Say What?? It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It.

  • Scope:
  • Culture and People

The Reckoning

It’s been over two years since I came to Poland from working in the US. I never had the intention of staying, but there is so much going on and the momentum taking over the country, especially on the startup front, is vertiginous! So I had to stay. Besides, Wroclaw is just awesome.

My first job here was overseeing the international exposure of one of Poland’s best video games ever (no, not The Witcher) Dying Light, with Techland. It was an amazing experience, but it was then when I started noticing something, that even though English was very well spread in Poland, there was something missing.

During that time I met a few people involved in the startup scene and they invited me to share with them my own experiences of doing business overseas, which I’ve been doing for over 15 years.They organized monthly meeting where companies or startups get to pitch their ideas, advances or new products. All these guys spoke English, some almost sounded like natives, other…not so much.

But the problem was there again. It was not a wording issue or the actual language, it was the lack of exposure to other cultures, the little knowledge of how people in England, Ireland or the US actually relate and do business, how they truly communicate.

The words were there but the message was lost in a very long series of unuseful data, technical details, and just an awkward delivered pitch. It was not an accent or a proficiency matter, but a cultural one. In my opinion, this has a huge influence on why Polish companies are not becoming the next unicorn or at least a fancy pony.

During my time helping startups in Poland I did get to see people with great communications skills, but more than a few were acting like a character from an 80’s bad American movie, their words and body language were almost a caricature of what a yuppie entrepreneur was, including LOTS of curse words with absolutely no reasons to be used.I will never forget one of the speakers calling the people in the audience Motherf*****s just to emphasize on his point, something that it did not go well to be honest. This alone deserves a full blog post.

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This is one of the main reasons why the companies are stuck here, with little chances of truly breaking into an international market and become the next Skype or Spotify. Not because you can speak a language it means that you can communicate effectively, or worst, that you can sell in that language.

Things are changing for sure, but most Polish entrepreneurs I’ve met are selling their ideas wrong. They are doing more talking than listening. They want to make sure their breakthrough technology and EVERY single detail is out there in one hour long speeches.If there is something I learned by working in many different countries and with many different cultures is that you are going to learn and achieve more by listening than by talking.


Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

When I joined Tooploox in 2016 I had to face a very similar challenge, We needed to figure how to talk to our overseas clients. Together with the Business and Marketing team, we needed to create a way of talking that was different from our competitors and also easy to listen by customers in countries like the US and England.

There is a huge market of “software houses”, outsourcing agencies, team aggregation, people leasing, etc. And it’s not only Poland; Ukraine, India, Belarus, Russia and many others, they are all competing to get a piece of the tech pie cooking in Silicon Valley. But most of them have an almost identical approach, they leave out the value that they can provide and focus on benefits like rates, speed, and perks that, even though are sought, are not what the decision makers are looking for. Our voice needed to be contrasting. Customers in these countries want the solution, want the pain reliever straight up, without all the sugarcoating but they also want to see an equal in the other side, an honest transparent person, they can smell the business BS a mile away and they avoid it at any cost. All your growth hacking techniques will not do much on a face to face meeting. Since the origins of Marketing, it’s always been about talking to your customer one on one, from a real person to another, a message that is relatable, or what trends call now: “H2H” (human to human) marketing.

In Tooploox our homework was to look back and see how did we become the fastest growing company in Poland (2017), how did we sign most of our clients. We also looked at how other companies are talking and see how can we create a message that was not the usual blurb, but something else. Through our retrospective, we figure that our best sales pitch was not to have a sales pitch at all. Let me explain: every success we had, came from a casual coffee with a client, sharing common grounds, a “comparing notes” meeting where we subtly displayed our achievements and success stories and how it fits within their plans. So why not make it our official style, our voice. We looked at how companies communicate in the markets we wanted to get into and created a no-sale strategy or basically way to start a true relationship.

Since then our approach has become to be as transparent as we can, show the value of our company through our team and their accomplishments. We do not talk about rates or times, we talk about goals and dreams and how our customers are changing and shaping the future through emerging technologies. We do not have native content writers, our content comes within our own team and even when the language is not all the time spot on, the intention of our people to share knowledge and experiences is something our clients can not only see but feel and appreciate. We are not an American or English company, and having an office in a different country will not make us a different company. We ditched the idea of speaking in a way to make us sound more “Amerikan” in order to relate to the markets, instead, we focus on showing what’s the real value we provide and that we have all the time in the world to listen and understand our client’s needs. We might not close our deals through our webpage but we give more value to doing it during a lunch or a drink or during a visit to our client’s countries.

Is not a finished strategy, is a work in progress like everything in Marketing. But seeing that our customers are returning to us and recommending us to others, shows that is the right direction.

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