“We’re in the process of launching a video app for YouTube. Because it’s all under NDA I can’t really talk too much about it,” I explained.
“Of course, I understand,” replied the sales associate as we continued our tour of the apartments.
Although I had only done a few dozen video shops, I was finally starting to get the hang of it – well, at least when I remembered to turn on the PVR – that mini video recorder strapped to my belt and connected to a tiny button camera hidden on my shirt.
Still, it takes a bit of creativity and know-how to come up with an identity that’s not only believable but makes it easier to do your main job – evaluate the service of these businesses and provide companies with accurate feedback on how they may improve their training.
Over the years I’ve been involved in over 550 film and television productions as a background actor. Although I rarely have any speaking roles in acting, there are some basic things that carry over into mystery shopping.
Dress for Success
We’ve all heard “don’t just a book by its cover,” but the reality is that people do judge us by our appearance. If you’re going to pose as a shopper for luxury apartments, it’s pretty clear that it wouldn’t make sense to dress in raggy jeans.
At the same time this doesn’t mean that you need to be in a suit and tie all the time either. Having worked in the tech industry from the dot com days, I know that startups often have a more casual polo shirt / khaki environment. So, I dress according to the cover that I’m trying to portray – whether it’s some marketing executive for a mobile app company or IT project manager for relocating startup.
Get Your Story Straight
In my marketing consulting I often talk about the importance of folks buying your why before they buy your what. Start with the basics – figure out your 4W’s: who, what, where, why of the target shopping experience.
Then, start filling in more details: if you’re married, what’s your wife’s name? Okay, you’re shopping alone – where is she? It’s not as though you need to blurt out these things – just have them handy if they come up.
As an avid poker player, I often talk about the key to bluffing is not to tip your hand. Don’t volunteer more than you need to!
All the World is a Stage
Ever notice that the best actors are really just being themselves? You don’t have to a DeNiro or Pacino to put on a convincing performance. The key is body language. IMSC Pam recently shared this TED talk by Amy Cuddy but in case you missed it.. Cuddy talks about how our body language affects so much of our reality.
Psychology Today points out how over 80% of communication is nonverbal. In other words, people are constantly basing their judgments on how we behave more than what we say.
Most of all the best actors aren’t “acting” – they’re drawing on their life experiences. This also helps to fill in the details and to make your story more credible. That’s how I’m able to easily talk like a tech or marketing professional. I’ve lived those roles.
Finally, what are the three most important words to take away? Practice, practice, ..practice! Sorry, if you were looking for some quick solution, but in the end the best school or classroom will be out there in the field.
You can create opportunities to try these out. Make it a game. The next time you’re talking to a stranger, try out an identity. No, this isn’t for sociopaths – it’s very powerful. In the wrong hands this can be very dangerous. But used responsibly it can be a fun way to live vicariously and most of all get the job done, which can lead to more assignments. So, give it a shot and try out a new identity today!