According to Watzlawick, one of the best ways for people to make themselves miserable is to get obsessed with solutions which worked in the past, assuming that they will continue to work forever (note that this weakness is not unique to humans – it explains why species that do not adapt disappear).

Experience is actually a handicap in this respect, and field teams striving to help customers adapt to changing technology and markets often come up against cynicism and resistance from experienced people wedded to old solutions. These people are likely to be intelligent and talented, but they labor under assumptions that the human race has a hard time resisting: (1) that because the problem to be solved has not fundamentally changed, the solution should not change either, and (2) that there is only one solution.

But we don’t use typewriters any more, even though the need to produce documents has not fundamentally changed. Of course, this is because new technological has altered our expectations for how documents are created, as well as the quality of the output and the possible uses to which they may be put. This example looks trivially obvious in 2016, but it was not the case in 1980 (if memory serves ☺). Similarly, there are many, fast-evolving areas of technology - IoT, cloud-based services, bioengineering, etc. – where it is necessary to find new solutions to old problems in order to remain competitive.

Field teams should take heart from these observations and steel themselves against the effects of the cynicism and resistance that they meet. They also need to develop techniques for making these obstacles go away (see below).

A second, excellent technique for self-destruction is to build up a negative picture of other people’s intentions (the Uncertainty and Doubt part of CRUD). Watzlawick recounts the story of a man who wanted to borrow a hammer from the guy next door but who, driven by pessimistic assumptions about how this request might be received, built himself a picture of a selfish, mean-spirited neighbor who would never share anything. He ended up getting himself in such a state that he stomped round next door and, when the door was opened, yelled, “And you can keep your damned hammer!” at his astonished neighbor.

The situation is often similar when field teams call on prospects. I have lost count of the number of times I have been told by a customer that they can’t afford expensive design tools or that they don’t have the time to listen to product promotions … before I have even explained what I wish to see them for!

To find inspiration on how to deal with CRUD, another Watzlawick book – ''Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution'' (co-written with John Weakland and Richard Fisch ) – is an excellent place to look. Published in 1974 and requiring a bit more concentration than ''The Situation is Hopeless'' (which has only about 100 pages and which I found very amusing), the book abounds with techniques and examples. Granted, they do not come from the Sales domain, but it is interesting and instructive to translate them into a Sales context.

To some extent, this has already been done: Chapter 8 of Change is entitled “The Gentle Art of Reframing” and describes a technique that plays a central role in the methodology proposed in the ''The Challenger Sale'' (2011, Dixon & Adamson). However, reframing is just one of several techniques explained by Watzlawick that can be valuable in Sales, Marketing and Field Applications work. I will therefore look at them in more detail in future blogs.

For related topics: ICONDA Blog. Related websites: ICONDA Solutions, ICON9.