A national home builder needed to be sure his model home sales reps were taking prospects out into the community to show inventory homes and site lots. Some reps preferred to stay in the air conditioned model office, and merely give prospective home buyers a map or point them in the general direction - losing the opportunity to turn prospects into buyers.
The sales manager had a list of sales steps the reps should follow, so the reps knew what was expected of them. The builder told the reps they would be "mystery shopped" periodically, and all reps had signed an agreement to be shopped as part of their employment. The first mystery shops this builder tried included a written shoppers report turned in to the sales manager. The report included the shoppers opinion of how well the rep accomplished all of the steps in the sales process (including going out to show inventory homes and lot sites). The sales manager would then meet with the rep and go over the shoppers critique. This process resulted in some improvement but the reps frequently denied their actions from the mystery shopper reports. After several rounds of "it's the reps word against the mystery shoppers word", the sales manager decided to take a different approach. He hired a Tampa, Florida based performance improvement company (Professional Development Services, Inc.) to video/audio mystery shop his 25 sales reps. All of the reps were video/audio shopped and the sales manager discovered that 52% of his reps were not following the prescribed sales process. The sales manager coached each rep by showing the DVD recorded shop to the rep and asking the rep to give their own critique based on the video.
Several things happened as a result of the video mystery shopping process:
1) When the reps were told they would be video shopped, their performance improved immediately. This is known as the "Halo effect" in the mystery shopping performance improvement business.
2) The feedback sessions with the sales manager became much more specific and uncovered additional sales opportunities that had been missed previously.
3) After the first round of mystery video shops, reps followed the complete sales process 96% of the time (compared to 48% previously).
4) Sales reps admitted that the evaluation process was fair because it demonstrated actual performance compared to a shoppers, customers, or managers "opinion" of their performance.
5) This builder reports a 10% increase in sales closed within three months of initiating the video mystery shopping program.
Tips to consider if you are thinking about trying this process to accelerate sales performance:
1) Make sure your sales (and/or customer service reps) have a clearly defined process that they are required to follow with prospects and customers. This "checklist" will become an important part of the performance assessment session.
2) Don't use the feedback videos as a negative reinforcement "club" to penalize reps.
3) Make sure your reps have signed an agreement (usually part of the employment contract) that allows them to be mystery shopped if you are in one of the 33 "dual consent" states.
4) Don't try to create a false "Halo effect". In other words, don't tell reps they are going to be shopped when they aren't.
5) Make sure the company you employ to conduct the shops are experts at covert video/audio performance surveillance.
Joe Jones (not an alias) is President of Professional Development Services, Inc., a Tampa, Florida based sales and service performance improvement company. Joe has been in the customer relations training and development business since 1985. He was the Vice President of Business Development for Kaset International (now Achieve Global), the top rated customer relations training company in the US. Joe was President of the American Society for Training & Development Suncoast chapter and President of the National Speakers Association, Central Florida chapter. He may be reached at 813-960-1876 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.pdswebsite.com.