How to Stand By Your Value and Sidestep Bloodsuckers – While Still Remaining Approachable

If you don’t set healthy boundaries for yourself, people will set them for you.

And then they will violate them.
And then they will tell their friends that it’s OK to violate them.
All because you failed to set a precedent of value.

You know the types of conversations I’m talking about. Those unsolicited phone calls, emails or in-person requests from people you barely know (or don’t know at all) that want to abuse your expertise for their own personal gain without reciprocating any value in return.


Today I’m going to teach you how to handle these situations in a professional, approachable, value-driven way that (still) maintains your integrity, wastes minimal time and effort for both parties – all while simultaneously educating people on your boundaries.

1. “I just have one quick question.”

No, they don’t. Their “question” is rarely quick and usually requires a lengthy answer that you probably don’t have the time to offer.

An example of “one quick question” is, “What was the name of that satanic death metal band we listened to last night?” NOT, “How did you get your start as a writer?”

Next time this happens to you, try one of these responses:

o “I’m glad you asked! My free ebook addresses that issue in great detail. Download it here, read it, and if you still have questions when you’re finished, get back to me.” Delivers value and challenges them to work.

o “You know, that question would take about an hour to answer. When would you like to set up a one-on-one coaching session to do so?” Sets a precedent of value.

o “That’s a great question. And I definitely have a great answer for you. How much money would it be worth to you to have that answer?” Risky, but makes them put a price on their problem.

o “I’d be happy to sit down with you and share my thoughts. My One Quick Question Fee is $250. How about Thursday at 10:30am at the Starbucks on Walnut and Main?” Sales closer.

2. “I’d like to get together to talk about an opportunity.”

Odds are, it’s an opportunity for them to sell you something. Or make money off of you. Which I’m not saying is a crime – salespeople have to eat too.

But your job as the master of your boundaries is to require specific information about this “opportunity” before proceeding to waste two hours of your day sitting in a coffee shop listening to some glossy-eyed housewife pitch you on her amazing system for becoming your own boss and making a six-figure income selling non-FDA approved herbal supplements that may or may not cause rectal bleeding.

Next time this happens to you, try one of these responses:

o “Can you email me a copy of the meeting agenda?” Odds are, they won’t have one.

o “If we got together, what, specifically, would the agenda be for our meeting?” Asks for clarification.

o “Are you affiliated with any direct selling or network marketing organizations?” Weeds out the pyramid people.

o “Could you give me a specific description of this opportunity in twenty words or less so that I can make an informed decision about whether or not to proceed?” Forces them to be more concise.

3. “I’d love to buy you lunch.”

Riiiiight. That way you’d be committed to (at least) twenty minutes of facetime so this bloodsucker can ask every possible question he can think of, listen carefully to your advice, and then take ZERO action on any of the gems you gave him because he didn’t pay.

No. You’re not a lunch whore. “Will work for food” is not part of your business plan (barring extenuating circumstances). Not anymore.

Next time this happens to you, try one of these responses:

o “What is your positive motivation for wanting to meet with me?”Calls their bluff.

o “What specific questions do you have? I bet most of them could be answered via email more efficiently.” Saves time, mixes the medium.

o “Thanks for the invitation! I’d love to get together if my schedule wasn’t so darn full. My lunches for the next few months are either client/prospect meetings or coaching/consulting sessions. And I need to make those my priority during that time slot to optimize my time and reach my goals. If you would like to book a one-on-one session, attached is my fee schedule and availability. Otherwise, I respectfully decline.” Sets boundaries, retains value.

4. “Could we chat on the phone sometime?”

In the words of Scott “Dilbert” Adams, “Nothing good can ever come from answering the phone. It’s always someone asking you to do work. Incoming phone calls rarely involve people volunteering to help you.”

Interesting point. And in many cases, true point. See, it’s harder to set boundaries, restrict time or say no to someone on the phone. Nobody likes rejecting or being rejected in person OR on the phone. Email, on the other hand, is much easier, accessible and efficient. Plus it’s less threatening.

Next time this happens to you, try one of these responses:

o “We (could) talk on the phone, but you’ll have a better chance of reaching me and a MUCH quicker response if you send an email.” More efficient.

o “Actually, I hate the phone. Here’s my email address…” Honest, efficient, mixes the medium.

o “Well, what’s your burning question? I bet I can answer it right now…” Time saver.

5. “I’d like to set up a meeting with you.”

First of all, meetings are useless. They waste time, kill productivity and bore people to tears. And the fact that most businesspeople still have meetings every day is an indication that evolution never happened.

Not to mention, “meetings” are often code for “sales pitches.” Stay away from these vortexes. Their undertow is designed to suck you in. Protect of your time.

Next time this happens to you, try one of these responses:

o “Dang it! I’m all booked up. Email me with your issue and we’ll solve it online together.” Next best option.

o “I would, but meetings are the bane of my existence. And I maintain a personal policy that doesn’t allow meetings. So, what the best way I can help you the most, right now?” Honesty, levity, brevity, integrity.

o “What, specifically, is your burning question? I bet I could answer it quickly without the need for a meeting.” Forces clarification and compactness.

6. “Can I pick your brain?”

For years I allowed people to “pick my brain.” We’d eat, brainstorm, chat, laugh – even sometimes map out their entire ideas. And it was a lot of fun, except for two things. One: I felt like a prostitute. And two: People NEVER, EVER took a modicum of action of any of the ideas because (a) most people don’t execute in general, and (b) people didn’t pay me.

What I’ve discovered is that when people don’t pay me – they don’t hear me. So, I started charging enough money that people would not only listen to me; but also do what I said. And they did. Funny how that works.

Next time this happens to you, try one of these responses:

o “Fantastic! I’d be happy to let you pick my brain. My brain-picking fee is $2000. How about Monday at 2:00pm at Panera on Brentwood?” Value, sales closer.

o “Actually, you can’t PICK my brain – but you can rent my brain. Go to for details.” Smart branding, unexpected, stands by value, changes the conversation.

o “Actually, my brain’s all booked up right now. Fortunately, my website has over 700 pages of articles and probably contains the answers to most of your immediate questions. Good luck!” Redirection with value.

REMEMBER: Your time isn’t valuable – it’s billable.

The good news is:

You can still reject people without being an unapproachable jerk.
You can still maintain the integrity of your boundaries without being a lunch whore.
You can still restrict the access to your brain without being selfish with your knowledge.

As long as you start by asking yourself: “Is this an opportunity, or an opportunity to be used?”

Because if you don’t set healthy boundaries for yourself, people will set them for you.

Will you stand by your value?

For the list called, “66 Questions to Prevent Your Time from Managing YOU,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur

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Check out Scott’s Online Quotation Database for a bite-sized education on branding success!

8 Ways Make Your Message More Spreadable than Syphilis in a Slovakian Steam Room

Businesses that get talked about GET more business.


And if people aren’t actively telling their friends about you, your products and your services, they don’t exist.


Enter “spreadability.”

No, this has nothing to do with Ritz Crackers.

THE SECRET IS: You can’t “go viral” or “get people to start talking about you.”

What you CAN do is create an environment in which word of mouth is most likely to occur.

And you do that by making your message more spreadable.

Here are eight ways to do so:

1. Sell without selling. Spreadability is the result of subtly pitching your product in SUCH an entertaining way that customers never feel like they’re being sold. Joe Pulizzi from The Content Marketing Revolution wrote, “Stop thinking about pushing your product and start thinking about what your customers would do after engaging in your marketing. If the inclination is to spread the message, then you’ve done something right.” Are you SO good that people will voluntarily sign up to watch your marketing?

2. Think like a doctor. Marketers should hang out with doctors. Not because marketers are sick (even though some people might argue otherwise), but because there’s some overlap between the two disciplines. For example: “You can’t spread a disease that’s dormant.” That’s a medical truth. Interestingly, the word “dormant” comes from the Latin dormire, which means, “to sleep.”

Here are my questions: Which of your marketing efforts are asleep? Which of your marketing efforts are putting customers TO sleep? And who in your marketing department needs to wake up FROM their sleep? “Paging Dr. Bankruptcy, Dr. Bankruptcy. You have a patient waiting in Surgery 2.” How dormant is the disease you’re trying to spread?

3. The flu has feelings too. As cyberculture journalist Douglas Rushkoff suggested, “People don’t engage with each other to exchange viruses; people exchange viruses as an excuse to engage with each other.” And often times, they do so unintentionally.

And, as social networking blogger Izzie Neis explained, “From a marketers perspective, if you can engineer the perfect viral campaign, the people will be powerless to resist. They’ll be diffusing your ideas before they know what hit them.” How could you spread your virus to people without them even knowing, but without them even caring that they have it?

4. Reward the spreaders. Provide an incentive for users, customers, readers and viewers to spread your content. Give away freebies. Offer samples. Maybe even allow customers to tally a scorecard for every time they spread your idea. You could even structure an incentive system based on the customer’s number of “spread points,” much like airlines miles. Whatever it takes to ensure people truly believe they have something to gain by spreading the message. Because if they don’t, they won’t. What carrot can you dangle in front of your spreaders noses?

5. Sticky is for suckers. Sticky doesn’t necessarily mean viable. Spreadable, on the other hand, is powerful AND profitable. Henry Jenkins, Director of Comparative Media Studies at MIT, wrote a fantastic article on spreadability in 2009. He explained: “In the era of convergence culture, spreadable content is designed in a way to be circulated by grassroots intermediaries who pass it along to their friends or circulate it through larger communities.”

Lesson learned: Surrender control. Enable people to take YOUR idea into THEIR own hands. Openly embrace a “fan” mentality and transfer ownership to the customer. Find people that have big mouths, market to them – give them megaphones – then get out of the way. That’s how spreadability becomes long-term viability. Are you (truly) spreadable, or just sticky?

6. Unspreadable is the enemy. Ever tried to spread refrigerated butter? It’s near impossible. You almost always puncture a hole in the bread, right? Not exactly an efficient way to make a sandwich. Interestingly, in my research on spreadability, I came across an article from the Journal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry. It’s called, Melting Properties of Butter Fat, The Consistency of Butter and The Effect of Modification of Cream Ripening and Fatty Acid Composition.

Fascinating stuff. According to the Hungarian professors who wrote the piece, there is a close relationship between the consistency of butter and its product characteristics:

“The cold, unspreadable consistency of butter after taking it out of the refrigerator is a rightful objection on behalf of consumers. And it can only be improved by the combination of the heat-step cream ripening and enrichment with low melting point triglycerides to achieve stable consistency at room temperature.”

Now, if you’re like me, you probably have no idea what the hell that means. But stay with me here. Because this article proves, scientifically, that spreadability is directly related to high quality ingredients. And that doesn’t just go for butter. In marketing, the same principle applies:

Shtick isn’t enough – you’ve got to support remarkability with substance.

Otherwise customers aren’t going to tell their friends about you. What does your product have going for it that surpasses baseline remarkability?

7. Medium AND message. As Duncan Watts says in the bestselling Six Degrees, “The structure of the network is perhaps more important in predicting the spread of content than the nature of the content.” Lesson learned: Viral marketing is a social animal. So, whatever message you’re spreading, don’t just focus on the content – but on the needs of the people you’re asking to spread that content. What do your followers crave?

8. Propagation planning. “Plan not for the people you reach, but for the people they reach,” says Griffin Farley, noted spreadability thought leader. That’s the central idea behind propagation planning, something I recently learned about from reading Griffin’s blog.

I also learned about propagation planning from Ivan Pollard, who said:

“Plant the message or bits of the message in various places in such a way that people pull the entire message or components of the message down. Let them play with the stuff you give them. Get involved with it. Package it back up again in a way that reflects their take on it (even if it is just adding a comment), then pass it on to people in their network or circle.”

In the process of doing this, says Ivan, the message gets stronger and more powerful as it moves on – not weaker and more fragmented. Think mash-up. Think parody videos. Are you forgetting about your customer’s customer?

REMEMBER: If you don’t spread – you’re dead.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all this talk about being spreadable is making me hungry.

I see a box of Ritz Crackers in my future.

How are you boosting your spreadability?

For the list called, “123 Questions Every Salesperson Should Ask,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur

Need to build your Thought Leadership Platform?

Perhaps my monthly (or yearly) coaching program would help.

Rent Scott’s Brain today!

8 Ways to become More Buyable than a Bottle of Viagra at a Boca Raton Bingo Hall

“I just cannot WAIT to send you a check!”

How cool would it be if your customers thought that? How profitable would it be if your customers SAID that?


And the best part is, this concept has nothing to do with selling; but rather, enabling people to buy.

IN SHORT: Being buyable.

AND HERE’S THE DISTINCTION: Most salespeople constantly run around asking prospects, “Do you want to buy me?”

On the other hand, buyable salespeople don’t run – they position. And they do so in a value-driven, unique role so prospects say to them, “We want to buy you!”

MY QUESTION IS: How’s your buyability?

Not strong enough? Not a problem. Let’s explore a list of eight strategies for becoming more buyable than a bottle of Viagra at a bingo hall.

1. Migrate fans into paying customers. In order to do so, you MUST deliver unique value first. Ideally: Meaningful, concrete and immediate answers that will help your customers grow their business – delivered via email, blogging, a public presentation or an in-person meeting.

And, yes, this migration process may take months, even years. The question you have to ask yourself is: What are you willing to LOSE on the first sale in order to guarantee a relationship? Time? Lunch? Money? Free samples? A few hundred bucks?

It might be worth it. Start building your migration strategy today. How long will it take to turn strangers into friends, friends into fans and fans into paying customers?

2. Try your customer’s head on. First, ask yourself: “If I were my customer, what would I want to buy from me next?” Second, ask your customers, “What new offering would you LOVE to see from me that I don’t currently offer?”

Example: I recently asked that very question to the 20,000 subscribers of HELLO, my name is Ezine. I also offered a free book to whomever offered the best most helpful suggestion. Sure enough, heaps of emails came in. My customers’ feedback was priceless. I even modified one of my future programs accordingly.

Lesson learned: Your customers will tell you how to sell to them. Remember what sales legend Jeffrey Gitomer reminds us, “People hate to be sold, but they love to buy.” Are you giving your customers permission to tell you how to serve them better?

3. More isn’t more. All you can eat buffets are great for heart disease, but ghastly for business. Here’s why: Choice saturation paralyzes people into inaction. And confused minds never buy. Conversely, the less you offer, the easier it is for people to refer TO and FROM you.

Not to mention, when you remove choices, you also remove the threat of rejection. Your mission is to arrange things so that selling is easy. And the first step to doing so is simple: Offer less.

In Seth Godin’s very short ebook, Do Less, he writes: “By not cluttering your life and reputation with a string of low-budget process, you actually increase your chances of getting great projects in the future.” What if you stopped giving customers so many choices, or any choice at all?

4. Reopen the wound. Here’s the reality: If there’s nothing bleeding, customers won’t think they need you. This doesn’t mean you should act like an evil pharmaceutical company that manufactures bogus diseases so they can push pills (ahem, Restless Leg Syndrome).

Rather, your job is to serve as a reminder. As if to say to your customers, “I think you’re forgetting that you have this problem, and it hasn’t gone away. So, if you want to eliminate it, you need to call me.” It’s all about framing. Presenting offerings in a way where resistance is impossible. Helping them WANT it. What were you designed to cure?

5. Keep asking: What’s next? According to the owner of Honest Selling and the founder of Yellow Tie International, Gil Wagner, “These are the two strongest words for maintaining control of the buying conversation.”

I agree. Especially on email. Especially when you’ve done your part and you’re waiting for the prospect to make a move. Instead of appearing too pushy, all you have to do is ask, “What’s next?” Period. End of email. You’ll find that it’s is a conversation-advancer, a time-saver and an action-oriented request that demonstrates your willingness to cut to the chase and move forward.

I’ve been using it almost daily since 2005, and I’m constantly amazed how (a) how many sales I’ve closed because of it, and (2) how much customers appreciate it. Remember: The listener controls. Are you asking simple, yet powerful questions to become more buyable?

6. People sell – products don’t. People buy people first. Period. So, if you notice a lack of buyability, realize that customers aren’t resisting the product – they are resisting you. Conversely, buyable people (and businesses) are the ones customers think, “Dude, we would be nuts NOT to hire this guy!” How could you become more irresistible?

7. Become a known-entity. The best way to do so is to achieve what I call “Radar Equity.” And it begins by asking yourself five few questions:

a. Whose radar do I want to be on?
b. What do I want to happen as a result of being on it?
c. Who do I know that is already on that radar?
d. What steps have they taken to get there?
e. What actions could I take to emulate those steps?

Remember: The secret to Radar Equity is that you have to EARN the right to be on it. That means publishing. That means social networking. That means OFF-line networking. Whatever it takes. How can you position yourself so thousands of people whom you never met will get to know you instantly?

8. Put yourself in their future. “I’m going to be happier at the end of this transaction because I gave you money.” This is what your prospects need to think. So, the first step toward reaching that future is to activate mental ownership. And you do this by helping the customers visualize the END.

The benefit of the benefit of the benefit of the benefit. The customers of the customers. Not just a mowed lawn – their kids and dogs playing in the freshly cut grass. Not just a rental car – their feeling of getting the hell out of the airport quickly. How are you traveling through time to put yourself in your customer’s future?

REMEMBER: Selling is for amateurs – enabling people to buy is the secret.

Ultimately, buyability is about creating a value-forward relationship within the client environment.

Do that, and they might actually become excited about sending you a check.

Then you can buy all the Viagra you want!

How are you boosting your buyability?

For the list called, “134 Questions Every Salesperson Should Ask,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur

Need to build your Thought Leadership Platform?

Perhaps my monthly (or yearly) coaching program would help.

Rent Scott’s Brain today!

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