I do a lot of networking – like 24 hours a month. I meet many new people and some of them are really cool. My least favorite thing to hear when meeting a new person is, “I would love to pick your brain”. Yeah, I know.
Now don’t get me wrong. When I first started my business I found this flattering. I would schedule coffee with the person, usually have to buy my own, sit and tell them the answers to many of their questions. They walked away feeling great about me and I knew I had helped someone. Go me. But over time I realized these people weren’t then sending me business or in some way returning the favor. Somehow they felt entitled to receiving free information and I had just done what I’m suppose to do. In fact the only referrals I got from them were more people interested in “picking my brain”!
Lately I’ve had even better ones. They are people who want to compete with me. And they are right up front that we are in the same industry and are going after the same clients. Sure, there are enough to go around and I don’t pretend I’m the right solution for everyone, but what incentive do I have to meet with these people?
So, if you’ve ever heard yourself saying, “I would love to pick your brain” stop it. Instead, start with what you can do for that person. They have knowledge you want. What can you do for them? Can you get them a referral BEFORE asking for a meeting? Can you offer knowledge or services in exchange? Is there a real potential to share business between you? Lead with that. It is much more compelling to hear, “we do similar things but for different markets. I would love to talk about how we can work together to bring in more business for both of us.” The conversation over coffee may turn out exactly the same way as the “brain picking” session but at least we went into it with a different attitude.
After someone gives you their time and knowledge, you owe them a thank you. Especially if you did have a brain picking session. It would not be remiss to send a small Starbucks card or other token recognizing they gave up billable hours to spend with you. Your final step should be to tell everyone you can about what a great whatever this person is. NOT how they gave you help for free, but brag on their knowledge, their service or some other aspect of what they do. It will get back to them that you are building their reputation as an expert which helps their marketing. It also may bring them some business if someone was on the fence.
So stop asking to pick my brain. Instead, let’s work together!