Yesterday I read an article on Forbes by Adrienne Graham called "No You Can't Pick My Brain For Free." And it prickled me a little.
The author has some legit points.
Some people definitely do try to take advantage of those who have knowledge and are willing to share it freely. And others are just oblivious to the fact that they are asking advice for which the potential advisor is usually paid.
But I have to say this.... the most successful business developers I've observed are those who are willing to "give a little away" and not selfishly withhold every bit of value within their brains.
Generosity and the willingness to have conversations that go beyond selling "why" they should pay for your knowledge (as Ms Graham advises) have worked very well for me, too.
Her advice is far too black and white. She writes:
If you’re having problem drawing the line in the sand, here are some rules of thumb you should follow:
...Whenever someone wants to pick your brain, make sure you have your fee schedule in front of you. Give them a quote for how much it will cost them. They’ll either pay it or move on. If they move on, good riddance. They weren’t interested in paying you anyway. Let them figure it out on their own.
...Decline lunch/coffee invitations unless they are strictly non-business. If the conversation swings around to business, quickly and politely tell them you’re off the clock. If they are interested in a consult they can book an appointment and let them know what the charge is for that.
...Keep it light. Some of you will probably cave and throw a few nuggets out there. If you do (I hope you don’t), keep it general. Give the why and what but never the how. Anything beyond the why and what comes with a charge. And don’t even point them in the direction to obtain the how. That’s short changing yourself.
If I had held this attitude, there are many wonderful, very profitable engagements I wouldn't have landed.
IMHO, the problems she writes about weren't in the sharing. They were in being able to sniff out the "takers" early enough, and quite possibly in developing good listening skills.
Set boundaries relationship by relationship. But not in aggregate.
No way would I advise a lawyer, accountant or consultant to "decline lunch/coffee invitations unless they are strictly non-business." Guess you should decline golf and ballgames, too? How many relationships have been built on these age-old knowledge-sharing activities?
The interactions that Ms. Graham tells you to avoid allow for you to LISTEN as much as talk. Listening sells. Talking less so.
So, if you are a crummy listener and don't want the opportunity to learn more about a person's situation and needs so that you can eventually discuss ways you might be able to help them, then, yeah, pass on the opportunity to have a turkey sandwich or cuppa.
Just don't be cynical thinking that everyone's out for your freebies.
If you're new to business development, it's a fact that you've gotta do a bunch of these things to learn how to sniff out the takers...the people who will never buy from you.
You'll get good at it. Trust me.