I use a battery of static questions when doing discovery in my brand planning process. There are follow-the-money questions for C-level executives and follow-the-sales questions for sales people. I augment the latter with sales call tag-alongs with top and bottom sales earners.
An interesting way to get information fast is to interview the head of HR. S/he should have a great understanding of heard-on-the-street market perceptions. The tough questions they field from candidates are great input and can provide competitive intell. Additionally, ask the HR head to recap the boiler plate they use to introduce the company.
Another way to get to information fast is to sit in on new employee sales training. Succinct and compelling value props, key talking points, and product benefit highlights suggest an easier task for the planner. A fruit cocktail approach, not so much.
If a company is smart enough to have an internal messaging service like Chatter, see if you can get access and peruse key topics. (At Nestle, the internal messaging community is very strong.) This is not Edward Snowden stuff, I’m talking about approved community threads and discussions. Read them, they can provide centers of gravity for planners.
Great planning is 80% listening. But when you don’t have the time to listen to everybody you need some shortcuts. Plan on. Peace!