How to say NO to “Brain Pickers”


Does this sound familiar? Attending a dinner party there is seemingly nice gentleman sitting next to you and while making small talk you venture into the realm of careers and business.  As an entrepreneur this could both an opportunity and nightmare for you, you are about to get attacked by a “Brain Picker”.

“You are a (Insert Your Successful Business here) NO WAY! I have been wanting to get back into…learn more about… am also budding entrepreneur myself. We should meet for coffee, I would love to ask you a few questions.”

Translation: Please tell me what you have invested time, energy and money into learning for FREE.

You make your clients pay for it, why would you just give this guy all your hard earned knowledge for FREE?

Maybe I should remind you of the definition for the word free in case you have forgotten “not costing or charging anything.” You know what that means for you? Nothing. No profit and probably not a long-term client.

In the words of Marie Forleo, “ If they want to pick your brain, ask them to pick a time and method of payment.”

Don’t let “brain pickers” continue to take advantage of you. Put up a sales barrier around your time and knowledge. Here is how.

Clearly Define the Boundaries. Decide exactly what you will charge for and what you will give away to demonstrate your expertise. For example, on your blog or website give away general how-to tips, but charge for a one-on-one consultation. Offering to give a little away for free wets their taste buds and leaves them wanting more. Then those that are serious about you and what you have to offer will come to YOU!

That means no one-on-one time without a client relationship. Say goodbye to coffee and conversations. Direct brain pickers to the resources you have established through your website or even an audio recording. This way they can still learn about your product and benefit from it without turning it into a free session.

Know Your Value. If you don’t value your time and knowledge, then why would anyone else? Recognizing the value of your service to potential and current clients is important. Getting clear will help you to enforce boundaries. Asking a potential client to first pay a consulting fee to see if your services will actually benefit them will end up saving them thousands of dollars in the wrong direction if one of your products may not be a good fit. Seems like more than a fair exchange.

Communicate the Boundaries. This can be one of the most challenging to follow through on in the beginning. Do not hesitate to communicate what you charge for. Boundaries get unknowingly pushed when the pusher does not know the rules. So how do you establish the rules upfront? It is simple. When you are first approached with the brain-picking type questions, offer an introductory consultation or coaching session. At that point, you decide whether that will be free or at a special rate.  But the point is to clearly communicate that you have stepped outside the acquaintance or friendship realm into a business relationship.

Avoid Sneak Attacks. Sneak attacks often start with a request for an opinion or answer to a quick question via coffee, social media or e-mail. You know what I am talking about… the seemingly innocent inquiries or questions that turn into full-on borage of questions. Chances are the brain picker has unknowingly crossed the line (this is why you need to establish boundaries early on). Respond accordingly. A quick question with a quick response.

Be firm and fair. Be firm with them and fair with yourself. Do you feel cheated or taken advantage of by responding to this request for your time and knowledge? This is yet again an example of why you should be firm with boundaries. Do not waste your time with people that do not value you, your knowledge or your time. Energy is better spent with those that are willing to pay for your services and respect you.

Let today be the last day you let “brain pickers” take advantage of you! Remember you are the one giving it away or charging for it, so set boundaries and give them just enough to come back wanting more.




© 2012 Inspired Living, LLC

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Our blog features a series of interviews with some of the most visible and inspiring people world wide (ILTV) PLUS inspiration, business tips, and advice from Keri.