Home > Social Media > Don’t be cornered to be a pleaser

Don’t be cornered to be a pleaser

When I started charging people for my time, I found a much better level of conversation and connection – and referrals went through the roof. Why? The person writing the check VALUED MY EXPERTISE, paid attention, took notes, implemented the strategy we outlined and saw results (read: real ROI).

A recent (well, a few weeks ago) post by Chris Brogan was sent to me by my good friend, Barbara Talisman and we had a nice email exchange about the post and the topics covered. Brogan discusses strategies for asking for the sale and being a salesman (not the pushy and old-fashioned or the always-be-closing mentality) over giving everything away for free.

The article took me for a few reads to fully understand not only the message but how the message relates to myself. One paragraph in particular hit a cord (or whatever you want to say):

A few years ago, I was getting taken out to a lot of “free lunches” so that others could “pick my brain.” One day, it dawned on me: this lunch isn’t free. It’s costing me time. My information isn’t free. It’s taken me years to get it, and the people using this information are making material gain from the advice I give.

Those of you who know me, know my almost inability to say no. Trust me, it’s not as good of a quality as you might think.

Now I do think there is a huge difference between having lunch to connect or network versus a lunch where somebody meets to ask how they can use social media to brand their service or product. In fact, I do love both instances but did tend to feel used after a pick-your-brain lunch (funny how those people turn up later using your strategies but never give you credit). Ok, that parenthesis sounded bitter – sorry!

So here I sit. One part of me says to share the knowledge and information and heck, it will educate more of the world on the proper way (yes, I do think there are too many “consultants” doing it incorrectly) to use the internet to market, engage with their customers, and brand themselves (not just build followers on Facebook). The other part that just paid a lawyer for advice says heck no.

I know quite a few people who constantly operate at the first mentioned, thinking the more information they give away the more power and success they will obtain. However, I also hear on the side from the grapevine that those same people are not respected from either side of the table.

I am not claiming Holy Mary here; I used to be a free consultant years ago. I admit it.

So what’s the difference here, you ask. Not sure but would you take advice on a financial strategy from a free consultant over one who charges what they are worth (because they have proved they are worth money)?


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  1. April 25, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Good thoughts here Justin. I remember learning in business school that the price you charge is part of a marketing strategy. Charge too much and you won’t sell anything. Charge too little and your product may not appear to have value. The trick is to find that spot where your product has enough perceived value without pricing yourself out of the market. Your thoughts here reflect that lesson.

  2. August 31, 2010 at 9:23 am

    To be honest, I just finished reading “Trust Agents” and I have to admit that Brogan’s arrogance started to bug me by the end of it. Yes I do believe that Time = Money. People in the professional world reach a particular point where they shouldn’t have to give away their time for free, however, “This lunch isn’t free” is a complete contradiction of Brogan’s main thesis: Give 12 to get 1.
    The best analogy I can come up with is when I go out with my friends for beers. I usually say, “I’ll cover this tonight, no worries.” It’s not because I’m made of money, but that I know at some point it will all come back to me. Is this type of delusional karmic thinking? Perhaps, but you know what, that $20 I could hit my friend up for the next day because he “owed me” is not worth the good feeling I was able to transfer.
    It may take a month to come back, perhaps even years but trust me it does. Which is worth more to you, charging someone in a lawyer-like fashion by the hour, or the connection and favor that could come your way down the road.

    I’ll take the road any day…

    -Sean Z.

    • justingroy
      September 1, 2010 at 7:52 am

      Thank you for the comment, Sean. Though I have never read the book, I can understand where you are coming from especially if the original post is a contradiction. I, for one, do believe in helping friends (keyword: friends or connections – not people who I know for 5 minutes) but have seen [and have been a part of] the amount of time that is dedicated; as a self employed consultant, the amount of free time that is requested eats into billable time.

      I think a lesson to learn from the post (and comments) is to have a strategic plan on how you will manage your time. Perhaps it’s 1 hour a week (or more/less) dedicated to helping somebody and showing them what you know. We do need to educate others on our knowledge and strengths, it’s the only way to help another and grow the demand of your specific skill-set. I do agree with Kati here, as I am more willing to talk/meet and help people who are interested in learning what I am showing them and making it their own; somebody who respects my time rather than come back to ask the same questions.

  3. Kati
    July 22, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Very well said! You hit the nail on the head about individuals valuing the information provided more so when they’re paying someone for their expertise. I find that many institutions that I get the chance to work with (though not all) have incredibly intelligent individuals on staff who can tell administrations the same things I can, but for some crazy reason, they feel the need to go outside the organization to get that feedback.

    Usually I find the “free lunches” with friends and colleagues serve more to tell them how to do something but ultimately result in many people just wanting you to do it for them – can you blame them? I’m much more willing to help people who show some interest in learning how to do it themselves.

    Great post!

  4. Barbara Maldonado
    July 16, 2010 at 8:40 am


    Thank you for providing such a great post. The battle about what information and services to give away for free versus what to charge for has been something that I have been struggling with as long as I have been in business development. You definitely put it in great terms – those who pay value the information you give them more.

    Thanks for also putting into words the frustration I have felt after the “pick your brain” lunches. Sometimes I walk away thinking that the person I met with just wanted to take a quick shortcut instead of investing the time to learn themselves. I love helping people but as I have launched my own business and have bills to pay – I need to be evermore protective of my time and talents.

    Best wishes for you. Looking forward to continuing to support your blog!


  5. July 15, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Well said Justin! Thanks for taking the conversation we had, clarifying and condensing so it makes sense! Of course I agree with you – to replay and revise your last but should be first sentence – “When I started charging people for my time, I found a much better level of conversation and connection – and referrals went through the roof. Why? The person writing the check VALUED MY EXPERTISE, paid attention, took notes, implemented the strategy we outlined and saw results (read: real ROI).”
    Thanks for the post and mention!

    • justingroy
      July 15, 2010 at 9:53 am

      Thanks for the suggestion – changed it and looks much better!!

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