As a top operator in the competitive Chicago market, Lakewood Homes realized getting potential home buyers through the sales center door wasn't enough. The builder needed to find a way to get inside a home shopper's head to identify—and fix—any deal breakers. After working with several different sales training services more or less unsuccessfully, vice president of sales Robin Johnson linked up with Service Review.

Using Service Review's Web site, Johnson places a service request, which indicates which employee needs to be mystery shopped, and fills out a customer profile. Within a specified timeframe, a Service Review person posing as a home buyer fitting the requested profile arrives at the sales center. Armed with a button-sized camera, the mystery shopper records the sales person's performance as he or she raises objections or indicates special needs.

A copy of the video and instructions is sent to both the sales consultant and his or her supervisor. Both people review the video and evaluate the sales consultant's performance at critical points in the sales process. The information is given back to Service Review, which then sends a report based on that feedback, along with the mystery shopper's comments, to the supervisor and sales consultant.

Dawn Neumann, vice president of Service Review, says that the sales person's self-evaluation is a crucial differentiator between her company's training service and similar companies. She says it makes the evaluation experience less negative and more about constructive criticism, which is “when resistance to change diminishes.”

And Johnson agrees. But at a cost of $395 per evaluation, Johnson warns that the video service is more of a continuing development tool rather than a new-hire trainer. “It's at least a year before I shop anyone, and I usually shop my more experienced people to show them that they're doing very well, but they need to perhaps improve in one or two areas,” she says.

Case in point: Johnson says she had a sales person who constantly tapped her pen throughout the sales process. Once shown the video, she was able to consciously control it. “She was a great sale person, but I don't think she realized that she had that annoying, little, nervous habit,” Johnson says. “Sales is like a performance. You need to have a lot of rehearsals and you have to see it for yourself.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Chicago, IL.