There’s a common sales tactic that some professionals (especially car dealers) use on the unaware buyer.

  1. Ask what the buyer is looking for.
  2. Show him/her the first option which is the one you think best fits what they are looking for (regardless of their commitment or readiness to buy)
  3. Show an option way outside the buyer’s price range.
  4. Show an option well below what their wants/needs.
  5. Sit back and enjoy the internal struggle they go through realizing they already knew the perfect choice.

On one hand this could be seen as simply a way of helping the buyer find what he/she really already wanted.  However, it’s often used in a manipulative way to get buyers to believe they were in complete control and ultimately pressure themselves into buying even if not ready.

Sadly, a similar phenomenon happens also in corporate America.  I affectionately call it The Hybrid.  The thrust of it works on two principles.  First,create a sense of real and valuable options.  Second, convince everyone that you all want to be pragmatic about picking the right option.

Basically, you create a spectrum of a few choices and highlight how the extreme ones might be great in a perfect world and how they would really be the ideal choice if only your organization were just slightly different.  Next, given that you all know you can’t change the organization, choosing a perfect option based on organizational change is just silly.  Therefore you pragmatically settle on a hybrid option; because after all, you are all practical individuals faced with real, day-to-day operational challenges.

Here’s the rub of this tactic.  First, the choices presented never cleanly fit on a spectrum so simple as perfect on the outsides and imperfect but practical in the middle.  Second, the person offering the options rarely wants the extremes anyway.  He or she is just looking for a way to convince you why you would be wise to choose a much more achievable option.

So, while I have nothing against the Toyota Prius, watch-out for the hybrid option in a company environment as someone getting you to convince yourself how unrealistic certain options might be.  The presenter may just be doing some managerial sleight-of-hand.

P.S. If you want to see this in action and manipulate someone, just pitch them an idea and when they struggle with agreeing and offer a counter proposal, say something like, “Well, we could go with a hybrid and do something in the middle…” and then just re-offer your suggestion with at least 90% of your idea.  Even though the content will be mostly your idea, you’ll find that using the term “hybrid” in today’s culture (at least in many American companies) will get them to feel as if the compromise is more middle-of-the-ground between the two ideas.

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