The Subtle Art Of Dealmaking: Substrata, Adam Neumann, and Social Engineering


A successful dealmaker needs two things to push a sale forward: the right attitude and a reliable, cutting-edge tool. Having the most advanced solution enables dealmakers to gear up and prepare for the battlefield, and a strategic mindset easily seals the deal.

On today’s episode of Startups On Demand, I am joined by Ori Manor Zuckerman, Co-Founder and CEO of SubStrata, the first and only enterprise that develops Social Signal Processing Technology to analyze the dynamics that occur in negotiations, dealmaking, and sales. It’s specifically designed to perform an in-depth analysis of non-verbal social cues often displayed in one’s body language and voice. It covers deep learning, natural language processing, social science, psychology, linguistics, and cognitive science. 

Ori previously co-founded Unomy (Acq. By WeWork), Discovercloud, DiscoverSDK, Dadaviz (Acq by Vocativ), TierX Gamification, and Reimage

From SubStrata’s AI-powered technology to the qualities of a strong dealmaker, we’re giving you a snapshot of what every dealmaker should know to get their desired outputs.

Omri: You have a remarkable product that helps dealmakers close more deals and understand the non-verbal signals that are happening in conversations and emails. There are a lot of cool sales tools right now, but SubStrata is something we haven’t seen before. Can you explain to the audience what you guys are doing and what your intention is with the product?

Ori: In a nutshell, we’re helping dealmakers become more sensitive to nuances that can make or break any deal through emails, Zoom calls, and so on. Our special sauce is our ability to analyze both verbal and non-verbal aspects of communication. We call ourselves a behavioral intelligence platform because we take into account a lot of patterns that are embedded in the seller-prospect interaction.

Omri: You guys are not only documenting the conversation, but you’re also going beneath the surface in providing a bigger, broader landscape of what’s going on with the conversation. Where did the idea of SubStrata come from?

Ori: Transforming the art of sales into science is something that I think is a worthy goal, but most solution providers cling to face value. In essence, they use transcript-dependent technology. For example, they take a call, record it, transcribe it, and get a piece of text in the end. That piece of text is further cleaned out using NOP methods, and then they get this pristine piece of text. And then hook up to the CRM to find correlations. But it’s always problematic because that’s only at face value. In my opinion, what was missing was true meaning – interpersonal meaning. It’s not just the things made in context, which was semantics, but also what it means from a social perspective like sentiments and power dynamics. This is where there was a gap, and I decided to fill that gap with SubStrata.

Omri: What do you see are the real strong qualities of a strong dealmaker?

Ori: First of all, on top of having a fascination with their industry and really understanding their own product, great dealmakers love to research. They will take time to really understand who’s in front of them. Another thing is that great dealmakers are very savvy and they understand human dynamics. They’re focused on understanding influence even if they don’t have a lot of leverage. Another thing that I find surprising is that they’re not necessarily happy, jolly kind of people. A lot of older sales coaches talk about motivation, excitement, and being thrilled, but we see that it’s not always the case. There are power dynamics over the surface, and good dealmakers need to understand how they operate and what to do to build the right position to attract a prospect.

Omri: How can dealmakers build the nuance of balancing out being easy to talk with, and being an effective dealmaker?

Ori: The principles are very simple, but it takes a lot of training. The basics are not that complicated, but there are a lot of subtleties. I think the game of authority is something that people can understand but it becomes so subtle sometimes. You need to know how and when to respond, and you need to know how much power needs to be applied because if you hit too hard, you’re going to lose the deal. So it’s less about learning and more about training and being aware of those nuances. 

Omri: You’ve met Adam Neumann a few times. If you look at someone like him, what do you think he has specifically that works for him in terms of dealmaking?

Ori: A lot of things. He really knows how to create the right setup. All the things that happen before the meeting are critical. This is essentially building the platform from which you’re going to preach. He’s not just going to go out and do the deal. And when the engagement starts, he already has a lot of things stacked, which is a sign of a great dealmaker. On top of that, I think he has the right physical and mental traits. Physically, in a very simplistic way, he’s an impressive person. He has a great powerful voice. He’s using a lot of emotions when he speaks, so everything sounds so candid and real. I think the combination of having the right setup and physical traits gives him the edge. It’s less about tricks.

Omri: Most leaders like Marc Benioff and Larry Ellison talk about always having a vision in any kind of situation, and you should not let your emotions and other people’s emotions let you go off track. Do you think that knowing your desired outcome and detaching your emotions are a must in dealmaking?

Ori: Getting emotional is basically losing control, and letting the other party activate you in a way you don’t necessarily want. In face of resentment and tough negotiations, you should be cool.