The Modern Business Scam- "schedule a free 20 minute call with me"

09/01/2016 09:02 pm ET

Helpful marketing seems like a genuine thing to do, right?

After all from Gary v to Seth Godin; if there’s one thing every influencer big dog agrees upon is the power of building your brand by providing value.

Few months ago I also got membership of this website called SoHelpful. In this article I don’t intend to be a douchebag troll about them, acutally they did a pretty good job at lead magnets and their whole user interface. But something that’s not under their control- the free help thing!



 While I totally agree with that concept of helpful marketing, I’m not very happy about this free call with me’ trick. I call it a trick not strategy on purpose.

It’s based on my personal experience and tell me if I’m wrong.

In the past three months, I arranged to speak with about twenty different business people.

These people ranged from experts in startups to gurus in client acquisition.

It seemed like a very useful thing to do. But in my experience it was awful. Apart from 3 people’s calls, the rest were purely a waste of time. 

 People talked to me for two reasons-
1- to research my pain points in order to collect data and customer language (phrases) to be used in their own marketing material and
2- to sell me their mentorship or course or program.

 AGAIN- (Deserves to be read twice)

People talked to me for two reasons-
1- to research my pain points in order to collect data and customer language phrases for their own work and
2- to sell me their mentorship or course or program.

Now, I have no problem with sales pitches but I do mind you tricking me into thinking you will provide some value when all you did was get my information (did market research) that I gave you in hopes that you would help me.

You might have heard that saying no lunch is free and these people are proving that.

I understand that you are not a charity organization.

You want to make new clients and your time is too previous to waste on solving peoples’ problems.

But in that case advertise your time as a talk about “how my paid program’s can help you”. Discuss directly and boldly answer questions about it and see if it’s a good match. No shame.

What people do instead is ask you a ton of questions and just listen.


If I need someone to listen I have friends and can get a therapist.

In business you don’t provide value by being a listener. And if you are too intellectually stingy to provide any real value to the caller then please don’t advertise it as help.



Listening is not help- not in business.

I have literally had people on Facebook sending me masseges to advice me for free the second I mention some question in a group.
When someone is feeling hurt or struggling; that’s the worst time to pry on their vulnerability and start selling.

Some marketer might tell you that when you have a toothache that’s the best time for a dentist to jump in.
Yes; but if the dentist says I want to only help and then later doesn’t, only listens to your moans and conducts experiments on you that’s not very helpful is it.

#pissedoff or #IKilledADentistWithMyBareHands

How to do it right?

To be a genuine person and an authentic business person is not that difficult. You can be both but only if you’re willing to get out of your sleazy car salesman suit (no offence to the BMW and Audi sales teams).


Here’s what you do:

1- Get on calls only when people are interested in some program of yours and want to know if it’s a good fit. The idea of sales must be clear. It’s not  help it’s an informational call.

2- If you want to collect data on your niche audiences pain points, say it! Tell people ‘I’m trying to get to know my customers better. So I want to talk to you for ten minutes and to return the favor I offer dash’.

It could be an ebook, a discount for your program, a free membership, an amazon coupon... Get creative. Anything could be fine. But be genuinely upfront about it.

And if at the end of it all you really are out there to help people, then do say that you help.


This is how I do it:

With my philanthropy work I do that. It’s called heart chat sessions with Shahla.
I talk to women and men who are in bad/abusive relationships gain back their life and confidence. Since most of them know that I’m also a startup founder and speaker and author, the talks also extend to advice in those areas.

(And this by the way happens because I’m a published author and scholar in that area, running blog on that subject for almost 4 years and have done research in law, gender studies, victim psychology and some bits of criminology that make me an authority. It’s not just a willy nilly agony aunt phone call).

There’s no pitch in the end. And I’m not collecting data or experimenting.

I do it because I’m able to and genuinely want to give back. I want to save people the pains of learning things the hard way, like I did.

I’m not Bill Gates to invest millions in charitable projects. Therefore I invest few hours of my time and love. I believe that to be alturistic, one doesn’t need billions in the bank.

My philanthropy is a huge motivator for me. And I say it what it is.
No sales pitches no marketing tricks. Plain simple heart talk.

So, for all those ‘helpers’ out there, please, please, please provide real value if you dare to name your session as a ‘help call’.

If not, please say it what it is. 

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