B2B Revenue Acceleration
B2B Revenue Acceleration

Episode · 4 years ago

8: Building a Startup Commercial Team in EMEA for International Vendors w/ Matthew Smith


Startups often underestimate moving to new markets.

This is especially true in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) region.

Matthew Smith is a Principal Consultant at Acumin Consulting where he just recently celebrated his 5 year anniversary. Matt has been in the cyber-security recruitment  space for 8 years, and he has seen the industry change and evolve during that time.

Acumin is celebrating their 20th anniversary, and they work within the consulting world to help offer a full range of cybersecurity consulting solutions, from system integrators all the way down to penetration testing companies. Matt is on the vendor team and he specializes mostly in director level searches.

We sat down with Matt to talk about how market timing and cultural differences affect internationally expanding startups, the importance of your first sales hire in the EMEA region, and the roadmap to success.

Doing Business. In your report, international can often be a completely different model and way of working then it is over in the US. You're listening to BB revenue acceleration, a podcast dedicated helping software executives stay on the cutting edge of sales and marketing in their industry. Let's get into the show. Hi, welcome to be to be a reverie acceleration. My name is any amoutier and I am here today with Matt Smith from Acamin. How are you today, Matt? Very well and very warm today. Ideas really warm. That's true, though, but today we wanted to invade you to the podcast to discuss about building up a start commercial team in the A EMEA market for international vendors, and I know it's your vendors will probably most of them the US base, some of some of them Israeli based, some Mosl from other countries based. All about coming to thenea markets. But before we get started, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and and and Acumen, which is the company actual represents? Yeah, so I've been with that came in it was my five years anniversary actually at the beginning of last week. So I've been with acumen for five years, but I've been within the cyber security recruitment world for eight years. So obviously I've seeing the industry change and evolved and and I'm seeing a number of views and, as you say, is really in European client you know, enter builderscales across Europe, some of the dots, some of the companies do it very well, others don't. But it's a bit of background. I work for ACUM IN CONSULTING and we're a cyber security specific recruitment business. We have actually been going I I certainly haven't been here for that long, but we were set up. It was our twenty anniversary this year. It Info Sap and we we covered the full paradigm of security. So we have a team that covers end users. So we do a lot of technical recruitment, IE, see those security architect security managers for very large end user associations. So back for these are your those sort of companies. We have a team that covers system integrators and consultancies. So we've placed partners with the L Kpmg, you know, some of the traditional big four consulting firms, and that's all the way down to pet. Working with pet. We are penetration testing companies or whatever, the kind of flavor of the days and the consultancy market and also, I said, on the vendor team. So I lead a lot of our VP or director level searchers, but also specialize in helping startups and to build and scale throughout a mere yes, so that's that's like Kim. That's that's really useful to thank you very much, math. So just today traight into the big off today. We know that there is many a us. So I stray the on startups general that they're not that's expending in the European market and sitting up their initial cells to more. I think that commercial elements traits obviously very important for them. So from your experience, would you believe at the key elements for successful expansion? So I think one of the key things to begin with is market timing and I think if you look at certain areas the the CAS be space with within cyber so so general cloud security. The normal bear is I think the European market is probably generally twelve to eighteen months behind the US market, and then a pack is normally six months or so behind the European market in terms of adoption. But I think one of the real key things that vendors have to fully qualify is the appetite and opportunity for their product in the market right at that time, because I'm sure we will cover some of these points further in the conversation. But often us, that particularly US vendors,...

...those of which have very little or traditionally have done very little work internationally or in Europe, often vastly over estimate a not so much the opportunity for more so what's achievable and what the market is actually buying. And also, and I think also often, they sometimes count your is just another sales region in the US and, as I'm sure we can cover lighter on doing business in your report, international can often be a completely unfferent model and way of working. Then it is, I really us. So I say one of the first points is is market readiness? Yes, and I think you are right. Work through the podcasts recently with with a company called CBG and with a CEO, with a gentleman called Jamie Murphy, and we spoke about one of their service which is a service called pulse, and the purpose of that service is to actually, I guess, address at first point that you mentioned that that market readiness and taking the product, the solution, the conversation to the end user, student channel and see how people react to it, to see the appetites, and I agree with you. I mean if there is no market was the point. And also agree with that other region. Obviously I'm French, you're British and I'm pretty sure that our way of buying things are culturally. I mean, I've been living in England long enough now to be a bit more with the British culture, but I remember when I first arrived in the UK realizing that things are very different, the way people do business. The world was expecting things to open, despite the fact I was just living across the across the sea from you guys. It was a big, big shock for me. I think it's something that some days vendors would appreciate the deep culture difference. First I was going to say are you French? I hadn't noticed then. I know, I know, I'm trying to Promin this yeah, yeah, but now I mean I think if we go back to I mean even if you don't look at clouds security, you look at general adoption of cloud services globally and I think definitely not. You know, definitely one of one of the first failures or reasons why international expansion can cannot go wrong is absolutely looking at the European market. And I think there's kind of to there's two or three things. Is that you have the difference in how you do business in the US to expanding international. But then quite clearly, as you set, when you actually look into Europe, and I think again one of the generalizations is that often to US venders can look at Europe has just one region, when when you actually look into it and as you correctly state with your own personal experiences, there's a widely different way of doing business in the UK to Germany, to France, or southern Europe to northern Europe, to Ben a look to the Middle East, and I think that, you know what a treating all of those regions exactly the same can often prove, you know, very difficult because I think, particularly if you look just high level, that you know the way that you do the business in Middle East is that they're very much it can be difficult to and a trait and when new business in the Middle East, however, when you have very strong relationships with partners, with customers in the region, you really take on more of a trusted adviser piece, whereas if you flip back to, I imagine, probably from I mean, I think in terms of being one of the potential biggest markets, but also, by quite some distance, one of the most difficult to do business and would be Germany because if you look there obviously a huge economy. There's enormous potential market, but there's enormous market potential in the region. How are there anybody that has recruited soul to operation in Germany will say that it is a very you know, it's a very different and all be kind of unique culture even within Europe. And you know some...

...of the stereotypes about Germans, ie being you know, often they are one of the one of the last markets to adopt new technologies. So as a result it can be very difficult to hire or to sell new technologies over there because generally they are one of the later adoptors. And if we go back to the point about cloud and about cloud security in particular, the German market have huge concerns about privacy. They have enormous concerns of where data restored and one of the key pieces that a lot of the successful, a lot of the successful US vendors that come over and particularly where data well, where there a cloud vendor a sense, where data has to be stored in the cloud and sent back to the US, often there will be a number of these vendors that will have to physically build data centers in Germany to be able to get around, to be able to get around some of the kind of restrictions and and some of the reasons why cloud has been slow to adopt, particularly in Germany. But I think if again, if you use juring as an example, so much about a successful international expansion, and it goes back to the key bit is it's firstly hiring the right person, and I think so much of it. If you get a US vendor, that's the startup that hasn't there any business in Europe before. It's very important that a they higher the right person, and we can come on later on to what characteristic is that person has. One of the real key parts, and I say this during a lot of readership searches, a real undervalue, is the ability to manage an influence or so obviously you get first people on the ground of VP of Europs who are used to building and leading teams beneath them. But so much of it, surely, when you're going into a new region, is about managing the expectations of the US vender. And I think so often, and it goes back again by the interlinking with the point about market. You know, market adoption and market potential is having a European leader in place that can successfully manage expectations of the US in terms of what's actually going to be achievable. And I think sometimes US venders can, or any vendors can, be bold in by a sales guy or girl who, throughout the interview process, may say they could scale or achieve thirty, forty percent higher revenues that some of the other people in the processor. But I think it's really about not just taking the person who commits the generating the bigger number, for taking somebody who's been through the journey before it can actually give realistic numbers in terms of what they can achieve. And I think so much been able to aid manage expectations above and also managing a team below really helps the risk it because often so many venders, because I think if you know, if you commit a number, as you well know, venders take that as written, implord that that's what's going to be achieved, and I definitely think having somebody that has got the level of seniority to be able to manage upwards, but also still has enough kind of minds in the fire and feet on the street to be able to go out and sell this critical yes, yeah, absolutely so. If I was summarize a little bit a few things here, fundamental key elements for six suspension. Number one is a taming. Is The market tready for you? Number two would be about umbracing and understanding the culture deferences and that they to just Ripley Gate, whatever was a success in trial or or in North America and Latin what you actually from and with your local market. And number three around, I guess, that first person on the ground, and I think there is I also want to put a number four points, which is not being too naive or over enthusiastic, and I think the real stations, because I think you're right, this expectation would also come from that first person that you are, but you will almost come from the vendors.

These two needs to agree on what is realistic and obviously put themselves from under a bit of pressure is good, but you want to make sure that if you work with someone who's already done it in the past, you've got expectation from a board or from investors or from a from a company. See Your perspective. It's about matching them to make sure there is a planet can actually be achieved. That the four points that you you wanted to put across. Yeah, I mean, yeah, absolutely, because I think one, I mean I definitely think if you look, there's that. I mean I'm not sure if we get, if you're mis coverless hour or crimelessie order the conversation. But again, so much is critical about that first tire and there's a lot of character respects. But that's that. You my next question, Matt So, about I'm glad you you bring it back, ever, because that's a fantastic bridge question, and then maybe I will appear with this what I'm ath to tire, but we aving a ton of conversation which individual are looking at recruitine that first person on the ground. I think you are at this button when you say this is this is critzy called that those person will drive, that first person will attract. The first person is almost like a Swiss army knife. Someone would needs to be a well different ads but also would be able to put up their sleeve to get the job done if needs be, as well as recruiting, selling, getting involved with technical issues, all that sort of great stuff. So, based on your experience and when it comes to you supportting your clients, you know they don't he find that first person on the ground. What are the key skills that you are looking after, or what are the key skills that you think vendors should be looking after? So I mean I think you know generally if you're the first higher in. And again it's just for the purposes of this conversation, let's keep using a US vendor as an example. But obviously it's slightly different if it's you're repaying or Israeli. But if you're set it up that a region, if you're the first hire in a region anywhere. But let's say you're it's obviously very key. I mean because often vendors make the mistake as hiring, you know, a sales leader that comes from a more establish vendor, even within that space. So I guess if we use end point security as an example, you know that it isn't it. We those coming over the last few years, marketing particular, and another yeahstment, lots of things from DC's as one. Well, yeah, yeah, exactly, but I think on both points. So if you have, I guess, the more old school endpoint vendors, Sociam Ante, McAfee, trem micro, those sort of companies that are all public companies, you know, employee, thousands of people, generated hundreds and hundreds of millions of revenue. You then have a lot of these new endpoint vendors that would look to display some of the larger players. So, as a result, you would think it would be natural to go and head to hunt for the first salesperson in the region, to go in ahead, somebody very senior from those organ from that from the more legacy organizations. And without a shadow of a doubt, there's a lot of very capable people in larger organizations. However, if you look at it holistically, somebody who's ahead of Europe or in a senior sales position for a company that might have four, five, six, seven, hundred people in Europe, firstly, they'll be very they're very likely to be completely removed from the coal face, so they're not going to be on the street selling. They're not going to be on the phone to customers all day every day. They may well have the infrastructure and of managed very very large ps, very very large pnls and if ex having have a lot of very good experience in terms of senior people leadership. However, whether then the first comes over, and I think actually separating the two, you made a good point that probably two years ago, against focusing on the endpoint market, there was a number of vendors or with hundreds of millions of funding. So when they first come to your they were...

...typically higher a fairly senior VP of eup, but that would be somebody that has worked for multiple startups before, somebody that's been through the journey, that understands what it takes to what it takes to be successful. But I think more so if you fast forward it, because I think if you look at some of those enders I just mentioned, they were coming over to your they were haring, you know, very big hitting vp of europs who would then hire senior Presales, senior marketing in the UK then often look to go and put feet on the street very quickly in all of the regions and whilst you still absolutely need people who have worked up in a startup environment, more so now, two years later, you're seeing a real reduction in the number of vendors that have such significant funding. So as it results, even though both of those types are you ones with two and million or ones with ten million, both need to hire people that have the start up DNA, in the startup characteristics. More so two years later, after a lot of these companies come over, the first person on the ground needs somebody that is able to go out, you know, and boot doors open, so to speak, you know, when the very first few accounts, because often somebody from a much larger business, he might not eat, you know, it might have been ten or fifteen years since they made fifty, sixty, seventy calls a day. And I think really getting somebody that understands what is needed and somebody really that has a proven track record of success working in a very similar environment. I'm really, really key with little resource or budget, and that's why I think, particularly from a resource perspect and generally, and obviously this is this isn't all encumbass in but generally the view is the people that have worked for very large vendors, even if they're in the same space will not be used to operating with very little support, very little infrastructure and all that sort of thing. So I think so much of it relies on hiring people who've essentially built businesses from scratched before and understand everything that goes with that. But, Sholie Maddy, must be a shortage of the people. At some points I have there's a very there's very much shortage of people, because there is there is more companies coming in a tree, people who've done it, and you would expect to people who have done it and we've done it well, you probably stay in job. It was with our you know. I guess you know in a way, so he's own. Guess I'm about to ask you a question about how you find us people, but as can you maybe a less unless races characteristic. Are you looking at someone was been a very good Sir Spellson, that wants to take more respect on stabilities? Are you looking at some as you mentioned as a most been very, very senior, but he's looking at getting more for an exciting startup job and you know, order be walking much more closer to the action. It's a truck. He's there. A profile is now he's just he's do do it with feelings or do you do it a how would you find the right profile and what are the Greaterias that you think? I'm important to well, from a from people best pick teeth, from a human, skilled perspective. So I mean from my perspective, you know, as you know, but sensely the viewers don't. I mean, I do kind of specialize in helping start ups come over. So as a result having ran multiple VP of Europe searchers, having worked with many of the high profile startups that have come over, I personally have a very good network of what you were classes, start up guys and girls. But you know, you're absolutely right that so much of it depends on I think, touching on some of the point of what we raised it in question one is that it's managing the expectation of the vendor because so, for example, if you have a say, you know, or if it's safer to keep these in cloud security. If I'm working with a series a ten...

...or fifteen million backs cloud security vender, they might be at fifty or sixty people globally. You know, generally when company start looking Europe or international expansion, is often because they might have of global clients. So you know some of the very large finance houses, for example, that they've sold into in the US been successful and they've essentially been dragged into Europe or international because some of their global clients are saying, well, Hey, can we buy the solution over here? But as a result, if you've got to come to it's only fifty sixty people globally, ten or fifty million dollars investment. What they need generally is generally a very high performing individual contributor that wants to make a step up, somebody that's worked in a very early stage company before, maybe has been sales higher two, three, four or five, has been really successful, has gone through the journey and now wants to take the step up and move into being that first hire in the region. And I think if you look at some of the companies that we spoken about that have huge funding rounds, often they will probably go for the next level, so a VP of Europe that might have done two or three successful IPOs or acquisitions, somebody that's built a business from zero people to thirty or forty. But I think it's kind of interesting when you look at the startups in general because whenever I'm talking to candidates and clients and and I'm just using the numbers I speak about here just for illustration purposes, but if you look at revenues from a start up perspective in Europe, I always say you kind of have three stages. So you might have zero to five million or zero to ten million, dependent on deal size, deal values, investment in the region excep what you might have one person that takes them from zero to ten as a sales lead. That person is your typical kind of regional sales director that's hungry, that's aggressive, that will be able to, you know, BOOT doors down open win a lot of the Marquis early customers because, as you know, it can be extremely difficult to win those first few reference customers. They then build the business. They would either lead the business themselves and hire a pre sales person, a market in person, EXC and then start expanding into the other territories which might be that first band a looks northern Europe or or however they want to run it. But then once they've got to that scale, is then at once they've got to that size, is then important to potensally bring it a more kind of commercially focused leader, and the reasons that I say that is often the first higher you make from a sales perspective. You know they're hungry, that they'll boot the doors down. However, they don't always have the processes and procedures that when you start getting to five or ten million revenue, that have to be put in because obviously, when you're only doing a small number of deals, you don't always necessarily have, you know, the best poc, you know the POC's being run the best way or even or whatever. He's tenders. Yeah, exactly, I'm basically yeah exactly. And then I think you would generally get someone that would then come in and take them maybe from ten to thirty or forty million, and that would be stage two. And then often you get somebody who would come in maybe a year or two before IPO and with or IPO or acquisition and take them through the rest of that journey. So I think often what you find is that they're a right people for right times at venders and you do get some people who will be vp of a mare, will be the first sales higher in Europe and may still be there three years later when the fifty people however, they're fairly unusual because when companies have huge investment they have to grow incredibly quickly. So, as a result, that's why I mean, I think particularly because there's been a lot of investment and there's been so many new companies coming over to market. In terms of that first sales, higher or very early...

...stage hires, whether it's sales, pre sales whatever. I think your average ten year of a sales director or VP of Europe at the moment it's probably about eighteen months, two years. Yeah. So, as you can see, companies go through a lot of a lot of changes. So as a result, your average tenure of someone that these organizations is fairly sure and I think one of the natural things is, well, what can we do to try and get more longevity? And I think a lot of it does come back to a the whoever is in charge of the region being able to manage and build the region out underneath them. But again it goes back to manage the expectations of the vendor above the managing the expectations of the more senior commercial guys over in the US. So but I definitely think due to the huge amount of investment, the the industry as a whole has become very short term and I think so much of that is an apologies of them going out off on a tangent sign. It's just for Nice, because I think really, the way I look at it, that when I very first started working in cyber security seven or eight years ago, the perception of cyber was that it was a bit of a nerdy tie area of the IT Department. People kind of had half an understanding of what it is and what it was therefore, but he wasn't really a big thing. I mean, it's set along development in terms of, you know, the people that you keep rocks under the stairs that just do coding and you bring them out for food and light a case. Then I think so much if you look at even the past twenty four month you've gone from this perception of security being a slightly nerdy, technical small part of the it depart all of a sudden to influencing the US election, you know, being that you know this huge geopolitical factors. You know cyber wars, cyber warfare's being used countries the country and I think in this year's a hole has become a normal you know, so much more high profile than it used to. And I think one and it's kind of a benefit and a negative, is the fact that traditional, when I first started looking at startups, you used to focus on looking who some of them, of the wellknown VC's, what companies? Aig funded so Andreas, and horrow it's Besima venture partners, the more traditional VC's. But I think so much now, because cyber is so high profile, you've seen an absolute avalanche of investment from outside of the kind of core traditional BC's, which is no bad thing. But I think there's a result if you're working in an industry where seven or eight of the new entrance to market. Again, if we use endpoint as an example, eighteen months, two years ago, if you're a startup sales guy or sales girl or see or marketing lead, if you've got six or seven vendors, all with these actually the same funding, all with very similar products, how are you expected to make a guess on who's going to be successful or not? And I think there's been because there's been so much investment, the industry as a whole is inflated with too many venders and, dare I say it, too many recruiters and too many lead generation company. There's too much pr there's a million events and I think the industry at the moment it's just a bit bloated and one of the things is that you are seeing and you will continue to see is hopefully, firstly an increase in IPOs because obviously that means a company has gone public can be successful. But as a result you are also going to see a continued number of startups being acquired by some of them more larger legacy vendors that we've spoken about before because general really large legacy of and the struggle to innovate and often siscoing as example, often going a big mnating to buy a large security capacity and obviously in the company gets required it. It's a great thing, particularly for the early stage people. But you know, if you look, if you've got compli's got a hundred million funding and to get is a gets a quiet to seven hundred million and that's obviously a superb result. However, if you look at a company that's got a hundred million funding at the end of getting acquired for eighteen million, then you don't have necessarily have to be the most forward thinking finance...

...analyst to understand that that's not a great resource. Yeah, absolutely, that was very full. My one was associated with was a very pushing a person, or the image of a very pushing eight person with a funny accent. I'm glad I found you today because your guess you are like me. It's fun passing, but you know, I really appreciate all the time you gave us to them in some of the insight. Well, probably putting even further all expecting from you today, but I like the way you speak about you're on the ledge industry. Is Absolutely is beautiful to listen to. Now, if any of our listener would like to get in touch with you and would like to take conversation of Lane whise, you find your reason, because brain maybe look at what your company could do for them or whatever. What is the best way to get old of my Smith? Well, they can either reach out to me. I mean it reads out to me on Linkedin. It's probably the easiest. Why? It's Matthew Smith at CAM IN CONSULTING WAI. I'm obviously on linked it a lot, but if anyone wants to reach out directly, my email addresses and Smith at at Camencom don't UK, but it's all on my linkedin profile. So if anybody has any further questions and queries, yeah, please, please, reach out on that's one the for myth. Thank you again for your time today. Let's off inside really android a conversation and we'll make sure that we reinvade you very soon too. Falls all done some of the conversation with today on some of the key Topa you touchdowns. So thank you very much for your time. At no problem. Look forward to the next one. operatics has redefined the meaning of revenue generation for technology companies worldwide. While the traditional concepts of building and managing inside sales teams inhouse has existed for many years, companies are struggling with a lack of focus, agility and scale required in today's fast and complex world of enterprise technology sales. See How operatics can help your company accelerate pipeline at operatics dotnet. You've been listening to be tob revenue acceleration. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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