Question-Storming

September 3rd, 2018 | Leadership
Question-Storming

Are you facing an incredible opportunity, a particularly difficult challenge, the launch of a major new project or getting ready for a huge significant event?

How are you planning to lead your team as you take on this new opportunity, challenge, project or event?

In the past, might you have used “Brain-Storming” to find solutions?  That is always a viable option.  But if you have experienced limited success with “Brain-Storming” might you be open to another approach?

If “Yes” may I recommend “Question-Storming?”

Might your next question be: “Bob can you please tell me more?”

Great Question!  I would be delighted!  First as you already know, the focus of “Brain-Storming” is for your team to spend a defined amount of time suggesting as many possible solutions as they can without evaluating any of them as long as they remain in “Brain-Storming” mode.

Brain-Storming & Question-Storming have some similarities:

  • Both are Group/Team Exercises
  • There is no initial evaluation of either ideas or questions offered.
  • “Out of the Box” thinking is wanted and valued.

But here is how the two are different:  

  • “Brain-Storming” focuses on “Solutions”
  • “Question-Storming” focuses on “Identifying the “Problems/Issues” that need to be addressed to create unparalleled success!

Here are the Rules for Question-Storming:

  1. Name an “Opportunity” or “Challenge/Problem” or “Project” or “Event” that needs to addressed.
  2. Set a goal for the # of questions the group needs to suggest.  Example: 50 Questions or 75 Questions or 100 Questions.
  3. Each question is written on a  white board or poster board.  Another great alternative is making use of a shared Google Doc where everyone on the team can enter their questions at the same time.
  4. Once the Goal for the # of questions is reached – every team member reads all of the questions listed and then votes on the top 5 questions (in priority order) that they think must be answered to insure the success of the subject named in Rule #1.
  5. Calculate the results –  List the Top 5 Questions.
  6. Starting with the #1 Question – ask your team:  How can we find out the answer to this question?  Who one our team (individual or small group) is willing to do the research needed to come back to our team with the answer(s)?

Head’s up:  Almost every team will stall out at about 25 questions.  Do not let them stop!  The best questions that will make the biggest difference almost always come from questions 26-50!  By forcing them to continue to at least 50 (or 75 or 100) questions you are forcing them to “plow new ground!”

Advantage:  Great Questions beg to be answered!  

Here is a “Question-Storming” Example: 

Topic:  Sales are 15% behind of where they were last year.

Question-Storming: (Goal 50 Questions)

  1. We sell lots of stuff – what are the comparable sales numbers for each of our products/services?
  2. Were last year’s sales normal or above or below normal?
  3. How many new customers have we had in that past 12 months?  How many customers have we lost in the past 12 months?  How do we close the back door?
  4. Are we doing anything different this year to generate sales than last year?
  5. How do our “Brick & Mortar” sales, “Internet” sales, “Phone” sales and “Meet with Customer/Client” sales compare from this year to last year? What might these numbers tell us?
  6. What might the implications be regarding which of our products/services is experiencing the biggest declines?
  7. How might changes in the overall economy or business climate or culture be affecting our sales?   How can we get ahead of those changes so that they are working for us and not against us?
  8. How can our sales-force move more to “Engaging With” with less “Presenting to” with our customers/clients?
  9. What are we doing to help our customers/clients be successful?
  10. What are competitors doing better than us?
  11. What could we do to better “Thank” our customers/clients?
  12. What can we do to strengthen our “Customer Service?”
  13. What do we need to do to make sure we under-promising and over-delivering?
  14. Have we asked our customers/clients if it is easy or difficult to do business with us?  If we have not – how can we?  If we have, what are our customers/clients telling us?
  15. What might be our greatest opportunities to dramatically increase sales?
  16. What would it take to cut our sales to delivery time in half?
  17. Would our customers/clients pay more if they knew that they would receive superior quality and lifetime guarantee from us?  If we “don’t know” how can we find out?
  18. What would happen to our sales if we doubled our Marketing Budget?
  19. What would happen to our sales if we doubled our Research and Development Budget?
  20. How would we as an organization need to change to double our sales in one year? two years?
  21. How can we make sure that our sales quotas for our sales personnel are actually maximizing our sales vs being counterproductive?
  22. Why do we do what we do?  Have we lost sight of why we are in business?
  23. How can we evaluate our current advertising agency?
  24. Do we need more “Leads?” or is our greater need to increase our “Leads” to “Sales” ratio?
  25. Why are customers/clients not buying from us?  What are they buying from our competitors?
  26. How can we move our new customers/clients from viewing a first time sales transaction with us as “One and Done” to the start of a “Customer for Life” relationship?
  27. Is our current pricing right?  Are our products/services perceived as “cheap and average” or as “expensive but worth it?”
  28. What are we not seeing here?
  29. How might doing a “Focus Group” with our Clients/Customers/Prospects help us better see the future?
  30. What is it that we perceive as “Impossible” to do – but if we could do it would dramatically increase our sales?  What would it take to then move from “Impossible” to “Possible?”
  31. Nothing is ever “all bad.”  So what is going well?  What’s not?  Where we stuck?  What needs to change?
  32. What is one item we are currently offering that we seriously need to consider dropping?  What is one item we do not offer that we seriously need to consider adding?
  33. Do we have too many goals and thereby end up not really reaching any of them?  Would we do better to focus on fewer goals thereby dramatically increasing our ability to executive each of them well?
  34. Have we asked our customers/clients what products/services they want that we are not offering? If we have not – how can we?  If we have, what are our customers/clients telling us?
  35. What is the current morale of our organization? What steps need to be taken to increase the morale of our organization?
  36. Do we have the right people in the right positions in our organization?  In other words, are we leveraging the Strengths of each person in our Organization?
  37. What don’t we know?
  38. What are we learning from Customer/Client complaints?
  39. Do our sales follow the 20-80 rule?  i.e. do 20% of our products/services provide 80% of our sales income?  What would happen if we removed all the products or services that full into the 80% of our products that only produce 20% of our sales income? and focused all of our efforts on improving/strengthening the 20% of our products/services that are producing 80% of our sales?
  40. Who do we know that could help us?
  41. Would our customers/clients pay more if they knew they knew that 100% of the time we will deliver within the next 24 hours?  If we “don’t know” how can we find out?
  42. I am guessing that not all of our sales force have sales 15% behind last year – might some of them be 10% – 25% even 50% ahead of last year?  What might we learn if we followed them around to see if there are things they are doing that the rest are not?  What if we discovered some simple things that they are doing that the rest are not and then quickly trained everyone to do the same?
  43. Have we had any surprising successes?  i.e. products/services sales that are dramatically higher than anyone would have guessed?  If “Yes” what would happen if we focused more of our marketing effort to promote those products/services?
  44. What can we do to decrease our costs in order to offer a better price to our customers/clients?
  45. If we sold each item for less might that increase our sales more than enough to make up for the smaller margin per item?
  46. How can we use social media to increase sales?
  47. Is our website helping or hurting our sales?
  48. Does the physical look of our product help or hinder our sales?  What could we do to make our product more physically attractive?
  49. What do we know about our customers/clients?  Who is actually buying our products/services?  Male/Female, Age, Education Level, Position, Industry, City, State, etc.  How can we use this information to find others with the same profiles?
  50. How well trained is our sales force?  What is our sales training budget?  Would increasing that budget dramatically increase our sales?

Selection by the team of the top 5 questions in order:  Ask:  Which of the 50 questions, when answered, do you think has the greatest potential to help us dramatically increase our sales? Each team member puts their top 5 in priority order 1-5. Then one or two on your team calculates the results.

Here are the top 5 questions selected from the 50 above:

  1. I am guessing that not all of our sales force have sales 15% behind last year – might some of them be 10% – 25% even 50% ahead of last year?  What might we learn if we followed them around to see if there are things they are doing that the rest are not?  What if we discovered some simple things that they are doing that the rest are not and then quickly trained everyone to do the same?
  2. Do our sales follow the 20-80 rule?  i.e. do 20% of our products/services provide 80% of our sales income?  What would happen if we removed all the products or services that full into the 80% of our products that only produce 20% of our sales income? and focused all of our efforts on improving/strengthening the 20% of our products/services that are producing 80% of our sales?
  3. Have we asked our customers/clients what products/services they want that we are not offering? If we have not – how can we?  If we have, what are our customers/clients telling us?
  4. How can we move our new customers/clients from viewing a first time sales transaction with us as “One and Done” to the start of a “Customer for Life” relationship?
  5. Would our customers/clients pay more if they knew they knew that 100% of the time we will deliver within the next 24 hours?  If we “don’t know” how can we find out?

Now that the “Top 5” have been identified – go down the list and ask your team:

How can we find out the answer to this question?  Who one our team (individual or small group) is willing to do the research needed to come back to our team with the answer(s)?

When you start using “Question-Storming” you will be joining scores of organizations that are already using this method to discover the best ways forward!

May I ask a favor?  Will you please email me to let me know how it worked with your team?  bob.tiede@cru.org

Bob Tiede

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bob has been on the staff of Cru for 48 years. He currently serves on the U.S. Leadership Development Team and is passionate about seeing leaders grow and multiply their effectiveness. Bob and his wife, Sherry, live in Plano, TX and are blessed with 4 incredible children and 6 remarkable grandchildren.

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