Problem Solver or Solution Provider with DRIIIL


Engineers are very good at providing solutions! But how good are they at stating the real problem?

Most of the times we go in and say “this is the solution…“, but does the person really understands what the client really needs?

While coaching teams in the context of Scaled Agile Frameworks, I observed many times Product Management trying to sell their solution (unique solution) and completely shifting the focus from solving the problem itself. This remembers me a great video from CID HarvardSelling Solutions vs Solving Problems“.

Product Management players (Product Owner and Product Managers) need to develop new ways to deliver business value end to end. Hence, they need to learn new ways for collaboration and requirements exploration. New ways should hold high regard the following:

  • Finding out needs over looking for solutions
  • Solving user problems over releasing the next “cool” feature
  • Responding to change over following a plan


I designed the DRIIIL Methodology for Product Management (Product Owners and Product Managers) in order to practice:

  • Using powerful questions for problem solving
  • Focusing on problem understanding using structured interview
  • Selling the problem we solve rather than the solution we build

Note that the DRIIIL methodology was originally introduced by BMS Performance as an advanced questioning technique for face to face sales.


The DRIIIL methodology provides a structure for the requirements exploration discussion with the customer. The structure is composed of six steps: it starts by setting the context for the discussion and ends by building a lead with the customer. In the following sections I will describe more in details the six steps.


Start the conversation by asking the customer to state their objectives. This is an assertive way to start the meeting. It allows you to meet their expectations and tick off all their agenda points.

The customer always replies by their biggest problem, need or pain point.

Setting the direction of the meeting is a great gateway for your subsequent questioning process.


Explore the customer’s current situation by asking leading questions about their current business processes. This will lead you to quickly pick up on any challenges, problems or needs they have.

Asking leading questions will allow you to quickly understand how you can best help the customer.


You need to build trust climate and rapport with the customer. The customer needs to feel listened to and to understand that you care about his problems.

Often, surface level complaint revealed in the previous step, is not actually the real problem. Use open ended questions to dive deeper under the surface and define the customer’s real issues.

Open-ended questions don’t have a single word answer or even a right or wrong answer. They begin with words such as “Who… What… When… Where… Why… How…etc”


In the aim to connect to the customer reel needs, you need to fully understand the bigger picture. You can now try to shift the attention from the problem toward finding the impact it has on the customer: business, emotional and personal impacts. This will help open up the emotional side of the brain; a key source of influence in all change management decisions.


Invite the customer to paint a picture of the awesome situation he would have once the problems are solved. This is key for a sustainable and successful solution.

This step will help you to understand the expected benefits for the customer. Without benefits there is not real direction you’re moving forward. Check the painted picture and try to understand what the customer will really gain.


The questioning closure should show the customer good listening and genuine care for his problem. This could be reflected by shared understanding and alignment.

Confirming questions enable the customer to restate anything that may not have been clearly described. Most probably, confirming questions validate shared understanding.

“So, how can I help with this issue?”, although this may seem like a strange question to ask at the end f the questioning process, it really works. This is because the costumer tend to respond to this question by either telling you exactly how you can help or by stating “I don’t know, you tell me”, leading you nicely into your solution offering.

Develop your DRIIIL skills thanks to the DRIIIL Questions Bank


  • What do you want to get out of this meeting?
  • What’s the most important thing you want to achieve today?


  • Tell me about your current setup in regard to ….
  • How could you describe this…?
  • Can you explain that for me?
  • What challenges are you facing in regard to …
  • How’s that working for you?
  • What is the challenge…?


  • What specifically do you mean by…?
  • I am curious about…
  • What is it we are not seeing?
  • Who… What… When… Where… Why… How… ?
  • What have you tried so far?
  • Can you speak more that?


  • How does that affect the business?
  • What does that have on your business?
  • How does that impact you, your team, your profit, your margins?
  • How does that impact your customers?
  • What are you avoiding?
  • What does that cost you?


  • In your mind what would help to resolve the issue?
  • What does a good solution look like?
  • What return on investment are you looking for?
  • What if it works out exactly as you want it to?
  • What if… ?
  • What is your desired outcome?


  • How can I help with this issue?
  • What support do you need to accomplish?
  • How would you see us working together?
  • Let me play back what I have haired…
  • What permission do you need/want to move forward?
  • In summary, you described … Did I get that right?


In summary, DRIIIL is a structured process with powerful questions that can be used to uncover customers needs, define their challenges and ultimately enable you to serve your customers with high-value solution you are confident is exactly what the customer desires.

However, the 6 steps are not set in stone, and it is common to move around the steps to fit in with the natural flow of the conversation.

What Next?

In my next post, I will be sharing a workshop that helps Product Management practicing DRIIIL methodology. Keep tuned!


DRIIIL Poster, you can find a printable full resolution version here below.


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