I will go to the ends of the earth to find ways to improve communication and salesmanship, so I was delighted to be invited to Israel in July to be briefed by the crème de la crème of Israel’s intelligence community. Wall-to-wall meetings introduced me to 25 top strategists, military commanders and technology entrepreneurs. Why is the Israeli intelligence gathering so widely envied and emulated? Its discipline, attention to detail and passion are breathtaking. These same traits that distinguish Israel’s national intelligence program are easy to spot in the country’s economy, which is increasingly dominated by entrepreneurial, high-tech innovators in breakthrough industries like 3-D printing.
The high point of my visit was a rousing hourlong one-on-one with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In August 1999, I first met with Netanyahu when I was honored by the AISH Hatorah organization. After his first term as prime minister, Netanyahu had turned his attention to plans to retool Israel’s economy to its dazzling new look.
Before I began my recent meeting in the prime minister’s office, Ron Dermer, Israel’s new ambassador to the United States, confided in me: “Harvey, this is the first time in my career I’ve had a boss who works harder than I do. He’s simply 24/7.” I suspected I would be talking with a leader as dedicated to successful meeting preparation as I am. Netanyahu did not disappoint.
Time and again, I’ve emphasized how much any leader today has to be a consummate salesperson. Netanyahu may be unmatched in his salesmanship flair among the many senior statesmen I’ve met. He used his time with me to step through his national agenda with ease and impact.
Netanyahu’s account of whittling down tax rates and making telephone costs competitive was exact. His economics were as precise as his passion for preserving Jewish history was intense. The seemingly endless supply of facts and ideas made their mark. None, though, resonated as much as the fact that I was experiencing a gifted communicator at his best.
What made the prime minister’s communication so forceful yet appealing? I captured my reactions immediately after the meeting. I listed signature points that summed up Netanyahu’s expert communications command.
The first indications could be considered primarily stylistic:
• Firm handshake.
• Penetrating eye contact.
• Easy, laid-back humor.
• Modulated speaking, ranging from a haunting whisper to a bellowing laugh.
• Engaging smile.
These highly appealing trimmings only worked because the meat and potatoes of the prime minister’s comments were so solid. That’s where the second set of traits played such a powerful part:
• Authoritative command of content.
• Focus in clearly making each of his points.
• Passion for his messages.
• Conviction that his course was right.
• Confidence that he and his team knew how to prevail.
• Charisma in presenting his message so it registered on the emotions as much as intellect.
Guess what? You don’t need to clock time at the United Nations General Assembly to develop this sort of expertise. These are the same skills that are the stock-in-trade of communications training outfits like Toastmasters International and Dale Carnegie. Go investigate. Whether it’s widgets or world policy, salesmanship skills work wonders.
Mackay’s Moral: You don’t have to be a prime minister to be a prime mover.