A lot of people are comparing Brexit to Donald Trump’s victory; I thought we’d take a break from that and instead compare selling software and/or technology in Europe to selling it in the U.S. (we could all use a slight mental break from the election!)
I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in California, work for 1 year in Apttus’ San Mateo office, and transfer over to our London HQ, where I’ve been based for the past 18 months.
Drawn directly from my time working in business development, channel sales, and go-to-market, here are the major differences I’ve noticed in selling, and some tips on how you can succeed in technology sales in both the US and Europe.
*there will obviously be exceptions to these and are based purely on my experience
Do you like numbers, or do you like a vision?
Europeans won’t bite if you tell them a story, wow them with visuals, or pitch a vision of transformation. You need to provide numbers, metrics, and a clear cut business case. How exactly will your solution affect their top and bottom line? Who did you deliver that success for in the past? It’s highly likely you will have to “defend” the numbers you present as well, so make sure you have the data to back it up.
American audiences are more receptive to vision alignment as a method of selling; they want to hear the story, see the journey, and care about innovative technologies. Don’t disregard the business case with Americans however, but accompany it up with a transformation journey that will inspire them.
Europe and America are both big, but which is more diverse?
Whether you call it EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) or EALA (Europe, Africa, and Latin America), you are dealing with a sales territory of 50+ distinct countries, 4 continents, and close to 2000 native languages. Yes, most people speak English but multi-language sales support adds a huge amount of trust and credibility with your European customers. Even for English speakers, you will need to show that you’ve sold, delivered, and had success with clients in that particular country – Germany for example, is particularly specific about needing German client references in order to make a decision on you as a vendor. This can go as far as requiring regional data centres, so your customers can sleep well knowing their data is locally stored, compliant with EU law, and matches their country’s specific data laws.
While both EMEA and AMER companies have customers who are global, you are much more likely to find European companies who require multi-region, multi-currency, and multi-language support for the products and services they purchase from you – purely because of geographic proximity to other countries.
Where is the Silicon Valley of Europe?
Having grown up in Silicon Valley, I can tell you that fast-paced innovation, risk-taking behaviour, and an almost rebellious faith in entrepreneurship is not universal across the world. Technology saturation in U.S., largely driven by densely innovative cultures of California and New York, means that your customers and prospects are quite familiar with SaaS, machine learning, or even trusting small start-ups to get the job done. Those factors mean that your U.S. customers will have less aversion to “Big Bang” approaches in transforming IT within their company.
European companies are slightly more risk-averse (hence the reliance on numbers/metrics), and more familiar with large consultant houses (Accenture, Deloitte, EY) handling technology projects. Once you’ve proven industry knowledge, regional customer credibility, and done the maths right, you will likely have to engage in a pilot or POC (proof of concept) while selling your technology; if you can handle a small number of users on a very specific use case, then that company will have more trust in your ability to deliver a large project.
Building a sales team (and a company generally) in our global world means hiring people who can pay attention to these differences, and quickly adapt based on their circumstances. If you get to travel a few places you haven’t been before along the way, even better!