American Business Culture Tips: Avoid Mistakes in US Business Deals

American business culture tips.

American business culture tips.

I remember when I started my business in France, and had to go out and find clients, it was a HUGE challenge. 

Finding clients in your own culture and language is already a challenge.

Add in hidden cultural differences and nuances, and the challenge can seem almost impossible. 

It may seem small, but often, it’s the little things that can make or break your business deals. 

Plus, almost every client I work with underestimates their importance. 

But mastering these subtleties leads to stronger relationships, more successful negotiations, and ultimately, more client deals. 

Get it right, and you can expect to get more clients and more revenue. (What we all want, right?)

Get it wrong, and you can expect frustration and failed deal after failed deal.

Unfortunately, many European entrepreneurs and businesses  struggle to grasp these cultural differences. And it kills their growth with US clients.

Why do they struggle?

Here are a few reasons why people fail to understand and leverage these cultural nuances:

  • Lack of exposure: Many haven’t spent enough time in the US to observe these subtleties firsthand.
  • Assumptions: Assuming that business etiquette is similar between the US & European cultures.
  • Communication styles: Misunderstanding American communication preferences, such as the emphasis on confidence and brevity.
  • Networking differences: Failing to adapt to the American way of networking, which is often fast, informal and personal.

Don’t worry! It’s literally my job to help you navigate these challenges and thrive in the American market.

Step 1: Understand the value of small talk

Small talk is a critical part of American business culture. It might seem trivial, but it builds rapport and trust.

It’s important because this sets the stage for more serious business conversations. Ignoring it can make you seem unfriendly or disinterested. 

On the other hand, if you talk for too long about the weather, sports, or whatever, it can feel like you’re wasting your American client’s valuable time. 

How to get it right? 

For example, start your meetings with light conversation about the weather, sports, or weekend plans, and then simply transition to business topics with “Anyway…” 

Earlier this week, I was working with a medtech company in Switzerland, and their sales guy said “I always feel bad about switching the conversation to business too soon, like I’m just here to make money.”

Having that magic transition word “Anyway…”, to talk business after a few informal small talk exchanges was going to be a game-changer, he said!

Step 2: Embrace direct communication

Americans appreciate straightforward and direct business communication. 

This can be quite different from more nuanced European styles, where things might be suggested, intentionally vague, or where everyone is expected to read between the lines.

Many European entrepreneurs go wrong by being overly diplomatic or indirect, too formal, too polite. Americans may perceive this as evasive, haughty, cold, distant, or even unfriendly. 

Instead, be clear and concise in your messages.

For example, if you need a decision, ask for it directly. 

Instead of:  “We might need to consider our options quickly so we can finish this as soon as possible,”
Say this:  “We need to make a decision on this by Friday to stay on track.” This approach saves time and demonstrates confidence and competence.

Step 3: Adapt your networking approach

Networking in America often involves a mix of professional and personal interaction. It’s not just about exchanging business cards but building genuine relationships.

This step is crucial because strong networks can lead to referrals, partnerships, and new opportunities. 

For the past few months, I’ve been doing a lot of networking: joining networks like the European-American Chamber of Commerce, or OSCI (Operators Specialized in International Commerce), attending events like VivaTech (and other smaller events), and reaching out to people that I see I can help. 

Pro-actively networking and taking the 1st step makes a HUGE difference.

And Americans are often business-oriented, so they understand that you’re connecting to explore business opportunities. 

That being said, it’s not just about “Hey, want to buy my service?” 

You’ll need to build a relationship, show them that you are useful and helpful, give them some kind of value, and then talk about how you can work together. 

A lot of people mistakenly think that Americans are ONLY about doing business, and it’s true that’s a big part of the relationship.

 But building a personal relationship first makes the business relationship more likely to happen! 

Make these adjustments in the way you approach your American prospects, and I promise you’ll start seeing smoother relationships and more business deals.

New & Announcements

  • My latest podcast episodes: 
    1. The English Conversation Club Podcast: The Global Entrepreneur’s Guide: Best Places to Set Up Your Business
    2. The American Market Alchemist Podcast: The Importance of ROI in Selling AI Solutions to Americans: Interview with Franziska Kirschner of Intropy AI

  1. Upcoming event: “The e-reputation of directors of the Rhone-Alps region”, on June 25. It’s an event I’m putting on with the European-American Chamber of Commerce, and the international advertising agency ABWA, and the event is here in Grenoble!. For more details, click here.

  2. Enrollments into my English Conversation Club will open again after the summer. If you need to become confident speaking English when you do business with Americans, get on the waitlist today.

That’s all for this week. 

See you next Thursday, 


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