“Can I Pick Your Brain?” Six Ways to Answer Without Sounding Like a Jerk
When you’re an expert on a topic, people want to learn from you, and if they can, they want it for free. They’ll say, “I want to pick your brain. Let me buy you lunch.”
Worst case, they’ll take you to a fast food restaurant and buy you a $5 meal and get thousands worth of advice. Best case, they’ll take you to a great restaurant, spend $100 and get thousands worth of advice.
While it’s great to meet new people, here’s how can you say, “No, I won’t have lunch with you just so you can get an hour of free consulting” without sounding like a jerk.
Just Say, “No”
If you don’t want to discuss your expertise with them, reply with “Sure, but I have ‘no talking about work’ policy at lunch.”
Just Say, “Yes, but…”
Or say, “I’d love to have lunch with you. But, if you are looking for input on your project, I charge a consultation fee even if we’re dining. Otherwise, I never discuss work over food. What day works for you?”
“I Will, If You First…”
Get them to do something that shows commitment and shortcuts the process before you accept their invitation.
Say, “Sure! I’m happy to meet with you if you’ll first…” Have them send you an email describing their biggest challenge. Or have them fill out your assessment form. Or, if you’re a content creator, have them first take one of your mini courses.
Guess how many people call to follow up? Very few. Those that do are serious. Those that don’t, aren’t. Do this, and you don’t waste your time on those who aren’t committed.
Send Them to Your Website or Blog
Say, “I’ve got a really full schedule for the next month, so why not check out my blog (or website) that answers many of the questions that I get when people invite me to lunch. So, take a look, and send me a list of questions, and we can then schedule something next month.”
First, Buy My Book
If you’re an author, say, “I recommend that you first read my book. I specifically wrote it to answer the most common questions that I get. Whatever advice I have to give on [your topic], it’s in there. And it’s cheaper than lunch. So, jot down your questions as you read it, then call me and we can schedule lunch.”
Bring a $100 Bill
Say, “Brain picking isn’t free and I don’t eat cheap food. Bring a $100 bill and buy me lunch at a nice restaurant. If you’re not happy with the value of my advice, keep the hundred.”
One of my colleagues does this and he always keeps the hundred.
If they object, say, “I tell you what. I’ll give you three free pieces of advice right now that will make you more successful.
- Your first free success lesson: never do free consulting.
- Your second free lesson: free advice isn’t acted on like paid advice.
- Your third lesson: if you don’t get value in exchange, there is no real value generated.”
Use Your Best Judgment
In any case, use your judgment on who you give advice to and who you don’t. You may want to give a sample to a prospective customer over a meal or pay it forward from someone who has helped you.