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“Opening a new region is like cutting the first piece of a cake,” my former boss, Cloudflare’s CRO, Chris Merritt, told me: “It’s going to be messy.” When I relocated from San Francisco to open Cloudflare’s EMEA sales office in London, I certainly made mistakes, and plenty of messes. What led to my ultimate success, however, was invaluable advice from peers who’d already wrestled with similar challenges and won. Below is a list of Dos and Don’ts from sales leaders who successfully scaled sales orgs into Europe.

DON’T: Enter a market too quickly. As Snowflake’s EMEA business scaled from 0 to 800 customers and 300 employees, Thibaut Ceyrolle opened each region by first selling into the geography remotely, and then making a senior local hire to build out a local team, “You should sell into a market from a distance before jumping straight in with an office. You don’t know what the local challenges will be, and you won’t be able to recruit the right talent without a country manager who candidates respect. In order to get the right country manager to bet their career on you, you need some customers in the region to signal the early signs of growth, and you can get those early customers by selling into a market from afar. A common mistake is hiring a few AEs in a new market who aren’t set up for success.”

DO: Understand the customer first, operationalize the channel second. Like many cybersecurity companies, SentinelOne distributes product through channel partners. However, relying on those channel partners can keep you detached from your customers, and those customers’ insights, which are vital feedback loops. Nick Warner, COO at SentinelOne, said, “Over-reliance on channel (namely a distributor or distributors) in EMEA, especially early in the game, is peril. Customers come first as they issue POs. What makes a customer buy? It’s not a back end rebate or a deal registration. What is it about your technology that is differentiated in solving problems? Putting the customer first focuses sales reps on the right activities and creates a common vernacular around what’s important – the channel program and strategy follows. And the channel strategy will be 100x more successful when it’s about the right behaviors.”

DON’T: Focus on the number at first, instead use Hustle Metrics. “It will take a while to build pipeline and lay the necessary foundation for success. Better metrics than revenue are quality MQLs, SQLs, getting to POC, and converting POCs. Celebrating those hustle metrics will create a winning culture so that once a new candidate is signed, trained, enabled, and has built funnel, they can hit their number and then enable the next set of hires to overachieve.” said Dean Hickman-Smith, CRO at Jumio.

DO: Use the hub and spoke model to scale, entering each new region with a pod. At Confluent, David Perry, launched each new region with a team, “I won’t go into a region without a pod. You can’t just deploy a salesperson in region without supportive functions like a solutions engineer. So I’ll start with London and once all supporting functions are in place it becomes a hub. Then you can spoke to Munich or Paris with a pod.”

DON’T: Assume the European hiring plan will match the same velocity as the US hiring plan. I made this mistake. US companies may expect implementation timelines equal to those of their domestic operation. However, even once you make an offer to the right candidate, the typical notice period may be 3 months in some European countries. Also, cultural norms of lengthy tenure in EMEA are at odds with job hopping frequency seen in the US. What I thought would be a 6 week trip to find sales hires in London ballooned into a 6 month slog to land the first team members.

DO: Choose which region to enter first by using existing customers to pull you into a country rather than just pushing into the country with the largest TAM. “The largest market may not be the easiest to gain traction in. Start in a market where there is a favorable commercial, legal, and cultural landscape – or choose a market where you have customers that can amplify your voice and advocate for your brand,” advises Andy Champion, GM EMEA at Highspot.

“For example, France might not be the biggest market, but if you’ve already got a few customers there that are willing to be advocates, they will help you more rapidly generate buzz in the ecosystem and gather new customers. If your existing customers have subsidiaries across Europe they can be a wonderful catalyst to penetrating the various European markets. Partners are also a low-stakes way to test out a region without making the commitment of opening an office and full-time hires.”

DON’T: Create hierarchy too early – flat organizations are the best organizations. Warner adds, “Too many EMEA leaders create hierarchy (kingdoms) too early in the development process, The results are cost, politics, distraction, and lack of productivity. Stay focused on quota carrying heads and pipeline. Plenty of time to create vertical structure later; in fact, vertical structure is the reward of success in the early years.”

DO: Make sure you have localized support and cross-functional alignment. “Having engineering, marketing, legal, and support teams ready to help is a key to success in a new market,” said Richard Wright, Head of EMEA sales at Drift. “If you hire a salesperson in Germany but there’s no support person in Germany, no UI in German, and the product hasn’t been vetted to comply with stringent German privacy laws, then you’re probably not going to sell much in Germany.”

DO: Send a transplant. A transplant from the home office will be a culture carrier and share corporate knowledge that may not yet be a codified process. “I opened an office in London and the US helped by sending a Solutions Engineer and Customer Success rep to help us ramp and share what had gone wrong in the past. It’s expensive but helps knowledge and culture transfer from the mothership,” recounts Andrew Bartlam, VP EMEA at Orca.

Hickman-Smith likes using an exchange model, “I’ll bring someone into corporate HQ early to make sure they are imbibed with the corporate culture. If it is easily transplanted, like an inside sales org or a specific technical skill, it accelerates cross-pollination. Later on, we’ll do exchanges for 2-4 weeks and an experienced rep can help work the local territory in that theatre.”

DON’T: Let off the gas. Once it is time to scale, put leaders in place to lay the foundation for a larger organization. “Once you believe you’ll be a rocket ship, you have to think bigger from the start and need to be planning 3 years out. If you want xxx% ARR growth, then you can work headcount plans back from that,” Perry adds. “For example, If I want to have 20 reps in Germany next year, I need to get those managers in now. Without the leadership in place, you’ll hire too many AEs without managers and productivity will dip.”