Process improvement is about solving problems, and the Sales and Marketing functions have these in bulk. The frameworks I use have proved themselves in manufacturing and operations processes over many years, and understanding how other disciplines treat similar contradictions is one of the pillars of TRIZ, so bear with me here….!
One of the sales functions largest challenges is the lack of visibility in the buying process. A good crm system (such as Pipeliner) and an investment in business intelligence will help but interrogating customers about their buying process may well interfere with the sale.
In Quality and Manufacturing literature this change of outcome due to observation tends to be discussed mostly in terms of the Hawthorne effect. In research (especially psychology research) this frequently comes under the category of “Demand Characteristics”.
In Star Trek they had a similar challenge, their prime directive stated that they must not interfere in other cultures, yet the very act of watching could cause changes. So the contradiction they faced was how to “boldly go” and yet understand how these alien worlds worked.
They got round this by using gravitational lensing to understand the effect the alien planet had on its environment rather than taking a piccy of the alien planet itself, in effect they were using leading and lagging indicators.
Ah! I hear you say, but it won’t work in sales. Well actually we tend to use leading indicators quite a lot in forecasting; for instance, Builders Merchants use planning consents, Supermarkets use the weather, so nothing scary there, it is a question of identifying and interpreting the right indicators.
Indicators may well be hiding in plain sight, so a structured workshop might just be the way forward – and may the TRIZ be with you!