Your Message is Important!

Everything from your great tagline to your copy on every page of your site to the colors and design you choose is critical to engaging your clients.

Every choice you make tells the story of your product and your company.

It is important for Israeli businesses engaging with clients all over the world to do more than use English well on their sites, or for their sites to look nice.

They must also understand the nuances of business, sales and the culture of their target audience.  Images, symbols and colors are another form of language.

If you want your business to perform at its peak, make sure you use peak talent to make sure your branding and copy are perfect.

-Julie Gray

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Scroll down for blog posts on topics ranging from making great presentations to cultural differences between Americans and Israelis.

 

Business Etiquette/כללי התנהגות עסקי

please

.לחצו פה להסבר על תרגום לעברית

A big part of doing business well is making sure that you are polite when you do.  That is obvious. But it’s more than about being polite, it is about having the best interaction you can have, right?

You want the person to call you back, to choose you, your company or your project.

There is an expression: you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. It’s an important one. Because whether you are a writer, hi tech innovator, filmmaker or consultant, you need every interaction to go well and to plant seeds for future meetings.

Don’t think of business etiquette – or for the Hebrew curious: כללי התנהגות עסקי

honeyThink simply of being as effective in every transaction as you can possibly be. You have an end goal. How does it feel when someone wants something from you? Are you more likely to grant them a favor or read their script or look at their website if they are difficult to connect with, inconsiderate or too aggressive? No.

All favors are personal, at the end of the day, because we are people. And if you are setting up a meeting, on a certain level, you are asking a favor.

Here are a few simple and basic tips:

When Setting Up a Meeting

Know that we are all very busy. Offer two or three choices of times and dates. Make the meeting place convenient for the other person.

During the Meeting

Buy your listener coffee. Thank them for their time. Make time for small talk. Keep your business talk focused. Don’t go over time. Wrap up your meeting with clear goals and expectations.

Following Up

Wait 2 to 3 hours after the meeting and send an email follow up, thanking the person for the meeting and saying you look forward to the next step.

If you don’t hear back in 4 or 5 business days, email again and just ask how they are and if there’s anything you can do to help move the project forward.

If you STILL don’t hear back:

In the US and EU: don’t email again for another 3 to 4 weeks. Assume you are being ignored but not totally shut down.

In Israel: email again in another week. And the one after that. And then let it lie for awhile.

You don’t want to be a nuisance. But neither do you want an opportunity to slip through your fingers.

Here are more tips for following up. 

The Difference Between What We Say and What We Mean

For Israelis in business, Americans can be very confusing. We seem to indicate one thing with our words and another with our followup.

This confusion is tripled when the communication is written. Because now the body language and intonations are missing altogether, which is very problematic when you are already dealing with cultural differences. miscom

For example, if an American says “I know you are busy”, it really translates to – why haven’t you gotten back to me?

Would you have guessed that? Maybe or maybe not.

Look, Americans value being very polite. We often couch what we are saying in order to get the best result. Rather than actually SAYING “you are busy, you never get back to me!” we just politely acknowledge that yes you are busy. But we mean something else. We want to hear back from you.

Here is a list that is meant to be humorous but that is actually very accurate, of things Americans might say in email correspondence – and what they really mean.

 

Closing the Gap in Israeli/American Business Meetings

If you’ve traveled at all, even a little, you know that people are different in different parts of the world. As an American living abroad, I have never felt more keenly aware of my Americanness.

Here’s the thing about Americans: we really, really, really like and enjoy being friendly and polite and casual. We like it. It’s important to us. We like to exchange pleasantries and make small talk. We take our time to get to the point. We think as we talk, we are sizing you up even during the small talk. We like to think on our feet as the situation evolves.

Here’s the thing about Israelis: we really, really, really like to get to the point and quickly. We don’t have a lot of time or patience to waste time. We can be friendly and make small talk after the business is done. To an Israeli, small talk about family, etc., means an actual connection is already there. Because some kind of a transaction happened first. Now we can be friends. But business first.

There is a saying about Israelis – they will run you over with their car, then back up and take you to the hospital. There is another saying about Israelis – once an Israeli is your friend? You have a friend for LIFE.

Americans, just like our sprawling landscape, are a bit more nomadic socially. Connections made can and do fade over time. Friends can sometimes come and go.

Both approaches can be explained by history, geography, social norms, etc. but the bottom line is that neither approach is right or wrong – but they can be misconstrued.

In Israel, I often hear Israelis say that they think Americans are “fake” or “hypocritical”. And I often hear Americans say that Israelis are “rude” or “pushy”.

Americans value casual friendliness and Israelis value directness. Even a moment to think about the vast geography and easier, less threatened life in America shows one how Americans come by their casual manner. A quick look at the geography, history and political issues in Israel shows one how getting things done quickly and efficiently FIRST serves Israelis better. You don’t have to be Margaret Meade to see how each culture is different.

But when you put an American and an Israeli together – especially in business – sparks can fly. And yet of course there are strong business connections between the US and Israel and both parties admire one another greatly.

If you are an Israeli and you are in a business situation with an American, you have to remember to slow down and let the small talk happen. We Americans really like those pleasantries. It’s what we do. We will also be very friendly and warm about your idea – even if we aren’t going to act on it. Because we really value being friendly and warm no matter what.

If you are an American in a business meeting with an Israeli, you may find yourself feeling a bit like the picture below – whoa – blown away. Because Israelis really value efficiency and directness. Which can make an American feel a bit uncomfortable. maxell

So how do you read each other in these situations? Both Americans and Israelis would do well to take one step toward one another and know ahead of time the different values. Israelis see friendly small talk as a genuine, if not intimate expression of real friendship. Americans see this as standard behavior but not an indication of any kind of commitment.

As an American-Israeli, I can see how American friendliness might be construed as insincerity – but it’s not. It’s something we like to do and we are being authentic. And I can see how Israeli directness can be seen as pushy and rude – but it’s not, it’s efficient and focused. Cultural relativism, friends, it’s important.

So – if you are in an Israeli in a business meeting with an American, trying very hard to read the American through the friendliness – how do you know whether they are in fact serious about you and your business? flag confused

You know they are serious when the friendliness falls away a little bit and becomes more direct, and when they actually take an action step right in the moment. When they set up another meeting, make a phone call or otherwise take and share information. The handshake and back clapping that comes with many of these meetings is no indication of seriousness but rather of business brotherliness.

Beyond that – how do you really know whether an excited, American, friendly, yes yes yes! is going to actually result in business? You don’t. Not until you on the receiving end of a solid action step in very short order – the next couple of days.

Don’t mistake, resent or misconstrue American friendliness. Take it at face value, enjoy it, be friendly back! But do not confuse this with serious business interest until or unless you have an actual move that backs that up.

When you leave the meeting with the American business person, go out with a big smile and the confidence you came in with and also let them know that you have several other meetings you are taking – because you do – and that you are continuing on with those meetings as scheduled. If this particular business person is seriously interested, he or she will jump to get to your first. It’s called applying a little bit of pressure – a standard business move. But the thing is, you ARE being perfectly sincere. You do have other meetings lined up.

So let’s recap:

ONE

Be your proud Israeli self, the person you are taking a meeting with knows you are Israeli, just slow down a bit and allow for more small talk than you normally would in Israel. Relax. This is one of many meetings. Believe me, what you have to offer is very valuable and Americans are aware of and interested in your Israeli efficiency and candor.

TWO

Reading social signals like smiling, small talk and a casual dress and manner is easy: take it only at face value.  Americans like to be friendly. It’s the way we are. In a way, and this sounds counter-intuitive – it’s not personal. (And ditto for you American business people; the Israeli directness – it’s not personal.)

THREE

None of this meeting meant anything at all unless you actually receive a phone call, email or some kind of follow up with concrete action steps outlined. Don’t be offended, it’s just business. A small bite on the fishing line doesn’t mean anything until you reel the fish in. Each meeting is a chance for you to sharpen your American social skills. It’s like falling in love – you’ll know it when it’s the real thing.

 

 

 

 

Mind the Culture Gap

Have you ever been in a meeting and had someone use a phrase or word that seemed to imply something that you didn’t quite get? Or acted in a way that was not immediately familiar to you?

Have you felt over or under dressed? Have you been pitching your story or technology and wondered if the person is following along all right or simply being polite? What does their blank face really mean?

As an expat living in Israel, I have well and truly walked miles in the shoes of not being sure that what I was saying was correct or taken the right way. Slowly, I became accustomed to the differences – Israeli directness is a biggie! – and as I learned the language and the subtleties in it, I began to recognize when an expression might actually be offensive rather than complimentary.  I got more comfortable with the fact that Israelis use their hands to gesture a lot and that this is not a bad thing, whereas Americans are much more still when they speak.

There are culture gaps not only between different nationalities but also in different businesses. Hollywood has a particular culture and if a writer has a pitching opportunity, whether at an event or in a meeting, it is important that you adjust your expectations.  Start Up and entrepreneurs also have a world quite their own.

I am fascinated by the similarities between start up entrepreneurs and the business of Hollywood. Both are high risk, high stakes, rarefied environment and both have distinct cultures.

A standout similarity – the defining similarity really – is that whether your are pitching a script idea, a manuscript for a novel, or a new technology or app – you have to explain something a bit vague in a  very specific way. You have to take the information in your head about how great your new application or technology is, or how fascinating your novel will be and why so many people will love it, and articulate that quickly and simply.

This is not easy and definitely a skill that increases with experience.

If you are the person pitching in the meeting, it is important that you allow the person you are meeting with to take the lead socially.

When in Rome is the operative term.

Do they want to have small talk for a bit? Okay, then do that. Do they want to get right down to it? Be prepared to do that as well.

Whether you write, code or invent new technologies, in a meeting you have a new role – you are a salesman. If the person who called you for the meeting asked you to take off your shoes and sit on a tatami mat while pitching – you’d do it. Because this is about sales. And sales is about listening and observing.

[I trust that you already know your story or your pitch/product COLD*]

*Cold means “perfectly”.

You don’t want to be  in a meeting and not know what the executive is referring to when they say they will “pass” your project “up”. What do they mean? Pass it up like forget it, like passing up more creamed spinach? No. They mean pass your project UP to the next higher person in the pecking order. A decision maker.

You don’t want to be in a meeting and not understand when someone refers you to an “accelerator” either.

But what if you still don’t get it?

Listen and watch for context. You might figure out the meaning very quickly. If a person is “passing up” your project or script, maybe they DO mean they are not interested.  Can you observe their tone of voice, body language and other contextual hints that what they are saying is positive or negative?

Your ability to roll with the conversation in a meeting is important.  A successful meeting depends on establishing a rapport – an ease – with the decision maker.

  1. Take your cues from the person who called the meeting. Small talk? Okay. No small talk, fine. Be flexible and let them lead the dance.
  2. Look for verbal and visual cues – leaning closer to you, a lot of direct eye contact and gesturing usually connotes real interest.  Listen for the tone of voice, is it tense or relaxed?
  3. Do your homework and know some of the buzz words in your pitch.

For you entrepreneurs out there, here is a link to commonly used “around the office” buzzwords and phrases. They aren’t all that exotic – but do you know what someone means when they say they want to “drill down” on something? It means to get more specific.  Here is a glossary of Start Up words and expressions. 

For writers, here is a dictionary for the “language” used in Variety, the granddaddy of Hollywood trade rags that developed its own language over time. Here also is a glossary of screenwriting terms. Know these words.

Wherever you live and whatever you are pitching – a new interior design, an amazing new technology for which you are trying to get funding, a great script idea for the next blockbuster script – human behavior is similar world and industry wide, unless you live under a rock, your intuition will tell you whether the person in the meeting is liking what you are saying, merely being polite and getting through the meeting, or out and out disinterested. It isn’t rocket science.

The key is to be prepared, flexible and observant.

And get help. You might just need it.