the issues immediately.  Khalsa calls these signals “yellow lights”. Like most drivers on a busy road, salespeople usually speed up and blow right through them instead of slowing down.  Unfortunately, Khalsa argues, if you don’t address a yellow light immediately, you soon will find yourself at a red light (a.k.a. the deal is dead).

More specifically, the author believes that most salespeople, who are inherently professional communicators, identify these signals but don’t have the guts to really ask the most relevant — and often difficult — questions.  In the PR business, I called these the “killer questions” (stolen from my PR mentor Jim Lukaszewski (  These were the questions you hoped the reporters wouldn’t ask you but knew that they would.  Actually, it’s not the questions that are so difficult. The answers to those questions are what make salespeople terrified.  Nonetheless, any good salesperson knows that a “quick no” is much easier — not to mention cheaper and more efficient — than a “slow no”.

Most sales professionals are paid to find, engage, present and close.  That’s it.  From that perspective, it’s easy to see why we want to go from find to close as soon as possible.  Unfortunately, most prospects don’t share our agenda and, in fact, might have very little interest in us completing our mission.  That’s why identifying and confronting yellow lights head-on can save you and them a lot of time and needless frustration.

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