Does Bait and Switch Really Work?

How to fight false promises with customer service, loyalty and truth.


How many times have you been beat out of a sale by someone who is obviously either stupid or using a bait and switch to capture business? Either way, you know that the customer won’t be happy in the end — though they’re probably giddy at the moment, believing that they can really get a preferred plus rate with type 1 diabetes.

Though this type of practice has been around far longer than any of us have been alive, it is reaching a whole new level. The reason is increased competition. Thirty years ago, local agents competed with one another, and there weren’t many of them in any given area. The chance that they would run across the same lead at the same time was next to nothing.

Today, a potential customer could get 10 agents on the case within a half hour of typing in quote requests online — or, if they aren’t careful, they can request a quote from a site that sells leads, and before their fingers even move from the keyboard, the calls will start. They can have dozens of agents all trying to be the first, the best, the one who will get the prospect to bite. What better way to win one of these battles than to call quickly and promise them a membership in the elite club?

Why the client will never listen

Even when you explain this process to clients who have taken the bait and swallowed it hook, line, and sinker, they will almost always be quick to say that an agent who did that would never win in the end. They would just say “no” when the agent presented them with a policy at a higher rate than originally discussed. They would stand their ground and start the process all over again. They would report them to the Better Business Bureau. Apparently, these clients haven’t heard that bait and switch really does work. That’s why unscrupulous agents do it: because other unscrupulous agents have taught them that even though clients may yell at you, and even though they may come close to losing the case, the client will come around because they really don’t want to start over. All you have to do, these agents will say, is act stupid and tell them that you really believed you could get that preferred best rate, but that once all of the information came in, the standard rate is unfortunately the best you could negotiate.

Taking a stand: How can you fight bait and switch?

Email the company that is being used as bait and ask them for a quick quote using the client’s health facts. Present the email quick quote to the client showing them that even the company’s underwriter said they won’t get a preferred plus rate.

Suggest that the client run dual applications. Tell them you can arrange for that to happen with a single exam, and simply let the best outcome win. This turns it into a simple business decision.

Send the client a copy of the underwriting guidelines from the company that has been misquoted, and show them where the company’s own documents say that a 5’10”, 240-pound applicant can’t get preferred plus.

Suggest that you both get the other agent on a conference call so you can ask the questions you know can’t be answered.

When all else fails, set a tickler to call the client at around the time they should have received the bad news so that you can offer to get the rate they deserve from an honest agent.

A losing battle?

Can these strategies stop someone who is adept at bait and switch? The answer is almost always no. These agents are liars and cheats, and they are good at it. They can keep the client from running dual apps. They can explain away emails from underwriters by saying, “But that’s not the underwriter I use.”

They can convince people that underwriting guidelines aren’t rules, after all, which is “exactly why theycall them guidelines.” They’ll never allow that conference call because, “why would we want to listen to someone who has lost the sale try to convince you to spend more money?” And in almost all cases, even when you call the client after the bomb has dropped, they still won’t start over. After all, “even though it did come back higher, that’s as good as I’m going to be able to get anyway.”

This whole scenario becomes exponentially worse when you realize that, in this agent-eat-agent Internet feeding frenzy, very often you have bait-and-switchers competing with other bait-and-switchers. Coming in with an honest quote at, say, standard plus doesn’t even put you in the race.

The best advice is to step away from the feeding frenzy. Don’t buy leads that you know have been sold multiple times to multiple agents. Generate your own leads if you can. Blog and write articles educating the public about bait and switch. Make every effort to win the battle every time you find yourself up against a bait and switch. Call it what it is, and don’t be shy about it. Try those five strategies, just in case because bait-and-switchers may cause damage, but persistence, customer service, and loyalty will always win in the end.




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