Mystery shopper Melinda Brody shares sales agent horror stories in her new book.
Courtesy Melinda Brody Mystery shopper Melinda Brody shares sales agent horror stories in her new book.

After 30 years and some 25,000 covert “mystery” video shops of new-home sales agents, Melinda Brody has stopped saying she has seen every variety of bad sales agent.

“Just when we think we have seen it all, we get a whopper,” says Brody, president of Orlando, Fla.-based Melinda Brody and Co., a firm that builders hire to check up on their sales agents.

In the interest of teaching sales agents how to sell right, the mystery shopping veteran offers examples of how some agents got it tragically—and sometimes even disgustingly—wrong in her new book They Said What??!! Behind the Scenes of 25,000 Undercover Video Mystery Shops. Here are a few examples:

The Alcoholic: “Yeah, I’m running a little late and slow today. I got ripped last night on too many beers. I probably should not have even driven myself to work today.”

The Shopaholic: “I sometimes put a sign on the door that I’m out, but really I go to the mall shopping. You’re not one of those secret shoppers, are you?”

The Sexaholic: The sales agent suggested that the shopper come back for a second look. The mystery shopper asks what days she was working. “Well, there are seven days in a week, and I have a cot in the back room,” the agent replies.

The Internet Sexaholic: “If you had come in here a few minutes earlier you would have caught me with my hand down my pants surfing my computer.” The same agent later described the master bedroom closet as “big enough to hang at least a dozen hookers in.”

Obviously these are extreme illustrations included to make readers laugh or cringe, but the book also offers more common and certainly less egregious mistakes that sales agents make.

Brody uses the examples as teaching moments to set the stage for guidance on how to sell new homes effectively. Using a four-page checklist of questions that her mystery shoppers answer during the mystery shop as a guide, she offers agents practical advice and tricks about the entire sales process, from introducing yourself to prospects and asking for the sale, to closing and follow-ups. And she includes examples of agents who performed admirably, as well as those who messed up.

Likewise, Brody offers practical tips about how to assess shoppers’ needs and desires, so the agent can become a capable counselor and gain their trust.

Brody notes that most sales agents are more comfortable tailoring their presentation to the product rather than to the prospects’ needs, but she writes: “Once you know the customer’s issues, problems, challenges, and so forth, you can recommend a home that fits.”

More Tips for Sales Agents

1. Feed shoppers: This relaxes people and, if you give them drinks out of china rather than paper, they have to stick around.

2. Dig deeper with every question: The better you know the prospects’ lifestyle and situation, the easier it is to find the home they will want to buy.

3. Take notes: Write down what they say on paper or a tablet computer that you carry with you while you walk through the model. It’s a resource for you and it shows the shoppers you are genuinely engaged.

4. Share your knowledge: Know everything about the builder’s community and what’s nearby. Also know everything about the competition’s product so you can sell comparatively against it—but be sure not to denigrate competitors.

5. Brag about your builder: Sell the quality of your builder’s homes.

6. Tag along: Walk with the prospects through the home so you can assess what they are impressed with and so you can point out features that answer their needs. But don’t overload them with details about features.

7. Ask for the sale: “If you don’t ask, the answer is always, ‘No.’”

They Said What??!! was self-published by Brody and is available on or at

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Orlando, FL.