Sales representatives are usually the first hire in any new market, making them your most important hiring decision that can make or break your upscaled expansion to the European tech market. Customer-facing and on the ground, sales reps are the main representatives of your new product, your brand and your company. International sales representatives build and sustain your company’s good reputation abroad, so it’s important to choose your team wisely, and aim to hire the best.
But how do you hire local sales representatives in Europe, when you live and work elsewhere? Or maybe you just don't have the time to travel? Plus the ongoing pandemic and taking into account unnecessary travel. You want to tap into all the new opportunities possible in Europe and generate and close sales fast — so you need a good team fast.
What’s the best method to hire sales agents with the same good qualities of your existing team, when you may not get to share their hands? What makes for a successful sales representative recruitment process in Europe? Here’s how to hire and build a quality sales team, compliantly, even if remotely.
Keep the quality with your outsourced sales team
You already have a great sales team working for you and promoting your brand, and you want the same quality of driven sales agents in Europe with that proven level of success to continue to promote and sell your products. You don’t want to drop the ball by stumbling into a new European market with a team of less-than-perfect sales representatives. You know what works already for you and for your brand, so you need to convert that same winning formula in a new European location. The bottom line is you want to hire a sales rep who is exactly right for the job, even if you’re not there to physically bump elbows. Try following these guidelines for hiring sales representatives, in order to maintain a level of quality:
- The sales hunter. Someone that’s naturally good at selling. Yes this sounds obvious, but a smooth and compelling sales representative, enthusiastic and with a charismatic personality is a defining quality that can be hard to look for. They should have a proven track record and a desire to learn about your addressable market. They should be able to charm you, even over Zoom.
- The inquisitor. They need to be animated about the future of tech, your vertical, and about your brand, so they will be really interested in your product and passionate about pushing it to their home markets.
- KPI-driven. Will they be focused on the set goals and targets and well-versed in what methods and strategies lead to the most successful sales? Especially when talking about sales outsourcing, this is essential because you can’t improve what you can’t measure, and you need to be sure to have a transparent, metrics-backed relationship from the start.
- With high EQ. AKA emotional intelligence. A sales agent who can follow your set processes and go with the flow but also think outside of the box when it’s called for. Using common sense to adapt where necessary. An on-the-ground and roll-up-their-sleeves type who can be a self-starter at the outset, but also a team player as your success in a new market grows and you are able to scale up your team — something that’s easily accomplished with an outsourced sales agency.
- The human touch! Yes, sales agents should be driven, but conversely have that empathy and understanding with potential customers. Driven shouldn’t mean arrogant and while you need someone who will have an insatiable appetite for results, they must be good listeners too. Core skills are just as important as drive and the best salesperson will deliver both. Closing a sale means being able to catch your customer on a personal level and understanding their needs, before positioning your product as the best and right choice.
- An old hat. How experienced are your prospective sales representatives? At least ten years’ experience selling tech locally is usually required for field sales, less for inside sales — usually a minimum of five. Understand what level of experience for your sales team suits your expansion and plan accordingly. Budget will determine and drive seniority, but local market knowledge is not negotiable and seasoned field sales representatives are the way to go.
- The account-based communicator. Excellent communication skills are a given, your European sales agent should be able to ask great questions and take actionable steps. Can they convey all of this to a multi-level target audience? You need them to be able to relay results back to the rest of the team and ultimately to you. And of course, for most European countries, they need to communicate all this proficiently in the local language. And they need to be able to have easy conversations in your language.
- Committed af. Even if part-time. You need to be able to hire local sales representatives in Europe who will stay the course, be steadfast and trustworthy with impeccable business ethics. You need someone entirely loyal to your company and your brand. Someone who will stick fast when the going gets tough. In a fast-paced and competitive sales environment, you require reliable sales representatives who will take the initiative and have the ability to prioritize quickly and cleanly.
Five questions to recruit the best sales representatives
So, it’s time to get to know your prospective teamplayer, your new sales representative who will take you and your product into a new and competitive European market. You have a shortlist of suitable people who know those local markets, and have been selling technology products successfully on the ground and in the local language for at least a decade. What are the right questions to ask in order to recruit the best of the bunch? We know that generic doesn't cut it, you need specific questions to fit your business mold and buyer persona. A mixture of industry-specific and behavioral questions should provide you with an all-round impression of the prospective candidate. Here are five good questions to ask:
- What is more important: To sell a product or to understand the customer to sell the right product? Johannes Durstberger says either answer is okay, depending on whether you are selling a product or a solution.The answer will tell you where their focus is at, and that they have researched and understand your vertical. Asking them to describe your company will also let you know that they have at least done their homework before the interview. Just selling is not enough, passionately selling your product is the bottom line.
- Who would you make contact with within a target org? How high do you think you need to go to pitch? The answer to this will show you how confident the potential sales agent is talking to the person at the top, or whoever they really need to reach out to in order to win new business. They can shoot for the right decision maker or makers.
- How many people do you contact within one org before qualifying an SQL? Basically you’re figuring out if they already need that one ideal customer profile delivered on a silver platter, or are they prepared to cast a wider net to find the buyers who really need what you are selling? You need to be convinced that your potential hire will not confine themselves to one door hoping to be let in. Successful sales agents will cast a wide net in order to find the buyer who really needs your product. A lot of our larger-ticket SaaS and telecommunications clients take an account-based approach to close a deal. The right local sales rep will understand the needs to talk to multiple decision makers.
- How do you approach the engagement with a new lead? “I expect their response to be about listening to the business problem that the lead has in order to identify what value we can provide,” wrote Miguel Rosado Boulet, enterprise account executive at Adobe. This is a good way to ensure your future sales representative is all about understanding and supplying solutions to the customer, layering value as well as building your company a good reputation as a good listener.
- Tell me about a really challenging sales opportunity. Nick Adams, VP of sales at our partners Globalization Partners, covers off on a potential hire’s acuity with his line of questioning: "I would usually ask them to recap a story about a challenging sales opportunity: What was the situation? What were the blockers? How did they overcome this? I'd be looking to see how they used their skills, acumen, how they leveraged their organization and resources to find success."
Compliance and hiring sales agents in Europe
Deciding to hire in-house requires careful consideration and research. There are plenty of local labor laws and rules to hurdle, as well as cultural nuances, and of course the obvious language barriers. Europe may be homogenized — one set of rules for all 27 countries — but it’s vital to also remember that Europe is a continent with almost double that number of countries speaking more than 20 languages. What else should you know about sales and marketing in Europe before you go?
- Keep it low-risk and investigate the financial stability of the European country you have chosen for your business expansion.
- As well as native languages, be aware of co-official languages, for instance, selling in Galician, Basque or Catalan will often have more impact in those areas of Spain than Castilian Spanish. There are three official languages in Luxembourg alone, German, French and Luxembourgish, but Benelux — which often one sales rep could cover the three countries — is often welcoming of being sold to in English.
- Communication and social platforms might well be a database of prospective clients, but which ones should you use? LinkedIn may well do at home and is a platform of choice for many countries, but if you’re planning your expansion to France then you’ll need to be familiar with Viadeo, in Germany with XING, and in Poland with GoldenLine.
What’s first? European lead generation or European sales reps?
Speed is of the essence and you want to generate sales fast. The competition is often working just as hard as you are to break into the same European market. So what’s the best way to approach this? Should you establish lead generation or go straight in with a new team of sales agents? One of your main concerns is to minimize risk, and you don’t want to go in guns a-blazing and find that you’re outplayed in your new market.
Planning is everything. Target the right tech customers as your first move. Forget one-size-fits-all content and go for a more targeted approach with multichannel lead generation. Leverage outsourced direct marketing services and B2B lead generation from content specialists to researchers in order to ensure you’ll have more qualified projects in your funnel. Then you’ll communicate the right message to the right audience from the get-go. Build first on your marketing strengths and, once your B2B lead generation is ready, they will in turn feed the outsourced sales agents who sell SaaS to those qualified prospects — and turn them into buyers. Strong, qualified leads turn into signed deals.
Permanently hire local sales reps versus an outsourced sales agency
This leap into a new market in Europe leads to a lot of questions. Likely, you will hire local sales representatives first in order to test how well your product will do. To find them, you need to be able to locate the right local fit. It can be a headache. There may be issues with travel, especially right now.
Sales outsourcing will do it all for you pain-free, involving you at the planning stages and beyond. An outsourced sales agency will build a scalable European team of sales representatives without the requirement for you to travel — or, when you’re ready to travel, your new sales reps can already be introducing you to customers.
Sales outsourcing allows you to easily tap into a new customer base and reach out across language barriers with your business and product. Support is provided from start to finish. You will avoid bad hires — but also have the ability to change quickly in response to the market — and lower your risk by the avoidance of compliance restrictions. You speed past the traditionally lengthy recruitment cycle.
Choosing to use an outsourced sales agency will ultimately allow you to increase your speed to market, safe in the knowledge that you can build a world-class sales team with low-risk and with compliance.