Okay, so that was not exactly what the sticker said on the outside of the handwritten note (not a thank you, btw) we received from what I’ll just call a “grey collar” worker we have in our lives right now, but it might as well have.
What it actually said was, “Oh, by the way, I’m never too busy for your referrals.” And, yes, it was on a black and gold very old-school-looking sticker almost exactly like the one below and it was stuck on the back of the envelope.
My first question is simply where does one get the chutzpah?! The reality is this person has done absolutely nothing yet to prove that he’s good at his profession, let alone deserving of some of our social capital in the form of a referral to a close friend or valued business contact. Have you ever been on the receiving end of such a thing? But wait, it gets better. At the bottom of this person’s emails you can also find the phrase, “Business is good, but I’m never too busy to serve a referral from you.” Everyone that receives an email from this guy sees that? Where are they teaching this stuff?! I’m afraid to think about how many other people in his industry see that and then cut and paste that sentence to add it to their own email signature. Shame on all of them.
Plenty has been written about classier and more effective ways to ask for a referral (here’s a good post), so I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but I did want to offer one of the best ways I’ve found to ask for a referral:
AFTER I’ve delivered or completed a job well done or did a temperature check with a client to which they responded positively, I ask if they personally know of anyone else that might benefit from what I’m doing or have done for them.
You can also ask if, by any chance, they have recently mentioned you or your company to anyone in a positive way (this tactic is noted in this intelligent post). I’ve found that people often do this, but don’t always have the time or even remember to provide an introduction or contact info to the party in need. And there are also cases where they don’t tell you when they’ve paid it forward on your behalf (kind of the point of paying it forward). Whatever the case, sometimes they respond with a, “As a matter of fact, I was just telling Barb over at TON Productions what a great job you are doing for us when I sat next to her at the Ad Club lunch last week. She asked me if I knew any biz dev pros well worth their fee.”
Then, if you know the contact, or even you if you don’t, ask your client if he’d mind if you followed up with Barb and mentioned that he shared that he gave you a glowing review. I’ve never received an objection to that request, and, btw, if I’ve landed business because of a client’s good word of mouth on my behalf, there’s usually a handwritten thank you note along with a nice gift card sent priority mail to them stat.
Bottom line: I believe it is never appropriate to ask a client for referrals until you’ve proven your value to them, and you’ve confirmed that they’re happy. If you’ve had any examples of this not being the case, please share them with us because if someone is advocating this as a tactic, I want some real proof that it is effective. Although, I guess it is possible that this guy has just gone rogue, but I doubt it because it wasn’t too hard to find that lame sticker online. Sigh.
P.S. If you like this type of thing, you’ll love my book - I’m at a Networking Event–Now What???: A Guide to Getting the Most Out of Any Networking Event. Just sayin’…
Are you a consultant or a service provider? How many non-billable brain picking sessions did you sit through so far this year? Or, on the flip side, how many brains did you try to pick for free this year? I think we should start a National Do Not Brain Pick registry and I want to be on it.
I know I’ve written about this before, and even referenced Matt Youngquist’s spot-on post about banning the phrase “pick your brain,” but based on what I’ve experienced, witnessed and heard during the first quarter of 2010, not that many people are getting the message. One of my favorite quotes Matt shares in his blog post is from Jeffrey Gitomer, “People call me all the time and ask to buy my lunch so they can pick my brain. My response is: ‘I have a $1000 an hour brain-picking fee, so I’ll buy your lunch!’ That stops all the bloodsuckers.”
And then in Kevin Dugan’s popular blog post titled, “Can I pick your brain?” he states, “Sending someone a note asking to pick their brain is the equivalent of saying you want them to work for free.”
If you are a consultant or a service provider you are no doubt all too often faced with the brain picking request. And, maybe, if you’re lucky, the other party will at least offer to buy your coffee or drink, or occasionally lunch. However, more often than not, you’ll only receive a “Thanks for meeting with me.”
In my book, “I’m at a Networking Event–Now What???” I write about the etiquette around follow-up meeting requests after meeting new people. I strongly encourage folks to show their gratitude for the meeting by, at the very least, offering to buy the other person’s cup of coffee, and have since added to my workshops that if they already have something to drink or they decline, when you go up to buy your latte, buy a $5 gift card and give it to them with a smile and say, “Thanks so much for making time to meet with me and I really want your next coffee to be on me.”
But, back to the brain picking sessions…..as Matt asks, “Do you even know folks who charge only $3.50 an hour for their expertise?” I don’t, and wouldn’t take advice from them if that was the highest value they placed on their intellectual capital.
Sometimes it’s much worse for me as both a consultant, service provider, and having a reputation as an “idea person” and “connector,” because more often than not, most folks I’m barely acquainted with think nothing of asking me to:
a) make an introduction to a highly valuable (potentially lucrative to them) relationship (notice I didn’t say “contact”) that I’ve worked years to develop, maintain and typically protect (which is why their target and I have a relationship, and are not just “acquaintances”), without acknowledging the value, size or real agenda of the ask. Usually, it’s that they want to pitch them on their services or sell them their product and generate revenue (money) from the new connection.
b) meet for coffee because they want to “pick your brain” (PYB) about how to start using social media in their business, effectively and cheaply promote their new site, network effectively at an industry association event, which companies to pitch their service or product to, review their site content for relevancy, the list goes on.
The things listed above are classic business development, marketing or networking strategy activities and are things I making my living doing, so why would someone ask me to do these things for free (or a cup of coffee)?! At the very least, it would be nice if they ASKED ME what I currently needed help with first or suggested some kind of equitable trade we could do in exchange for the pieces of brain matter or social capital they intended to acquire from me. For example, would I ask my mechanic to change my oil without offering him my credit card or maybe a website content refresh? Do I ask my accountant to file my annual LLC paperwork without expecting an invoice or at least offering to set up a Fan page on Facebook for her small practice?
Nicole Jordan writes about “Classic PYB behavior” in her blog post titled, “No. You can’t pick my brain.” She asks, “Would you ask a lawyer to coffee to “pick his brain?” and accurately states that, “Creative ideas and connections are the real currency in this digital economy,” and observes that “Strategic and creative counsel is one of the most under-monetized aspects of being in the communications and marketing business.” She’s right and I’m going to start doing as she suggests:
From now on, and especially for people who I do not know well (you know who you are): I will tell them I am happy to meet, that I am flattered they asked, and that because my time is extremely valuable I don’t do these PYB (or “sounding board”) sessions for free.
Nicole also shared that, “Most of the time I’ve said this, they’ve understood and honored it. The ones that got a little ruffled, are the ones who will suck you dry and likely leave you paying for your own coffee. And theirs. Run. Fast.” Meep, meep!
P.S. If you like this type of thing, you’ll love my book - I’m at a Networking Event–Now What???: A Guide to Getting the Most Out of Any Networking Event. Just sayin’…Read More
I received this link to a video called, “The Vendor Client Relationship” via email this week (thanks Julie!) and can’t believe how often it’s popped into my mind since. For anyone in a creative services firm this will definitely hit home, but I’m afraid it probably applies to almost every industry/business these days. Times are tough out there, and from what I hear, people are pulling some of this you-know-what more often than usual. Thought I’d share it here because a giggle like this helps keep it all in perspective and also reminds you that it’s not just happening to you!