The following is a guest post from Jason McDonald, Director of StringCan Interactive Paris, StringCan Interactive is a digital strategy and consulting agency that helps European startups gain access to the US market, with offices in Scottsdale, Arizona and Paris. You can follow StringCan on twitter at @StringCanEU.
The “Can I Work With This Guy?” Test
Any salesman will tell you how important it is to pass the “Can I work with this guy?” test if you are going to be successful in sales. What is the “Can I work with this guy?” test you may ask? It’s that moment when your potential client or partner is trying to decide if you can be trusted, if you understand their needs, and if you are going to be enjoyable to work with. It can be extra hard to pass this test if you don’t even share the same culture or nationality. As an American in Paris trying to pass this test every day, I feel your pain. In an attempt to help, I have assembled 5 simple hacks to help any European founders Americanize as quick as possible.
(If you would like to return the favor and help me become more French, leave your advice in the comment section or Tweet your suggestion @JMcDonaldIntl with the #Frenchify)
Salesmen tend to be outgoing, easy to talk to and knowledgeable in connectable subjects like sports, pop culture and current events. The reason good salesmen study up on these subjects is because often times knowing how the local teams are playing, having seen the recent viral video and knowing about the local mayoral election is key to passing the “Can I work with this guy?” test. Being able to connect and share common ground when you are selling your product, building a partnership or securing fundraising is key to your business success.
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with Marc Fournier, Managing Partner of Serena Capital. While speaking about companies in his portfolio that are expanding to the US, Marc said something to this point: “You have to Americanize yourself from the first day . . . it’s about knowing that the Red Sox are not going to qualify for the playoffs this year . . . it’s part of the business cultural exchange, if you don’t know what the 49ers are doing this year it’s hard to do business in Silicon Valley.” As a Franco-American with almost two-thirds of Serena’s portfolio in the US, Marc is in a unique position to speak on this point.
5 Simple Hacks to Help You Sell More in the US
You’re a founder, and I know you’re busy growing a global business. So here are 5 easy hacks to Americanize yourself in a few hours a month. If you start consuming the content on a regular basis from 2-3 suggestions listed below you will be so Americanized you will fly back to Paris from the states wearing loose fitted jeans, a polo shirt and running shoes in no time. And more importantly, you’ll be passing the “Can I work with this guy?” test in the US.
1) Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Politics with a lot of Humor
Even though Mr. Oliver is British, this alumni of the iconic Daily Show has created a weekly 30 minute TV show on HBO that touches on the top stories affecting the US from the week’s news and digs deep into one or two issues with real humor and insight. He uses and lot of pop culture references to explain and cover hard-hitting issues in the world like LGBT rights, the migrant crisis and American televangelist. His show is a great way to stay up to date on current US events and pick up some pop culture references at the same time – event though most Europeans can’t get access to HBO you can watch a lot of his show on his YouTube Channel
2) ESPN Sports Center Will Keep You From Striking Out
Every American sports fan salivates like one of Pavlov’s dogs when the opening Sports Center jingling “Da da dun, Da da dun” plays on a nearby TV. With over 50,000 episodes since its 1979 debut, Sports Center (SC) is how a lot of American sports fans get their sports highlights and updates. If you are having a beer and wings in an American sports bar, there is a very high chance that one of the TVs will be playing Sports Center. If you aren’t in the US to watch SC, you can sign up for the station’s daily newsletter called “The Rundown” to help you follow US sports.
3) Learn American Sports and You’ll Score a Touchdown
Baseball and American Football will be a big part of your Americanization process. Baseball has been America’s past time for more than 100 years, and college and professional football have become cult-like religions in many cities where churches lay empty during football season and stadiums fill up every game. I know these foreign sports don’t make any sense to most European’s so here is a Football and Baseball video to help explain two American obsessions. Go Cards!
4) Don’t Go to Bed, Watch Late Night TV
It was hard to choose one late night show to recommend because there are three amazing late night shows on American television today and I like each of them. There is The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show Staring Jimmy Fallon, and Jimmy Kimmel Live. All three of them are great, but if I had a gun to my head I would have to go with Fallon. His show is the easiest to watch if you are in France, as the French TV channel MCM recently secured the rights to show it, meaning you can watch Jimmy every week night in France. You may have already seen him come across your Facebook feed rapping with Justin Timberlake or playing a game called Phone Booth with Hugh Jackman and Shaquille O’Neal. These shows will be your American pop culture boot camps as you laugh along the way.
5) Meet the Locals
I have had the opportunity to move and travel a lot and I have found the best way to learn about a culture and its people is to be around locals when they are having fun. An efficient quick way to do this if you are new to a city is to join a sports team, poker night, pub trivia team or any other gathering of locals having fun. When I moved to Germany, I joined a soccer team to quickly improve my German and as a bonus I also accumulated a dozen new drinking buddies. When I moved to Paris, I started a poker night and now have a robust diverse network of Paris buddies. There is no substitute to spending time with locals outside of work to help you acclimate to a new culture.
Luckily, all 5 of these hacks are available in Europe, so start studying today for the US “Can I work with this guy?” test. You can even find a group of Americans in Paris to start hanging out with (we are everywhere!). Once you can easily pass the “Can I work with this guy?” test I recommend you read 4 successful approaches for European Entrepreneurs doing business in the US to take your American business skills even further. Good luck, and make sure to help me out with my French studying as well by leaving your advice in the comment section or Tweet your suggestion @JMcDonaldIntl with the #Frenchify.