Lie #1 We have to sell what we are good at.

No, sell what the customer prospects need to know.

We often can’t help ourselves. We’re proud that our Mystery Shopping company has 5 or 20 years of experience, that we have a background in something like quantitative analytics or that we are part of a global group of …… whatever.

The truth is, the customer doesn’t care about you or your company. They just want mystery shopping. They want to be confident they can trust you to do it. You can’t decide what will make them trust you. It might be something completely surprising. Maybe no one cares if you are data experts, or if you have been in the industry for 15 years. Experience could be seen as an advantage or disadvantage. You don’t know.

Lie #2 Clients only buy on price

So why aren’t we all driving cheap Chinese cars?

You probably don’t own a cheap Chinese car. Can you trust it? Sure you have a cheap microwave, but who cares? It’s not expensive, and my family safety (read career) doesn’t depend on it. But it’s different when it’s something important, like a car.

If the cheapest price wins, then why not just respond to a quote with just a number?

Dear John,

We can do your Mystery Shops for $25.00 per store.


It’s crazy and you’d never do it. Clearly there is more to it than price. Sure, be in the “ballpark” but the park is large.

Lie #3 No One cares about our reporting – they don’t use it.

But customers don’t know that when they buy.

Customers don’t know they won’t use 90% of your reporting. When you present, they think they’ll use it all. They get drunk on colours and graphs. Ultimately they just want the flexibility to know it’s there if they need it. Reporting is “perceived” as valuable. 

Car companies love selling split zone air-conditioning, but who uses that? Maybe the salesperson sells the Child Lock, though my kids have left home. How many 4WD owners use Diff Lock and 4L mode? You get the point. They do it because they want you to know it’s there, in case of armageddon, or even something a little less serious, like a big storm.

Sell the reporting, knowing full well, they won’t use it all.

Lie #4 Customers need to be comfortable with all our About Us attributes. 

Customers don’t care about your company – except in one circumstance

This is similar to Lie #1. We can’t help ourselves, we love to talk about ourselves and our company. We dress up the About Us page on the website – though no one looks at it. We put a big About Us section on our proposals and continue talking about ourselves. We think we need it for credibility.

We gain our credibility by how we address the client’s issues. We should only talk about ourselves in one circumstance, when asked, and even then, only briefly.

Lie # 5 We have a clear differentiator (a USP)

Your differentiator may be irrelevant

The marketers all want to push a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). You may be the only heroic company selling X, Y, or Z. There are two problems with leaning on USP.

  1. Your USP may not be as unique as you think, and 
  2. Your USP might do nothing to address the prospects main concern.

A customer doesn’t care if you are carbon neutral if they are climate deniers. A customer may not care if all your data is housed domestically. They might not even care that you employ experts from their industry.

Find the thing that matters to them, not what matters to you.

Lie #6 Software is normalised as we all use the same few.

Have you seen a banker use excel?

90% of the mystery shopping industry uses the same 3-4 software systems, so the client has probably seen all the reporting. It doesn’t make us stand out, does it? Why talk about it?

We all use excel, and yet, in the hands of a merchant banker, it can make money. In the hands of Elon Musk, it can launch a rocket (true story). Van Gough used canvas commonly used by millions of artists. Paul McCartney use a plain old guitar to write songs. The software is the canvas upon which we build our businesses.

We need to show our prospects how we make the software sing, how we use the reporting, how we use it to control, schedule, and design a well-run mystery shopping program.

Lie #7 My website/PowerPoint is critical

Yet no one buys from it

I get it. A flashy PowerPoint or web page shows professionalism. It gets your message across. The PowerPoint may even keep you on track in a presentation.

When you walk into a Dentist’s office for the 1st time and see marble staircases and gold waterfalls you may either think they are professional or that they have too much ego and will be too expensive. You have no idea how you will be received no matter how flashy or drab. So do what’s comfortable, or that reflects the brand you are building.

But don’t think for a minute that you will sell mystery shopping off your website or PowerPoint. At best they can be a small introduction, at worst, they can be a static sales tool that is ignored (or repels).

Lie #8 All shoppers are idiots

Sure, but maybe the guidelines are too

We can always do more to help shoppers do the right thing. Yes, they let us down. Yes, they do stupid things. But it is our job to deal with a wide variety of people. It’s our job to be clear. This is our business and our salaries depend on them.

The hidden problem with this negative talk is that it infiltrates the whole organisation.  It goes from – What a dumb shopper > Shopper are dumb > All shopper are idiots > That client contact is dumb > That whole client is stupid > All clients are stupid.

You can see where this goes. Eventually, you’ll have a negative dark attitude to everything, including sales and retention.

Lie #9 Cold calls and cold marketing don’t work

Except that it does.

Most people hate cold calling. And no one wants to be known as an email spammer. But it works. Sure referrals sound attractive, but they are unreliable in the quality, and quality of business they bring in. We have to go get it. 

If advertising outreach works (and it does), so does cold calling and direct outreach.

If you hate cold calling, then don’t do it. But do something, anything. Reach out in targetted industry emails, use Social Media direct outreach. Know that you will fail 90% of the time, but also remember that it works.

Lie #10 We are crowded out by new technologies

But it opens other doors.

Oh us poor mystery shopping companies, getting swamped by new technologies. There are Google Reviews, Facebook, Yelp, Trip Advisor, and probably 100’s of other customer service review sites. But the mystery shopping industry still provides a unique perspective of measurement.

Competing with these big sites is almost impossible, but we need to find a way to either compete with them, or around them. There is still nothing quite like the human touch of mystery shopping, it’s something we can lean into.

Mystery Shopping can measure service, sales, compliance, merchandise, and a host of other attributes. We are removed from the subjectivity and manipulation of crowdsourcing, and remain one of the few tools which offers objective unbiased reporting. Lean into it.


Mystery Shopping is still perfectly positioned to measure deep customer interactions in a way that allows precise diagnostics. We can identify exactly where operations can be improved, using very few contact points (evaluations). There’s a big future in that!

Steven Di Pietro


Service Integrity Mystery Shopping Asia Pacific

Steven is the founder of Service Integrity Mystery Shopping based bear Sydney Australia. He started the company in 2003 and services Australia, Asia, and the Pacific.