Episode Sixty-One

5 Ways to Temper the Sales Dummy Curve

Guest: Matt Schatz, SVP of Global Sales at WP Engine

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Matt Schatz The Dummy Curve Featured Image

About This Episode

We’ve all been there.

The new reps come in.

So enthusiastic. On fire.

And then, they tank. Just for a little bit. It’s dreaded but feels inevitable.

So, what do you do?

Well, that’s what Matt Schatz came on The Sales Engagement podcast to talk about. (BTW: It’s pronounced “shots” as in “I went to the doctor and got a lot of shots.”)

Matt’s a really unique guy.

He grew up in the Bay Area, the moved to San Antonio for college. He graduated with a masters degree in teaching and started teaching Social Studies to 6th graders.

Then, his best friend started a little company focused on web design. The company grew, pivoted, and eventually underwent a name change. The name of the company now? Rackspace. After working at Rackspace for ten years Matt spent some time doing volunteer work in Southeast Asia.

Now, he’s the SVP of Global Sales at WP Engine.

Here’s what he has to say about the Dummy Curve.

The Dummy Curve: What Is It?

When you first hire a sales rep, they’re an all-star.

They’re so stoked. They’re on fire. And they’re ready for anything.

New sales reps will drink from the firehose. They’ll even stay up studying all night studying the tech specs.

They’re so ready to prove themselves and so ready to start building credibility with prospects.

Usually, these on-fire new hires are closing deals like crazy. They’re high achievers, top performers.

But then something happens.

A few weeks or months in, their performance starts to dip.

And then, it just drops.

That’s the Dummy Curve.

We’ve all been there. And we’ve all see it.

So, what causes it? And how do you temper it?

The Dummy Curve: What Causes It?

When a rep first gets started, they don’t have a lot of specific industry knowledge and they certainly don’t have much product knowledge.

So, when speaking with prospects, they ask a lot of questions. Typically, in the beginning, the rep is talking only about 30% of the time.

They tend to focus on the business issues that a customer might be facing, and they try to avoid getting into the deep end of technical issues.

By using this approach, they’re getting great information.

But as they start going through more trainings, their product knowledge grows. They get excited about this new knowledge.

They start asking fewer questions and take on more of a consulting role. Now, they’re talking about 70% of the time, leaving little room for the client to talk about their needs and issues. They’re kind of just “throwing up” information, trying to demonstrate expertise.

This has consequences.

Reps who were great at digging into business issues and pulling out great information end up commoditizing the sale and failing to truly understand the customer.

Their new knowledge about the products and technical specs gets them excited. As a result, their focus shifts from business issues to technical issues.

But technical issues don’t help close the deal. It’s imperative to focus on business issues.

Matt Schatz The Dummy Curve 1

So, what do you do? How do you help new reps work through the Dummy Curve and get back on the upswing?

To get out of the Dummy Curve, the rep needs to put 2 and 2 together. They have to mesh their technical product knowledge and their ability to have good business conversations with the customer. If the client raises a technical issue, the rep needs to be able to turn that into an even better business conversation. That’s the “aha!’ moment, where good deals are made.

The Dummy Curve: How to Temper It

The Dummy Curve is probably, for the most part, unavoidable.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t work to minimize its effects and help your reps reach that “aha!” moment more quickly.

Here are five things you can do to help minimize the effects:

1. Focus on senior sales reps

Option one: you could focus on hiring more experienced sales reps. Senior reps tend to get it a little faster. They’ve already experienced the Dummy Curve in previous roles, so they tend to move through it a little faster.

But this isn’t always realistic.

Option two: If your company focuses on junior reps, let them sit with your most experienced reps. They’ll notice that, while the pros have extensive technical knowledge, they rarely talk about it.

2: Focus on use cases (and the business benefit)

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. When you’re covering use cases, focus on the business issue the client had and how it was resolved.

Encourage your reps to not just understand the technical issues for the sake of technology. They need to understand tech as it relates to business issues.

Matt Schatz The Dummy Curve 2

3: Talk about the problem from the very beginning

Acknowledge the Dummy Curve from the beginning, and really talk about it. Work it into your training programs. Focus on tying the technical issues to the business issues.

4: Roleplay, make a diagram, or flow chart

We know. Roleplay can be uncomfortable. But it’s so helpful in tempering the Dummy Curve. Create some type of diagram so the rep knows, when the client is talking about x technical aspect, the business issue they’re probably having is y, and these are the questions you need to go and ask.

5: Identify the critical questions

Finally, at Matt’s company, they’ve identified about five critical questions. Reps are not allowed to ask for help unless they’ve gathered enough information from the prospect to be able to answer those questions.

The questions are aimed at helping new reps focus on the business issues, even if the conversations take a technical turn.

So, there you have it. The Dummy Curve and Matt’s five ways to help battle it.

This post is based on a podcast interview with Matt Schatz from WP Engine. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Sales Engagement Podcast.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.


About The Podcast

The Sales Engagement podcast is the #1 podcast focused on engaging your customers and prospects in the modern sales era. This show features real-life stories and best practices from revenue leaders doing the job day in and day out, in a casual, radio-like talk show.

Each episode features modern tactics, strategies, hacks, and tips to get the most out of your sales engagement strategy and help you navigate the next generation of sales. You’ll find energetic talks that will provide you with real actionable value around building meaningful connections and creating a better selling experience through authentic conversations that you can measure.

The Sales Engagement podcast is here to help B2B sales leaders, customer success leaders, and marketing leaders innovate and usher in the next era of modern sales by building pipeline, up-selling customers, and ultimately generating more revenue with more efficiency.

Hosted by Joe Vignolo, Senior Content Managing Editor at Outreach, and Mark Kosoglow, Vice President of Sales at Outreach.

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