• Advice

How to turn "Can I pick your brain?" into a business builder

One of my clients came to me completely frustrated. A 10-year veteran of the beauty industry, Cherie Buziak is the founder of BeautyEdge Inc, where she works with leading beauty and cosmetic companies to bring innovative products to market.

And although she was getting a lot of inbound leads from what appeared to be ideal potential clients, it would soon become clear that they only wanted to “pick her brain” and get advice. And we all know that is the Worst. Request. Ever.

Cherie puts it this way:

“I try to be a helpful person, I do. And I really love talking to people about their businesses. But in a lot of cases I’ve found that all people really want is free advice or introductions to my contacts. And while I freely give in these conversations because I enjoy it, it’s getting old.

Earlier in my career I was totally happy to do it because I was building all kinds of great relationships. But now I feel kind of used, and I’m tired of giving away advice when there’s no real opportunity.

I also hate to have to say, ‘I can’t tell you that unless you pay me.’ That feels wrong for these businesses that really do need advice. But that’s what I want to say in these conversations, because of course I could help them, but I have to think about my time and my business.

At the same time, many of these are companies with really interesting products, and I know that if I have a conversation with them, I might be able to uncover an opportunity. I don’t want to say no to something that might be great down the road."*

The Solution

Cherie and I sat down and prepared for an upcoming meeting where it wasn’t yet clear whether it was a “pick your brain” conversation or a real client opportunity.

So we came up with a plan, one that will turn these conversations into a business builder.

Cherie would use what I call The Advisory Services Technique.

The Advisory Services Technique lets you quickly turn a "pick your brain" situation into a revenue opportunity, by offering package that bundles several hours of experienced advice and consulting each month for a set fee.

With the Advisory Services Technique, you can very easily offer a high-value service that your clients wouldn’t otherwise have access to -- the benefit of your experience, guidance, and possibly contacts.

A Win For You and Your Clients

There are multiple benefits to proposing Advisory Services to people who want advice.

  • Offers an attractive low-cost option - In contrast to a full client engagement, a few hours of advisory services each month sounds like -- and is -- a less expensive, attainable option for your clients.

  • Avoids the “take it or leave it” - When you only offer a full client engagement, you set your clients up to either take it or leave it, and many times they might just leave it. Starting with Advisory Services gives you (and them) a way in that requires less immediate commitment. They can wade in, rather than diving in.

  • Doesn’t require you to do the work - with Advisory Services, you only consult with people and give advice. It’s up to them to implement it , so it doesn’t take a huge amount of your time.

Making it work: The key phrase

We decided that when the time was right at her upcoming meeting, Cherie would lead the conversation by “making the turn” towards how they might work together.

The key phrase we came up with was, “There are a few ways that I work with people in your situation…”.

Then she would quickly go through the options, which now included Advisory Services.

Avoiding an Awkward Conversation

Framing the conversation around the Advisory Services option takes a lot of the pressure off you in the conversation. It communicates that “this is the way I always work,” and establishes Advisory Services as a commonplace thing.

Most importantly, it helps you avoid the awkwardness of having to say, “I can’t tell you unless you pay me.”

How to Implement It For Your Business, Like a Boss

1. Create the scope

Wherever you keep your notes, sketch out a quick Advisory Services package scope. Think through how many hours your clients might want or need depending on where they are in their business, what they need to accomplish, etc.

2. Sketch out the price

Think through what it’s worth to you to spend this time with clients, and the value it will offer their business. As a small business owner, your time is also valuable, and there’s an opportunity cost to spending this time with them. Make it worth your while.

3. Practice proposing it to prospects
To get comfortable with it, practice it on 2-3 upcoming calls or meetings, and include it in your proposals.

Wait - Are We Really Talking Hourly? (Hint: No)

If you’ve worked with me (or even talked to me for more than five minutes), you know that I’m completely against charging by the hour, preferring value-based fees in which your fee is based on the value you provide your client.

So it might sound strange that I’m advocating a set number of hours for Advisory Services. The thing is, it’s not based on the hours. It’s still based on the value you’re providing. The hours are there just to set a healthy boundary on your time.

Your hourly rate might be $125, so three hours of advisory services per month might be $375. But in these calls, meetings, etc. you’re giving your clients a tremendous amount of advice to build their business. That advice is worth way more to their business than $375.

Create a package price based on the value; don’t limit yourself by the hours.

Now go out and use the Advisory Services Technique to turn “pick your brain” conversations into a revenue stream! Like a boss.

Want to learn more strategies for leading clients? Check out my the free guide 10 Ways To Follow Up With Prospects… that won’t make you feel like you’re annoying them.

Leah Neaderthal Leah Neaderthal helps entrepreneurs and business owners learn the secrets of confident consultative selling, so they can sell like a boss.

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