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.
Contact me today for rates and availability.
Scroll down for blog posts on topics ranging from making great presentations to cultural differences between Americans and Israelis.
We talked about the lessons that Start Up Nation has for Hollywood but it definitely works both ways. Tinsel Town has some lessons for just about everybody, in fact. It is a great place to really practice the art of persistence.
It’s not personal. Your story, your idea, ergo your pitch, your innovation, yeah it’s great? But whether or not somebody else likes it is not personal. It simply the case that being on the receiving end of new ideas gets old. Your idea is not as new as you think. Trust me on this. So – don’t take it personally.
Show me the money. Show me the money, show me the money, show me the money. This is what you are after in your meeting. Show. Me. The. Money. Nothing short of that is a deal or a promise or even a hope. Be mercenary.
Give the people what they want. If this doesn’t make sense to you, you are in the wrong business – whether it’s the business of show, or the business of SELL. What do people WANT to see at the theater? What do people NEED in their lives? If you fancy yourself in any way above this way of looking at it, especially in your earlier, hungrier years – you are in the wrong business.
People want the same but different. Audiences love action films, as one example. They love them. So give them an action picture. With everything they expect – but with different details. If there’s already an app for texting? Give them another app for texting – that is different.
But – do not be ordinary. Steve Jobs gave the people what they wanted but he was far from ordinary. He raised the bar on personal computing – forever. Do not settle for being average. Understand average and then raise the bar for yourself.
No is a beautiful thing. Why? Because it makes you more determined to do even better. If “no” makes you quit? You were not cut out for a competitive business in the first place. Make every “no” count. Use it to make you stronger, smarter, more inventive, more determined. You only need one “yes”.
You read Your Meeting Isn’t About You – you did everything right, yet at some point during a meeting, you can tell that your listener has tuned out.
It might have also been a tone of voice that changed. A flatter tone, less enthusiastic, some “uh huhs” in there.
Whatever it is, you have the gut feeling – and you are right – that your listener is just putting in time until the meeting is over. It’s not a very good feeling.
Can you save this meeting? Maybe.
But not trying is not an option, right? You have a lot riding on this meeting. It was not easy to get. It could open doors for you.
One of two things is happening here, in this suddenly not-so-great meeting. Either a) your story, app, business idea is just not a match for the listener and his or her company or b) it could be but you’re not pitching it very well.
Without knowing, exactly, which is the case, your only option is to try to save the meeting and go for a successful outcome.
Here are a few things you can do to try to get the listener to engage once again with you and with what you are saying.
- Shift back to the sexy meta description – the big picture.
It could be that you’re gotten down in the weeds too quickly and stayed there too long. Details are not particularly interesting to listen to anyway, so try picking up your pace and returning to the major bullet points only. Leave the details for later.
Say this doesn’t work either. The attention is just not coming back. So here’s your next option:
- Stop talking.
Crazy, right? But no, just stop talking for a second. Then ask – do you have any questions about (something specific)? Or – is this a good time for this meeting? I know you are very busy, we can reschedule if that’s better for you. Engage your listener directly and get them to input – give them the opportunity to ask a question that might be the source of their attention drift – or to be honest and say “this is not for us”. Recently a start up friend of mine was pitching at an accelerator. Several of the listeners were texting. My friend labored on anyway, humiliated and unsure of what to do. I say – call them on it. “Is this a good time?” Get them to either say no, it’s not and reschedule OR to say look, yeah, this is not for us. To which you then…
- Ask your listener to do some talking.
Meaning – ask them – so what is it you are looking for, exactly? Oh you already have an app or a script or an innovation similar to this one? That’s funny because MY pitch is BETTER and here’s why. This requires some thinking on your feet. But really, you already know your pitch inside and out – and you are sitting in this meeting which tells me you’ve already had the passion and the commitment to get to this point, so I have to believe that you really do believe YOUR pitch IS better than others, no? And I know you’ve done your homework – you are aware of other similar story ideas or innovations. So you know the difference between your pitch and another one. This is the time to trot those differences out. Now.
Do not go easily into the night. But don’t be a rude freak either. If your listener leaves you an opening – any opening – take it. Grab an opportunity to keep pitching and to tailor that continuation to the reason (if you got it out of them) that your listener began to tune out. If your listener is emphatically done with the meeting, thank them politely with a big smile and make your exit gracefully. Don’t let them waste anymore of your time.
That’s right – YOUR time. Because you’ve got stuff to do. You’re going to get out of there and go over your meeting and try to rethink what didn’t go so well. You’ll do some tweaking, get some advice and go right back to lining up more meetings.
“If a story is not about the hearer, he will not listen.”
~ John Steinbeck
This great American author was talking about literature in this quote but really, this quote applies to just about all conversation. We pay special attention when what we are hearing concerns US in some way, right?
Have you ever endured having someone talk AT you rather than WITH you?
It’s exhausting. I hold that two of the most terrifying words in the world are:
Oh no, you think to yourself… there’s more… does this person not get that they lost my attention?
Your pitch meeting is not all about YOU. It is about the person listening too, isn’t it? It’s about getting them as excited as you are about your story – be it a new horror script you’ve written or a new smart phone application you’ve invented. This is ultimately a sales meeting, no?
A pitch – or any meeting, really – is not a one-way street.
Your pitch is really a conversation between you and someone else. Yes, a conversation in which you are giving information but you are indeed speaking to another human being, so act like it. No taking a big breath and just speed talking your way through your presentation. Slow down.
There are two important things to think about:
Learn to speak in a way that never allows the listener to wander out of the conversation and keep pretending to hear anyway.
Learn how to recognize when you’ve lost someone’s attention and how to bring the person BACK to the present moment.
The best way to really illustrate this point, I think, is to put yourself in the shoes of somebody who is listening to a pitch or presentation that isn’t executed all that well. How does it feel to be bombarded with information, to be talked AT and not to? Of course you tune out a little bit. And think about this: if you are taking a meeting with someone pitching or presenting, this is probably something you do a lot. So it can get old.
There is a paradox if you are a listener in these situations. First, you get jaded, you hear “great” stories and ideas and pitches all the time. But usually they aren’t that great.
But – here comes the paradox – you also don’t want to be the person who said “no” to something that turned out to be great, now do you? That’s a straight path to losing your job. So you’re torn. You want to love this idea but you get meeting fatigue. And most people pitching do a pretty terrible job, whether their idea is great or not.
But you, the person pitching – this is a big chance, right?! It’s huge! It could launch your company, make your innovation come to life, start a writing career! So your job is to not only pitch what you’re pitching well – but to do so in a way that is memorable and engaging for the listener.
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.
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?
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:
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.
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.)
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.