Do you know what the one question you should never ever ask another entrepreneur is?
Can I pick your brain?
To me it conjures up an image of vultures swooping in on the road kill to pick, pick, pick on the carcass and then leave with the goodies.
Is that really the impression you want to make with fellow colleagues or potential service providers?
I thought not…
Now let me be clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with connecting and conducting informational meetings. In fact I encourage it highly. Informational interviews are a successful woman’s secret weapon.
But there’s a difference… and that difference is in the intention, expectation, and energy of the exchange.
Pick Your Brain comes from a place of:
- Wanting to extract your expertise for free without ever having to pay for your services?
- Solve my problem for me because I don’t want to take personal responsibility for my part.
- What can I get from you?
- Short-term in and out hit and run viewpoint.
That just oozes unpleasant exchange, doesn’t it? Yuck.
I firmly believe in connecting with people and sharing information. I am truly grateful for the many people who helped me along my path when I was in exploration mode and new to something. I have repaid the favor and paid it forward many times. The way it is done is the difference between secret success weapon and vulture.
There are really two kinds of people who ever wish to pick your brain: potential clients and new entrepreneurs/entrepreneur want to be’s. The rules of the road for effective and respectful information gathering are the same for both.
Respectful information gathering comes from a place of:
- Shared responsibility (this means you prepare for the exchange by doing your homework and limiting your informational inquiry to a short amount of time – 30 minutes max).
- Willingness to return the favor (even if the person is an established expert and you are a newbie a willingness to serve them in whatever way you can goes a long, long way).
- Long-term relationship building (no hit and run mentality).
That said there are some pretty basic rules for doing this the right way on both ends of the exchange.
If you are the one seeking information:
- Be prepared and do your homework.
- Honor the other person’s time.
- Recognize they make a living doing this; be willing to pay for and engage their services if it is a fit and appropriate.
If you are the expert:
- Give yourself permission to decline invitations that aren’t a fit or when your schedule doesn’t allow for it.
- Keep the discussion light and exploratory .
- Refer them to free resources you offer and other free resources on the web/local area first.
- Be willing and prepared to set and enforce boundaries around your time and knowledge..
- Make an invitation and ask for the business after an appropriate amount of time. If it is a fit for what you do, communicate in no uncertain terms how you can help them and the next steps for engaging your services.
Remember, you own a business not a charity. Even Lucy van Pelt in Peanuts charged $.05 for her advice. I know I personally love to share information, content, and resources with people. I am generous with my time and money. Life and business is all about relationships. Marketing is about opening a conversation.
If you don’t advocate for your own value and business, who will?
If you’ve ever walked away from a “pick your brain” exchange feeling used, abused, and resentful, the only person responsible for that is – YOU. You own the business, you choose how you spend your time, and you decide where to draw the line between a complimentary exchange and the time to directly ask for business.
So remember… go forth and connect. Just don’t ever ask, “Can I pick your brain?”
Are you ready to get paid for the value you provide? Get the Freedom & Profit Worksheet and stop giving it all away…
Enjoy some other awesome voices on the whole pick your brain thing:
- “Please Don’t Ask to Pick My Brain” – The PR Lawyer
- “No You Can’t Pick My Brain It Costs Too Much” – Forbes
- “May I Pick Your Brain? The Classic Freelance Quandary” – UrbanMuse