Scaling B2B Software Sales in EMEA Markets

Get to see Sales Force Europe's CEO and Founder Rick Pizzoli at Slush talking about scaling B2B Software Sales in EMEA Markets.

You can reach him on  +34 659 449 202 (EU) or +1 415 595 3378 (US) or at

Video Transcript:

Hi. My name is Rick Pizzoli. I'm the CEO and founder of Sales Force Europe. So, today I'm going to talk about a dirty word, and that word is sales. You heard about it a bit in the last presentation, but a lot of people talk about strategy. A lot of people talk about disruptive technologies. People talk about fundraising. But not many people talk about sales. And I don't know why because without sales, you don't have revenue. Without revenue, you won't have a very successful company.

So, you spent years developing your technology and building your company, but how much time have you given to planning sales? And I don't mean that about thinking about sales, or talking about sales, or hoping for sales. But how much time have you sat down and documented your sales strategy, and followed that strategy?

So a bit about us. I founded the company in 2003. Since then, we have helped about 100 technology companies expand their sales efforts in Europe. Half of those companies were from Silicon Valley, opening up Europe and the other half were European companies, maybe starting in Finland, and helping them expand their sales reach across Europe.

Our team consists of 60 in-country account directors or account managers that are qualified per the sales target, the sales strategy of our clients. And they're contracted either on a full time, or on a shared resource basis for our clients. So we offer full service professional sales, everywhere from localizing the sales strategy of our clients for the local market, to closing the first customers, expanding the market and growing the business.

So the target verticals that we focus on are enterprises, telcob[SP] with hardware and applications, channel sales and consumer electronics. These are some of our Silicon Valley and US clients where we either manage their entire international sales team, or we work on a per country basis, growing market by market. We also have a very nice portfolio of Finnish clients. Many of them are here today. For example, if you logged onto the WiFi here, you probably saw a flash page from Expert Q asking for some feedback on the event.

So, why expand beyond your home market? Number one, if you left, if you stayed too long in your home market, you might start experiencing a flattening of your growth. Now, you can add new services to extend that a bit. But if you start early enough looking at international markets, you can really assure stable revenue growth. And number two, is your launch in your home market. You've built your brand. And You've built your identity. You've built your value proposition. And as you expand, you may be inclined to add new features, new applications. But in doing so, there's a risk of losing your focus, of trying to do too many things for too many people. And then when you do go international, it's that much harder to be successful. So our recommendation is stay true to your core. Really be the absolute best company that you can be, and take that company international. And you'll be much more successful in your expansion.

So, next question is when to go international? Well for one, be well established in your home market. Have a really solid product. Have a clear value proposition. As the last presentation, the value proposition of why somebody wants to buy your product. The value that you bring your customers. Understand that. Document it. Have a R-O-I, the actual numbers behind it. And number two, you need to have happy referenceable clients in your target verticals. If you don't have them in your home market, it can be really hard to expand to the next market.

Next, you need to have clear sales and marketing documentation on sales presentations, all the collateral ready. And lastly, you need to have clear operational processes. And so if you sell the client, you need to know how to support it, how to install it. Whether it's a direct sale or an indirect sale thru channels. All that operational processes need to be documented. And number two, you need to have management and investor commitment in expanding international. Moving to new markets is not a job that you can do on the weekends, or something you can do after hours. It takes full commitment from everybody inside the organization. And that includes sales, marketing, technology, operations, legal, finance.

Everybody in their organization has a role to play in the expansion. And it should really be dedicating 10%-20% of their time in international expansion process.So, in launching your home market you have the luxury of being both the developer and the integrator of your technology. The developer and the local integrator. But before you expand to international markets, you need to make the transition from being the integrator to a company that's offering package solutions. And this means clear products, clear product roadmap, technical documentation, technical training. Similarly, when it comes to selling in your home market, it's typically the founders that are doing the selling. They know the market. They're passionate about their business. They're closing customers that they typically know. but that's typically also all in their head. At some point, they need to get all that value proposition down on paper, down to some sales planning, and really evolve to being a professional sales company. And that need to be done really before they expand to international markets.So, where to go? Well, to start, make a plan.

Look at where you have current clients today. If you have clients in your home market, do they have international offices? Look at where your qualified leads are coming in today. Sit down with your marketing, and look over the past year, and do a matrix. Where have our qualified leads been coming in from? Look at the competition. How's the competition selling? If you have some stiff competition from the US, and they're landing in London first, expand in Europe. Go off to Germany, or France, or other Nordic countries.

Next is test your pitch in foreign markets, and be ready to adapt. Be ready to evolve or adapt the positioning for the target market. Your positioning and your sales pitch in Southern Europe may be about saving money, whereas in Germany, it may be about efficiency. So every market will have its subtleties. And next, first address accessible markets first. If you're a European technology company, expand first in Europe. It's easier to make mistakes locally when you can hop on a plane, and fix something in an hour, as opposed to making mistakes in Silicon Valley or Asia first. And next, when you do go international, fully engage the process. And that means not just sitting on Monday morning sales calls.

That means getting on the airplane, being involved with your sales team, being involved in the foreign markets, being involved in the prospects, and the clients, and the channels. It really takes active engagement to be successful.And last, give it time. It does take a year, a year before. Sometimes two years to really be successful in a new market. And you can break that down over quarters. And so the first quarter, really focus on closing your lead customer, even if you need to give it away.

Get the lead customer. Make them happy. Then on the second quarter, really focus on building your brands. Signing trial agreements. Signing channel agreements. And then really look to grow the revenue over Q3 and Q4.So, what not to do? Don't go elephant hunting. Just because you have closed some large companies in your home market doesn't mean you're going to be closing the large companies, at least to start with, in foreign markets. So really focus on addressable customers. Don't over invest before you've made a success. Again, the classic mistake that American companies make is they come over, put a big office in London before they know if the UK is even a market for them. Maybe they've arrived too early. Maybe they've arrived too late. So test the markets, get some sales, and then build the business around your business, around the revenue.So, strategic options to expand internationally. There's a number of options you can use.

Most companies will use a blend of these, and these may evolve over time. So, by starting, you may be flying back and forth from your home market. It's a great way to test your market and new markets, and to understand the demand from new markets. But you will be limited in your ability to penetrate new markets by flying back and forth. And also, if it's your management team doing that, they will lose focus potentially on building the business.Next is signing channels. It's a great strategy. But signing channels is not a free way to expand your sales. Somebody still needs to be there closing the lead customers to make sure that the channels are even interested in working with you. Somebody needs to hand select those channels. Somebody needs to do the technical training, the sales training. And that's typically best done by having somebody on the ground in those markets.

Next, opening up foreign offices. A great way to show commitment, support your accounts. But do so, once you have some revenue to justify it.And lastly, the service of contracting with on demand sales professionals is a method to grow. Now the benefits of that can be faster time to market, lower risks, cost savings, and having people on your team that are really well qualified for your target verticals and your sales strategies. So, to go a bit in depth on that, if your employing local teams, and you're opening up offices, it's expensive. There's budgeting, you rent an office, you're recruiting, you're hiring recruiters, you're flying back and forth. It can take six to twelve months to that process before you're even engaged in the market. Whereas if you worked with a contract team, you can, from the word "go," you can have a team up and running, and selling within a month to two months. And that really gives you a six to twelve month jump on the competition.

So, in many cases, it's really success is about beating your competition to market and also on cost. By opening up offices and recruiting people there's a lot of up front cost, a lot of flying back and forth. Whereas, on a contract model, most contractors work on a fixed fee and a commission. So you really have a block of cost upfront that you can save pulling that R-O-I much sooner, much more forward.And lastly, if you're working with account directors, they will be qualified per your target verticals. They will know your target space. They will be working in your target country. And if you're working with a larger sales agency, quite often there's additional support that will be available in those local markets.

So it will be management support, marketing support, sales engineering support. So that, coupled with the support that you're getting from your home office, remember all the different departments, really is what it takes to be successful. So they're saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." We say, "It takes a village to really be successful in a foreign market."So lastly, I'd like to talk about a case study, our client Live Fire. It's a very hot, well funded Silicon Valley company. They've closed some of the biggest publishers in San Francisco and the US. But they were struggling closing deals in Europe. They were flying back and forth getting meetings, but they weren't closing the deals. And they were at a quandary because they knew the market was hot, and they knew they needed to move fast. But they didn't want to lose time by hiring people.

So, we met with them in April of 2013. Within four weeks we had qualified a team, signed agreements, agreed on objectives, trained the team. And by May, they were engaged in selling in the UK. Within three months, by August, we'd closed Time Out Magazine for three hundred thousand dollars and really started the momentum in the market. Then we closed the Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, Hay Market, Sky News. By the end of the year, we had closed a million dollars worth of revenue, expanded the European team. And now, we're at about five million dollars in revenue, and we've expanded the sales effort into Asia and Latin America. Now, really the two take-homes from this were Live Fire, as a company, were laser focused on publishers.

They could have gone after brands, they could have gone after gaming. But publishers was really what they did best.And so, when we qualified our team, we qualified people that had years of enterprise sales experience selling into the publisher market. So when they arrived in the UK, they knew the targets, they had personal relationships with these people. And we were really able to gain momentum in the market, and close a majority of the businesses we went after. And number two is we beat the competition to market. We got there early. If we weren't starting in May, somebody else would have closed Time Out.

Somebody else would have gotten the momentum in the market and closed EFT and other markets and other lead customers.

So that's it for my presentation. Thank you for your time.

Speaker: One question

Yona: Hi. I'm Yona Labolte. Thanks for your presentation.

Speaker: Sure.

Yona: I really liked the things you mentioned there. I have one question regarding contracting versus going to the foreign market by yourself. So, can you see that there could be a problem in the commitment if you used a contracting strategy like, How to make them as committed to your product as you are, yourself and if you go there by yourself?

Speaker: Sure. We're not talking about outsourcing your sales. We're talking about contracting with senior specialists in your vertical. And that can be done full-time. So, to the visibility of the market, there's no difference. It's just a paper. So they're on a contract, and they're not on local employment. So, we have full-time contractors that have been with our clients for years. So the difference is, you're not stuck with European labor laws. You're not stuck with expensive hiring and firing. You're bringing on very senior people, people that may not want to work full-time. They want to work as a contractor, but they can do that for a very long time.

If you don't have the money for a full-time person, you can do a shared resource. So, maybe it's half-time on your product and half-time on somebody else to test the market. But these are professional people. They do this for a living. And their commitment is to make it a success.

Yona: All right. Thanks for your answer.

Speaker: Sure. Thank you very much. We're at the investor's section in area seven if anybody wants to stop by and say, "Hi." Thank you.

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