When it comes to marketing, we are all different.

The “one size fits all” is a great marketing campaign for products like belts, hats, gloves, etc. but not for services like training and mystery shopping. When it comes to services that involve people’s emotions, a customized solution is in order and should be demanded. I learned my lesson the hard way.

About a year and a half ago, after months of conference calls and emails, we finally entered an agreement with one of our clients. It was a rather lucrative deal for us and should have been a win-win situation for both of us (should have been being the key words). Here is the rest of the story.

The client was interested in shopping their locations only once a year. The plan was to take the results of the shop and train the company at the annual meeting. After several conversations explaining why this was not the best approach, I finally conceded.

The client was extremely pleased with the quality of the shops. They sent us a nice email stating how valuable they were and that they would be discussing the results at their annual company meeting. Shortly after the annual meeting, I contacted the client to see if they were interested in our services for the following year. They graciously turned me down because “they just did not see the value” in the shops.

From the very beginning, I predicted these results. You cannot expect to go in and do Spring cleaning and then never clean again for the rest of the year. It is vital to continually follow up and follow through in all aspects of our business, especially those that involve customer interaction.

With the years of experience that we have in the industry, and based upon the thousands of mystery shops we have conducted and that I have personally analyzed, I have come to this overwhelming conclusion: every company is different and each individual is unique. Here are some valuable lessons we have learned over the years that have drawn us to this conclusion.

Sporadic shops do not work. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and revisit our school days. Many of us struggled in math. How successful would we have been if the teacher gave us our assignments for a year, some basic information, and then let us be? For those of us who actually are really good in math, even we would have failed. Why? When we are being taught, the teacher has to constantly measure our performance to see where we need assistance. Conducting mystery shops on a continual basis provides that same “measuring stick” for our employees.

Stop learning and start dying. I read an article not too long ago that said that humans who continue to learn live longer lives. The minute we are born, we begin aging. Eventually, we all reach that point in time where our life comes to an end. Modern medicine is making advances every year to extend our life, but we can all rest assured that it will one day come to an end. However, just because we know there is an end, does that mean we choose to stop trying to live? Of course not. Most of us want to live as long as we possibly can. We need to learn to adapt the same principles to our professional life. We need to continue to learn so we can grow professionally.

The Sales Manager is not always right. As a matter of fact, the sales manager is not right most of the time. If you are a sales manager and you are reading this, I probably just offended you. Hear me out because that is not my intent. What worked for our salespeople a decade or two ago, does not necessarily work today. However, most organizations are passing along the same lessons that they have learned through their bosses or through experiences. Today, we help and serve different generations which have unique concerns and desires. The Sales Managers need to be able to adapt to their surroundings, and teach their team members the same.

Training and coaching are different. Mystery Shopping is not enough. If you want a successful program, you have to have action items in place. Mystery shopping will only identify the areas that need assistance. In other words, it is that monthly or quarterly exam identifying areas of opportunity. Once the shop has been completed, the shop needs to be analyzed and a coaching program needs to be in place. Coaching allows you to work in a one-on-one environment. Training is more of a shot gun blast to ensure everyone is on the same sheet of music. Training will lay out the process. Coaching will fine tune the steps of the process and allow you to focus on individual strengths and weaknesses. Although training is important, the individual coaching is where you are going to reap huge benefits from your salespeople.

Past performances will not always predict future investments. Just because something worked ten years ago does not mean that it will work today. It may still work, but not as efficient as it can. Imagine working on a computer that is five years old. It works, right? Sure it does. But is it efficient? Absolutely not. This is the attitude of our sales process. It worked for our managers years ago and it will work for our salespeople today. This is true. But it is not efficient. Society has changed. People have changed. New ideas have been introduced and adopted. There is an obvious gap in our generations. Change is not only good, it is necessary.

Changing behaviors is the key to success. Every living person has attitudes and habits that drive their behaviors. Changing behaviors takes time and consistency. The mystery shop will identify the behaviors that need to be changed. As leaders, we need to make sure the resources are in place to consistently address these changes. Don’t be surprised (better yet expect it) if new behaviors are identified with each new mystery shop. This is a good thing. If we can identify the behavior, we can change the behavior.

Coaching is a full time job. This is where most organizations fail. They expect their managers to be coaches and trainers. Imagine if a football team was being managed and coached by one individual. The team would fail miserably. Instead, the team is staffed with managers that actually manage and a slew of coaches that actually coach. What a concept. However, we are expecting our Regional Managers, District Managers, General Managers, etc. to coach, mentor, and manage several locations composed of several team members. Let me share with you a small calculation of my training time just for a recorded telephone shop.

I typically spend 4 hours on a standard 10 minute shop analyzing the shop. I listen to it several times, stopping it and playing it at 5-10 second intervals evaluating every aspect of the process. The next step is to convert what I analyzed into a customized coaching program for the sales person. This takes a minimum of 4 hours. Once the analysis and coaching program is in place, I conduct face-to-face coaching with the salesperson for 4-6 hours. Calculating preparation and coaching, we are looking at 12-14 hours at a minimum. This did not take into account any travel time to the location or the number of salespeople at each location. Imagine if you had 5 locations with 2 sales people at each location (this is a small example). You are looking at a minimum (and I stress minimum) of 120 hours to effectively coach your sales people after each round of shops. This equates to 3 full weeks (15 business days) of just coaching! The more time we spend managing, the less time we spend coaching. The more time we spend coaching, the less time we spend managing. It will not take long to realize why we are not as successful as we can be. A good program should see at least a 50% increase in closing ratios within two quarters (based on a quarterly mystery shopping and coaching program).

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that one size does not fit all. Company-wide and individual solutions need to be customized to ensure success. If you have a small operating budget, then focus on a smaller region, but don’t try to eat the entire elephant at one sitting. If you do have a budget that allows you to focus on your entire organization, then spare no resources in implementing change.

If you ever receive a “one size fits all” hat, belt, gloves, or any other item, accept the gift and send a “Thank You” card. However, if you ever receive a “one size fits all” training or mystery shopping program, graciously box it back up and send it back to the recipient with a “No Thank You” card. This is your organization. The measurement of your success will be derived from the decisions you make. As my father-in-law always reminds me, measure a thousand times, but only cut once.”

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