Perhaps someone has asked you the question, or some version of it. In today’s article, we’re going to take a look at this from both sides, behind the scenes.
For me, I get this question fairly often, especially after I have taught a class or workshop, attended a conference, or maybe written an article. Every year, I meet many new notaries; each at different levels of progress with their business. I realize that many of you may have asked this question of people in the past, in an innocent manner. This article seeks to give you a better understanding of what it is you are really asking, and hopefully going about it in a new and better way. Because even though it’s asked in an innocent or even flattering way, there are times when it can be objectionable or sometimes downright annoying. Over the years, I have come to feel that there should be an etiquette in how this Can I Pick Your Brain question gets asked.
The information in this article is also for those who GET ASKED The Question
On some level it is flattering to think you are looked to as someone who has information of value. For those of you who have been asked a version of the question, read on – there is good information for you too.
Why The Question can be Problematic
The reason for this is because most people who get the question have spent years building up their experience and skill levels. The asker wants information without paying for the time or service. The person asking takes and does not offer to give back to the giver or others. They may not realize this or may feel entitled to pick the brains of others as the quickest way to succeed without acknowledgement of the time, effort, education, experience, that went into the investment of creating a successful business.
Considerations to make before asking The Question
- Consider the relationship. Are you already colleagues who share regularly? The key here is share, meaning two ways, reciprocal. Asking to pick one’s brain usually works fine in this situation.
- Are you acquaintances, and this is the first time you will approach for help? Then you may want to consider what you may have to offer in return. It may be an introduction, sale, prospective client, a testimonial or an offer that interests them.
- Are you strangers, you read their article or saw them at a conference or on a webinar. Then proceed with caution.
Do’s and Don’ts before asking The Question
- Do not equate their time and intellectual property with an offer of a cup of coffee or lunch in exchange.
- Do your homework: Anything you can google, do that first.
- If they have offered information in some way (webinar, class, blog post, presentation, youtube video), be sure you have read or listened to their content so you do not ask what they already presented.
- Be specific: If you contact and start with your life story and don’t know what you need, then the person doesn’t know how to be helpful without sorting through lots of stuff that was not necessary. If you mention I loved your ideas on X and want to know more…. more what?
- Intention: Intend to pay for service, or offer something of value. The person may not want anything in exchange, but the intention of offering reciprocal value is important.
How to Make Your Request for Assistance a Great Request
The Why you are reaching out: ex: I read your article and it made me realize xxx which was helpful and moved me to reevaluate how I can handle xx to better incorporate it into my notary business. Do you have time to discuss this or do you formally mentor? In this case the recipient of the contact has an opportunity to offer assistance for this specific question, or offer a formal class/session or potentially refer them to someone who can assist them.
Points to Consider if You Are on the Receiving End of The Question
- Be sure to set boundaries on your time, or depth of answer
- Be ready to describe what types of one-on-one mentoring you offer and what the costs are (if applicable)
- If you feel this is a case of someone asking for what you actually do as a fee-for-service, you can say, Due to current time commitments I must prioritize my time on paid work, and I am happy to connect with you – I charge X.
If you do not mentor strangers or offer specific classes (or have the answers they’re looking for), then one of these answers should work:
- Sorry, this is beyond the scope of my business.
- I am not taking on mentees at this time (everyone must strike a balance between life and work!)
- You might want to reach out to X or attend X or watch X, which should answer your questions.
- Be ready to offer alternatives if there are questions you get regularly:
Sample alternatives could be:
Articles/Facebook/Linked In/ Magazines/ Newsletters
Meetup Group (whether you organize it or not)
An event where you will be speaking on that subject
Email Templates you’ve created on that topic
It is great to have people with experience, skills, and expertise share with those coming up behind them. However, we must always remember to respect the investment they have made to develop it. Some may be able and willing to freely share and have signed up to do so through programs like SCORE Mentors. Others may be willing to share publicly in a many-to-one setting like podcasts, webinars or conferences; still others may actually have fee-for-service specialty classes that are one on one, and personalized for the asker’s situation.
Navigating this can sometimes be tricky, so remember to convey why you are reaching out and what your specific needs are, so the recipient can quickly determine if they can help you directly or perhaps refer you to a connection who can.