Sales Training 

Three Stages of the Dummy Curve

In our last blog, we put the “Dummy Curve” in to action, showing how being a “dummy” can help you in the sales process. We showed an example, using a young, inexperienced salesperson named Carlos, who had great results when he didn’t know much about what he was selling, terrible results after getting trained on the products, and then good results when he returned to being a “dummy”. The moral of the story is: Carlos became a better salesperson once he reached the final stage, realizing he could use the dummy approach to his advantage.

Carlos went through each of the three stages. The first stage was the genuine dummy stage. Carlos was new, and didn’t know anything about heaters, but his attentiveness and willingness to listen to the prospects’ problems propelled his ability to sell. The second stage was the amateur stage. He went to heater school and came back an expert on many different products and was eager to show everybody his new-found knowledge. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out too well. After some careful self -analysis, Carlos entered the third stage, which we call the professional stage. It’s where Lt. Columbo spends his time solving crimes, and where true sales professionals spend their valuable time.

Remember: In the professional phase, Carlos injected a little Lt. Columbo into his more knowledgeable and skilled approach. He pretended he didn’t know as much as he did. Returning to the dummy stage, only this time, he was a dummy on purpose.

What were those “dummy” things? Acting vulnerable, asking questions, admitting lack of understanding, and asking the prospect for help. We call these kinds of things “dummying up.” Every time Carlos played dummy, he gathered more information, information that led him to the prospects’ problems, concerns, goals, and ultimately pains. This is the meaty stuff that makes for effective sales. What if you were to do what Carlos did and become a “dummy” again?


When you dummy-up during a discussion with a prospect, you might find yourself asking questions like, “Can you help me with this? I don’t quite understand what you mean.” Most times, the prospect will elaborate. You could also say, “When you’re talking about this, could you just explain it to me like I was a six-year-old?” Try it. If you make a habit of asking questions like this, I guarantee that you’ll start getting a much deeper understanding of where the prospect is coming from, and be able to establish trust.

Many sales professionals fear using the Dummy Curve because they think being “on their game” means having all the answers. In fact, true sales professionals are the ones who are expert at determining how much dummying up to do, based on the situation, and which questions they should ask next. The amount of dummying up you do must always be determined by the prospect’s demeanor. You always want the prospect to be in a slightly more OK position than what you portray as the salesperson. Again, think about what Lt. Columbo does. He makes the suspect feel superior to him. You’re aiming to do the same thing, but fortunately, there’s no murder case to solve.

Curious? Why would you want to make the other person feel more OK than you? It’s Simple. You will feel OK through the empowerment of helping others. In other words, by acting slightly more vulnerable than the prospect, you help the prospect feel better about answering questions uncovering their pain.

The degree to which you act vulnerable, the level of OK-ness that you show and act out, depends on that of the prospect. By saying something like, “Can you help me with this?” you’re basically saying, “Wow, you’re more OK than I am. Can you give me a hand?” Most people will respond positively to this approach. If you still have doubts about giving this an honest try, let me ask you this: What happens if you do the opposite? What happens if you act more OK than the prospect? I’ll tell you, the same thing that happened to Carlos in the second phase of the Dummy Curve. The prospect will clam up and shut down, leaving you with no sale. What dummy wants that result?