Bait and switch

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Bait and switch is a well known sales technique (one of somewhat questionable ethics) that we have all encountered at one time or another. You know the drill: The salesperson gets you going on a great deal on something and then, before you know it, you are buying something else at a substantially higher price. But this is something that can be played both ways, especially when you are dealing with new clients.

What happens is this: You get a call form someone wanting you to look at a project. You meet with the person, go through all of the hoops involved with discussing the project, exchanging ideas, working up preliminary designs, pricing material options, etc. Everything seems to be right on track and going well. So you work up a formal proposal.

At this point, you have invested a considerable amount of time and probably have shared a lot of your design capability with this person. But you are pretty confident that you are going to get this job. But when you finally present the proposal, the person says "OK, I just need to run this past so and so." Suddenly another person enters the picture and you discover that you have not been dealing with the decision maker at all. Now you are back to square one after having shared all of your ideas, pricing information and time. This "other person" is not nearly as easy to deal with and suddenly, you are playing hardball.

I have been caught by that one several times. Over the years, I have developed a habit of asking new clients at the outset if there is anyone else that is going to be involved in the project. If there is, I make sure that that person is in the picture from the start. I will plan meetings to suit that person's schedule even if it means going much father out of my way than I might normally go. But it gives me a much more comfortable feeling to know that "all the cards are on the table" right from the beginning.


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