In case you missed last week: What’s your 20 and 20/20 for 2020? Your 20 is your location – where are you, literally and figuratively. Your 20/20 is your vision – do you have one for your practice. Your 2020 is next year – as in your best year ever. Even if you just start thinking about your goals, strategies, and tactics this month, you’ll be way ahead of your competition.
On to this week: Being viewed as the experts we are is a good thing. But it can lead to many unsolicited requests for a “quick” call or meeting to pick our brain on a topic someone believes we know a lot about. A general willingness to help and professional courtesy aside, responding to all of those requests can be a time suck and won’t pay our bills. What can we do?
And if you’re new here, welcome aboard. This is what we do!
Join me this Friday at 1pm ET on Practice Development INSIDER for my interview with Kevin Yeanoplos. Kevin is an ordinary guy who achieved influence in our profession through leadership, determination, and building a practice around his idea of success. Regardless of the size firm you’re in, there’s bound to be a nugget or two you can use in your practice.
Someone wants to pick your brain.
S/he says it will only take a few minutes.
An hour later you’re off the call or out of the coffee shop.
How did that happen?!
Why we let people pick our brains … and the consequences
#1 – In general, we are flattered that people think we might have the answer … and we just happen to love talking about what we do!
When someone wants to know what you would do in a specific situation AND how you would do it, it can be engaging and exciting enough for you to share your insight. These conversations can make you feel accomplished and appreciated. But afterward, you may walk away realizing that you gave away expertise that you would normally charge for.
#2 – They are a colleague who needs our help.
To me, this is a good karma thing – pay it forward and all that – because I never know when I will be the one initiating the “can I pick your brain” request.
However, it could be a problem if the requests become more frequent and the calls take longer. And you may feel like you are doing their research and work for them. At some point, a polite but firm “No” is required … and I will admit that I have not yet mastered this deflection.
#3 – We are afraid of missing a business opportunity with a prospect.
You receive a call from a prospect who heard about your area of expertise from a mutual connection. They want to discuss how you might help them approach a problem.
First things first. Research the prospect to make sure they fit your ideal client model. If not, you should have no trepidation with politely declining. Or referring them to another BVFLSer for whom you know they would be an ideal client.
Let’s say you move forward. They are an ideal client, and it seems like an opportunity to land new work. And they came to you … you didn’t have to find them! Win!
But let’s say as the discussion unfolds, you realize their intention might be a fishing expedition to get free information rather than to actually engage you. (My litigation support friends might add that it could be a ploy by an attorney to discuss a case with you to prevent you from being hired by the other side.)
The voice in the back of your head tells you to cease and desist, but the urge to prove your expertise is worth their money is too strong. You continue to try to impress them, all the time realizing you are giving them a perspective they should be paying you for. Ultimately, you may or may not get hired.
#4 – We don’t want to brush off a client or referral source.
When existing clients or referral sources want to pick your brain, there’s even more pressure to keep an actual, valuable relationship intact. So, of course, you accept their invitation to talk and be as helpful as possible.
But if they request time/effort/analysis that goes beyond the normal scope of what you are doing for them, consider it an opportunity to broaden the scope of the project and charge for the additional work. Your clients and referral sources should know the value you bring to the table – that is why they are reaching out to you – so be comfortable discussing this.
What can we do about these requests
There are ways of dealing with these things. Here are some alternatives I have thought of.
#1 – Say no or charge for your time or ask for a donation to your favorite charity.
I keep reading that the most successful people say “No” to almost all of the requests for their time. If we want to be successful, we must be compensated for the opportunity cost of saying “Yes.”
#2 – Point the person to a blog post or newsletter you wrote on the subject.
This can eliminate the need for a brain-picking session or help the picker better frame their questions before the call. This option also has the benefit of turning on your prospects, clients, and referral sources to the content you produce.
#3 – Send a staff person.
“Rod had something come up at the last minute and couldn’t make the call. But he was certain I could help you.” Not only does this protect your time, it can help develop the technical chops and practice development skills of someone in your firm.
There is nothing wrong with helping out a colleague. Or giving your insights to a prospect. Or further cementing a relationship with a client or referral source.
The problem starts when they ask you to part with your best ideas or a fully-developed plan of attack for free.
In real life
You might wonder how I handle these things.
First of all, I don’t do meetings since I am in the RV and usually many, many, many miles away from the person seeking me out.
But I do have a “Huddle” call people can schedule with me using Calendly. Scheduling allows the call to occur at a time that is convenient for me. Calendly also asks for a brief description of what we’ll be talking about so I can be prepared. And the call is limited to 20 minutes to set expectations and boundaries.
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