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How Israelis can leverage their communication with US Stakeholders

Following the last two years serving as Israel’s innovation attaché in Boston, as part of Israel Foreign Ministry, a period in which I have met multiple stakeholders in different industries and advised Israeli companies regarding market expansion and business strategy to further strengthen the economic collaborations between Israel and the US, I would like to share some of my insights that can help you make the most from your personal meetings, improve your communication skills, support your professional goals and strengthen your network while operating in the US and adjusting to a new business culture. This adjustment is vital for business success whether you are a founder looking for an investment or a senior executive looking to advise a new customer. Those communication tools are relevant for every individual in every industry and at any stage of your career and although are not a guarantee to achieve your goals, it can definitely be a game changer and benefit your objectives if implemented correctly.

Success usually starts with small steps

Success can start with a few small steps like creating a connection on LinkedIn or exchanging business cards in a networking event. The fact that people dedicate time for you and are willing to allocate 30 minutes or one hour, setting up an appointment with you, suppose to give you a shot of boost to your self-confidence and make you understand that you’re on the right track towards success. Those initial connections are the ones which provide the opportunity for every individual, whether it’s a beginner, intermediate or an executive, to expand the business network and find new partners or potential customers on a way to obtain growth and gain experience.

Show your strengths and added value

Do you have a rich and diverse network? mention some connections you have during the meeting that are related to the topics discussed. It doesn’t mean you need immediately to offer introductions but it can increase the curiosity during the conversation in different ways such as: “Wow this man is highly connected and has a diverse network”… or “He/She knows interesting and senior people”. or “Perhaps some of them can benefit me and my business”? This might be a good reason for both parties to keep in touch with you and this can help you make a positive impression during the conversation.

Conduct market research on the individual you meet

Think about the identity and professional background of the person you meet – this will require you to be prepared in advance and  to “do your homework” about that person, learning things like: Which company does he work for? What industry is he involved in? What type of education does he/she have? What achievements/previous projects has he led? The more you know, the more positive impression you make on your counterparts. In addition, this also enables you to make the conversation more productive for you since your questions and answers will be well adapted to the people you are communicating with and you can increase your chances for a follow-up meeting. People know to identify quite easily when you didn’t make the proper preparation for the meeting and on the other hand when you are highly engaged and confident in your interaction.

Remain Humble when addressing investors

Allow the person speaking to finish without interruption and listen carefully when they speak. Sometimes it’s good to be silent and remain humble. For example, when an Israeli CEO or a Founder pitch to an investor hopefully to get an investment for his/her startup it is usually recommended by local investors to keep it short and avoid bragging and being too arrogant about your product because that is usually a deal breaker from the US Investor point of view. Especially if it’s an introduction meeting and the first time you meet one another. Always show respect and this eventually creates anticipation and interest among other people sitting in front of you.

Avoid excessive talking

When you talk too much, other people get tired and lose track on your remarks and this can create a negative impression regarding your character – Something that you don’t want to happen. For example, I met someone who talked too much about his role at the current VC he works at, and when I wanted to respond, he barely allowed me to speak but also didn’t really listen. I felt it according to his body language and lack of patience. I personally really get deterred from this type of communication. You can make a comment or ask a question but do it in a way that won’t make him/her think that you are disrespectful, for example: “it really rings a bell”… or “I just met him as well “… or “I have recently worked on a similar project”…

Mention topics that serves your interests

Even if you feel that the conversation is “going” to a path that doesn’t align with your goals, try to make a connection, and suggest a related topic that better serves your interest. For example, if the person talking with you starts to talk about a technology or an industry that you aren’t familiar with, you can try to think of who you met that worked in this industry or an event you participated that this topic was mostly discussed there, and then mention it and make the connection to the topic you just talked about.

Don’t underestimate the location of the meeting

You might think that the location of the meeting is not of the highest interest, but sometimes it can have an impact on your personal feeling throughout the meeting. For example, I tend to meet people in a place with more people around like a coffee shop. It makes the atmosphere more loose and less formal and therefore you feel more comfortable during the conversation talking about different things more openly. On the other hand, usually I am less fund of having a meeting in a firm’s office, not because I think that is wrong but because it tends to make me feel more stressed and that I need to fit myself to a certain pattern that resembles the specific working environment. It also related to the fact that unlike coffee shops, there aren’t additional people presence nearby, and it’s basically only you and the person or people you meet. Perhaps when you meet a group of people it can be a better idea to meet in their office since then the time each one talks divides more equally and it helps to create a more friendly vibe.

Finally, and to summarize it all up: bear in mind the fact that communicating and doing business in Israel is different in many aspects of the way you conduct business within the US. You don’t need to be an expert in every single detail to conduct a productive conversation with someone that has a different business mentality than yours. Instead, you need to be an active listener and suggest relevant insights that intertwine with the flow of the conversation and help promote your interests.  All in all it’s a never ending journey of learning and I can honestly say that with every interaction I continue discover fascinating ways to leverage my communication skills since we all differentiate from one another and therefore we need to adjust to each individual in a unique way. On the long term you will feel that it has a great impact on your communication with your family and friends as well.

About the Author
Eli has a proven track record with more than 10 years of experience in, business development and strategic partnerships both in government and the private sector, most recently overseeing the Innovation segment at the consulate general of Israel to New England in Boston, Promoting International Collaborations between Israeli Tech companies with the New England ecosystem in different industries, consulting early-stage startups penetrating the US market and conducting business events showcasing Israeli Innovation.
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