The Complete Question

I have discovered the reason that I have so many emails that require one line responses.  In a corporate environment we are often rushing when we ask a question so we blast off the email to the relevant person who will know the “answer”.

Too often however we don’t fully craft the actual question, leaving us with pieces of information, as opposed to the complete answer that we actually seek.

If your question for example were about the success of a particular marketing vehicle you might say


How did X do in market?


It was a success

Question 2:

What sales did X vehicle drive?

Answer 2:


Question 3:

What was the response rate?

Answer 3:


Question 4:

How does that compare to other vehicles in market?

Answer 4:

It drove 20% more sales than Y vehicle.

At the end of this lengthy exchange you have slightly more information about the project, but still don’t feel armed to walk into a meeting with your executive teams to discuss the overall process.  You now might have four different files of “results” and you likely have someone sick of seeing your name

Instead a well crafted question might be phrased as such:


Can you give me a summary of the results on Y vehicle including

  • ·         Sales results  VS LY and VS other vehicles in market
  • ·         Response rate VS LY and VS other vehicles in market
  • ·         Any other metrics/feedback that may seem relevant

Win 1

By asking the question this way you are going to get a complete answer.  This method also leaves you with extra data in case someone asks a deeper question when you discuss the program.

Win 2

You are only sending and receiving one email which cleans up your in box and theirs, making you both more efficient.

Win 3
Asking for results this way tells the person that you are asking that you need all the details about a program which more often than not will cause them to offer even more than you are asking for.  By asking them to participate with an open ended request you are encouraging them to include items that they feel are relevant.

In the end a great answer is rarely given for a poorly formed question.

Before you write that next email

1)      Take a minute to think about what you really want to know about before you blast off the email to someone.

2)      Make a list of points that you need answers to-this gives the person a chance to ask for additional details on a particular point

3)      Re-read your request before you send it to make sure you haven’t missed anything and to ensure that it is easy to understand.

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