Dennis McCarron on Dimensional Selling

Nov. 1, 2015
Dennis McCarron explains how to use behavioral psychology in the selling and coaching process

Formerly Bridgestone’s national management instructor, Dennis McCarron joined DSP Twenty Group as a group facilitator after spending 10 years creating and implementing the ongoing developmental training of 2,200 store managers. McCarron is also one of six certified instructors in dimensional selling and coaching from Psychological Associates, which led him to develop a three-day behavioral workshop for the group. The workshop includes a segment on the “psychology of a sale” and on coaching conversations with employees from a new perspective. McCarron describes dimensional selling and coaching and top tips for shop owners.

What is the difference between dimensional selling and coaching and traditional sales?

A big part of my background is behavior analysis. In communications and business training, you spend a lot of time learning how to know your audience and how to craft your message to them. I learned that it really works and you have the ability to influence people. You can’t control them but you can influence their environment and that, in turn, will influence their decision making. 

A few years ago, I got connected with a company called Psychological Associates. Their two founders are psychologists who have been studying the psychology of sales for over 50 years. A lot of the time, the selling classes have “hero syndrome.” Someone will come up and say, ‘This is what I did to learn how to sell.’ And that creates a difficulty. It’s hit or miss and it’s hard to replicate someone else’s style. These two guys in Psychological Associates conducted clinical research on the psychology of the sale and developed a system around it to increase your odds of closing a sale. They take that same process and apply it to conversations with employees, too. They give a teachable method on how to have difficult conversations with employees. 

The methodology we use in dimensional selling and coaching is going after someone’s behavioral tendencies head on and getting them to make changes to the way they behave, instead of coping with it. That’s the big difference in that program. As far as unique training methods that are really backed up with research, dimensional selling and coaching are very different.

How do you approach a sale with dimensional selling?

Essentially, you have to understand, as a salesperson, that you’re not in control, the customer is. It’s their buying decision. When you overstep your bounds, you either create a buyer’s remorse situation or you get so hostile that you chase the customer away. First, learn where the customer is mentally. We go through our different stages: They could be prospecting, a potential buyer, or in the buying phase. If you can read them and find out where they are mentally, that gives you the cues to do what you need to do to progress the conversation toward a selling opportunity. 

If a customer is not ready to decide to make a purchase and the salesperson is pressuring them to hand over the credit card and the keys, that’s going to send off a lot of alerts to the customer in today’s day and age. Today’s consumer is too sophisticated for that. If a customer is not ready to buy and they’re asking questions, they’re prospecting. So, you answer their questions. When a customer is reaching agreement, that becomes the potential buyer’s stage. Then you start asking questions. There are little clues that go back and forth. 

You move as fast as the customer moves. That creates a positive buying experience. The customer ultimately gains knowledge before they’re put in the position to buy something. It’s a much more pleasant experience to have a customer retain control with the sales person giving a very strong guided tour of where they want to go. We look at the psychology of the sale from the customer and the salesperson’s point of view and line those two things up. When a salesperson starts to get a feeling that things aren’t going well, we have them check in on where the customer is. Where are they mentally? Are you ahead of them? Do they already have their credit card out and are you still talking about features and benefits? Look at those cues and follow along. 

How can you use this approach when coaching employees?

One of the main methods in guiding a customer through the sales process is by asking them questions (reflective and summarizing) and generally good listening skills. When we talk about employees, one of the most common issues that employers face is that they want the employee to do something and they don’t spend enough time listening to why the employee isn’t doing it. It can be a million different things. They might not have the skill, they might not be prioritizing it the same way the employer is, there might be an internal conflict or a conflict with another employee. Usually the boss or the person in charge gets upset that this task isn’t getting done and forces the employee to do it, and the result is less than desirable. Now you have a problem. We spend an incredible amount of time talking about planning a conversation, understanding the situation, only using firsthand information, assessing the employee behaviorally. 

What are the major differences when teaching sales technique and sales style to employees?

Sales is an incredibly complex series of moving mechanisms. That’s why not a lot of people can do it. It’s so complex that most people get thrown into the situation early in their career and they rely on the method that worked back then. Over the years, that becomes a style. You read these books and the guy says, “The one thing I’ve done to increase my sales is … .” That’s heroism. What we do is we take this very complex conversation and we boil it down to the bare bones technique that moves the conversation forward. If you focus on the technique and not the style, it’s like adding and subtracting before you get into trigonometry. If you can look at the bare bones techniques of what happens during that conversation, you can let the person build their own style. 

If you have technique and style that’s natural, you have a very successful salesperson. A guy I used to work with, he used to make jokes with customers and they were actually a little bit insulting. But the way he did it would get people to crack a giggle and laugh and he would get the sale. If I tried to do what he did, I would have gotten punched in the face. 

That doesn’t take away from someone who is naturally good at selling. If it works for you, keep doing it. But I wouldn’t waste a lot of time trying to teach that to someone else. That’s what we’re getting at. Their difficulty is not in selling themselves, their difficulty is in raising an employee’s selling skills to a level where the owner is confident they are getting consistent sales from the customers. Most unskilled sales people will go up to a customer and the customer will say, “Gee, I don’t think so,” and leave. “Gee I don’t think so” is not “no,” it’s really an “I don’t understand.” We’re trying to get the owners the skills to teach the technique. If you can teach someone a technique that everyone can do and then you can stand back and watch them do the technique, you know you have the best probability for good salespeople. 

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