Scaling in Europe : When and what type of salesperson do you recruit?
When I launch an Australian technology product in the European market, I usually like my team and I to initially reach the golden target of 1 million Euros of sales before I contemplate facilitating the recruitment of a sales representative for my customer. Before that point I would usually focus my team on generating sales to make sure our customer has enough revenue to counterbalance the risks of hiring in Europe. We focus on generating sales with a distribution network. We also appoint independent sales agents whenever possible to maximise our revenue. It’s not always possible to do so in every sector. When possible, it’s a low risk way to further increase your revenue by setting-up a network of sales agents that are remunerated on commission on sales only.
It’s extremely hard to end an employment contract for non-performance in Europe. In some markets like Germany or France, it can be extremely long and expensive to engage a dismissal process. One of our Australian customers reported to us that it did cost them close to 250,000 euros to dismiss one of their German senior managers.
Hiring in Europe is a great way to take that next leap of growth and scale your business. Once you have reached the comfortable target of one million euros, you can justify the investment of hiring a person in Europe, but you also have the financial means to counterbalance the financial cost and risk of dismissing a European staff.
Now that the magic number of One million Euros has been reached, what type of sales profile do you hire? Every time, I start looking for potential candidates for my Australian customers in Europe I aim at spotting a salesperson that will be able to further develop the sales! For this job to be done, we need to find a person that is willing to work in a small business environment. If they come from the corporate world and have no small business experience, there’s a danger there that they will expect that magic fairies will provide for their marketing needs and that they can put a team rapidly to work for them. Instead what you need them to demonstrate is their ability to knock on doors and close deals. Once they have done that they will be able to build their team. You need them to be able to get the sales themselves, that’s your guarantee that they can build up the sales fast. It also means that once they keep growing their team, they will be in a better position to train them on how to sell. You also need them to pick up the pieces and keep the sales going if a sales team member leaves or is not performing. In conclusion, you need a hunter in the initial stages. It is really important for you to succeed.
For initial sales roles, there is a misconception that you absolutely need to start with a senior salesperson that will build their team. It’s logical to think so. But for us small businesses, it creates more risk to start with a senior. A senior person may not be hungry enough to take you where you need to be at the fast pace we need in small business. They are also more expensive to lay off if they don’t perform! Starting with a more junior person is a good option, or someone that is not senior yet and keen to grow.
I often get the question : how do you recognise a hunter in an interview? That is a very difficult exercise. I have not always been 100% successful, but I am a hunter myself and that has always helped me. In interview situations I always look for a candidate that can demonstrate they have built sales from scratch. I really drill on how they have done it. Otherwise, I tend to detect talents among my customers’ peers. If I am on a show, I will introduce myself to my peers. I have in the past observed salespersons for a few years while I was building the sales, before I approached them for a job. I usually like to pick the ones that are well regarded by their customers of course and also their peers.
Good luck to you if you are in your first recruitment in the European market!
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Christelle turned her back to a successful career as a sales representative in the corporate world in Europe. When she moved to Australia in 2006, she started Exportia to share the wealth of her Europe-wide sales experiences for a small business as an export manager and as a sales representative at IBM in Paris.
“Having taken dozens of Australian businesses to Europe, I personally know the difficulty for a small business to significantly grow their sales in the European market. It is a very diverse market and small businesses often don’t know where to start. Small business owners are often caught up with running their business and with their domestic market to be able to allocate enough time to the European market. Lowering the risk for small businesses and guiding them to maximise the export sales results are what drives us at Exportia.”
Christelle has also encapsulated her learning into a book called “Ready Tech Go! – A definitive guide to exporting Australian technology to Europe”. French native speaker, fluent in German and English, with Basic Italian and Hindi.