The Twitterverse was all atwitter a few years ago over the idea that one consultant was charging a day rate of $22,000. I had no problem with it.

I thought about this the other day following a conversation with a colleague about billing strategies and hourly rates, day rates, and project rates. You see, right after we got off the phone he received the following email:

We spoke a month ago or so – after your presentation.

Could you have a look at our … setup and let me know if you have some better ideas?  I might also ask you to do a month’s worth of [work] for us, as a test.

The person then went on to suggest a date and time that worked for her. Because, naturally, we’re just sitting around waiting for people to pick our brains.

Why, yes, I do have some ideas.

A seesaw at the park.

Courting prospective customers (or clients, or patients, or members) requires a balancing act. On the one side, you want to be helpful and to prove your value. This means I likely will offer an idea or two to whet your appetite. But you will rarely (if ever) get my targeted smarts for free.

You also want to focus your attention on people who are serious buyers and not just window shopping. It’s not just who’s buying now, but understanding their network, when you can be strategically helpful, and the utility for both of you.

You also have to know which meetings to take and which to pass on.

Create a “pick my brain” service.

We all have people who occasionally want to pick our brains. I’m not talking here about helping a friend or colleague, or advising a prospective client. This is all part of doing business, and giving back, and being part of a community.

I’m talking about people who want your expertise but don’t value you enough to pay for your time or your know-how.

I have a pick my brain service. I package what the person wants for free and come up with a consulting rate to cover my time and expertise. If someone engages me to do further work, I’ll credit some percentage of the fee to that. It’s a tactic, something to point to when you get the occasional request to “just meet for coffee/lunch/drinks to get your feedback on my business idea.”

It’s a very effective way to make a point about value. It’s not $22,000–but one day it might be.

Seesaw by OI Max (Flickr). Feature photo by LuMaxArt (Flickr).