Training Mystery Shoppers Part 2


Guest articles > Training Mystery Shoppers Part 2


by: Daniel Milstein


At Gold Star, we encourage both experience and novice salespeople to mystery shop our competitors. You can do this for many reasons: to expand your knowledge of the industry, to polish your own sales strategy, and even to learn how to sell against your competitors.

Many salespeople probably would be distressed at how they are perceived by their prospects. One of our experienced originators recalled when he mystery shopped a major lender and talked to a loan officer who seemed to reveal his true motivation. 'The salesperson who answered was very short with me, so I took it upon myself to dive into the call even more--asking about rates, my house and what I would qualify for,' he explained. 'The loan officer gave me the greatest picture of the loan program and sent me paperwork while we were on the phone so I could review costs. He mentioned the fees and an interest rate I thought was a little high. I asked, 'Why are you charging me an origination fee?' He responded: 'Well sir, just like you, I have to make money, my base salary doesn't support my spending habits.' I was shocked. I wondered if he actually got clients by making them feel guilty.'

Some salespeople use mystery shopping to expand their knowledge of their industry. 'During my training period at another company, I made several calls to other lenders and acted like a customer to literally teach myself how to better understand mortgages,' one of our originators announced during a sales meeting. 'I would call and ask them all sorts of questions like what was an escrow account, when do I need one, is it mandatory and so on. I did this for months because I think my trainer wasn't helping much. So this was actually the best training I could have had.' Mystery shopping is also advantageous when you are introducing a new product or entering a different market. When Gold Star was first considering opening an office in Minnesota, we wanted to be sure our pricing was in line with other lenders. We believed that our 'affordable mortgages at discounted rates' concept would be appealing to Minnesota borrowers, yet calls to several area lenders indicated that they might have an even lower price structure. However, after making a few additional calls, we realized that while a few of the state's major lenders were promoting 'no points' programs, they were also adding excessive origination fees. Based on this research, we were able to easily adapt our normal approach to be competitive in this new market.

Mystery shopping research can be especially helpful when you are meeting with a prospect who is already working with another company. 'We make it a practice to do it (shop) regularly and share the information with our entire region to keep everyone updated on our competition's latest practices, strengths and weaknesses,' the vice president of a major Midwest firm told me. 'It becomes essential when you are going in to visit a customer who you know uses one of your specific competitors. You have to know what you are up against, and how you can sell against them in order to earn their business. It has always been effective and will remain an essential part of selling.'

When one of our originators says they are having a sales- related challenge, I'll usually smile, point to the phone and ask 'When did you last mystery shop your competitors?' When they reply that they haven't done so, I quickly stress what they are missing. 'If you haven't mystery shopped yet, you're about two years behind, so get started today.' As further incentive, I remind them that I still mystery shop several times a week. Since the early 1940s, the popularity of mystery shopping has increased dramatically.

There are a number of companies that provide mystery shopping services and there is even a trade association representing them. The research technique is widely used in retail, car dealerships, hotels, restaurants and other industries. I suggest you encourage all of the novice salespeople at your company to mystery shop a few companies and perfect their own technique.


Daniel Milstein is the bestselling author of ABC of Sales. For more information, visit:

Contributor: Daniel Milstein

Published here on: 04-Oct-15

Classification: Sales