PODCAST 112: Why Companies Fail Coming to Europe with Matthew Gowen

This week on the Sales Hacker podcast, we speak with Matthew Gowen, the SVP of Sales at Pangea.

Matthew is a 20-year veteran of the technology industry, first at Thomson Reuters, where he ended up running their enterprise sales team, then at Veeva, where he ran the EU sales organization and helped that company grow to over 700 million in revenue. Today, he is running the sales organization at a company called Pangea, which scales up tech companies to expand into the EMEA market.

If you missed episode 111, check it out here: Prospecting and Researching in Today’s Brave New World with Peter Wooster

What You’ll Learn

  • Finding a talent network in EMEA
  • How Germans buy
  • Being aware of cultural differences
  • How to enable salespeople when they’re 1,000 miles from HQ

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Show Agenda and Timestamps

Show Introduction [00:10]

Sam Jacobs: Hey, everybody, it’s Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the Sales Hacker podcast. Today on the show we’ve got Matthew Gowen, the SVP of Sales at Pangea. He is a long time tech industry veteran who started his career in the pharmaceutical sales industry, but he grew up in financial services, software sales. He helped Veeva grow from a few hundred people to a few thousand, from over 150 million in revenue to 700 million in revenue and has really been a long time expert in EMEA software sales.

Now, before we get there, we want to thank our sponsors. Our first sponsor is Chorus.ai. Chorus is the conversation intelligence platform that provides key insights into the sales conversations your team is having every day. Record, share, review, and coach your team based on the voice of your customer. With chorus.ai, get your reps to hit quota consistently, ramp your new hires faster and replicate your unicorns through coaching initiatives, all while together or fully remote. Go to Chorus.ai/saleshacker to try it for yourself.

Our second sponsor is Outreach, the number one sales engagement platform. Outreach revolutionizes customer engagement by moving away from solid conversations to a streamlined and customer centric journey. Leveraging the next generation of artificial intelligence, the platform allows sales reps to deliver consistent, relevant, and responsible communication for each prospect every time, enabling personalization at scale previously unthinkable. Check out Outreach.io for more information.

And finally, we just turned Saleshacker.com into a community. Rather than just reading or listening, you can now ask questions and get amazing thoughtful answers from the world’s B2B sales professionals who’ve been there before, plus you can share your experience with others. Go to Saleshacker.com and create your profile today.

Now without further ado, let’s listen to my interview with Matthew Gowen.

About Matthew Gowen & Pangea [1:55]

Sam Jacobs: Hey, everybody, it’s Sam Jacobs, welcome to the Sales Hacker podcast. Today I’ve got on the show Matthew Gowen. Matthew is a 20-year veteran of the technology industry. He actually started his career in pharmaceutical research in the US many years ago, but over the last decade or so, he’s had a number of really important opportunities to develop his career. One was at Thomson Reuters, where he ended up running their enterprise sales team. He also ran the EU sales organization at Veeva for over five years and helped that company grow to over 700 million in revenue. Today, he is running the sales organization at a company called Pangea, where they help scale up tech companies and expand their business into new markets primarily in Europe. And so Matthew and his team help companies enter Europe. We’d like to start with your baseball card, as we say.

Matthew Gowen: We help tech companies scaling to new markets. The majority of our clients are US tech companies coming to Europe for the first time. We help them put in place the right talent, the right sales infrastructure, and also the back office, boring stuff that you need to get done, payroll and legal contracts, all of that good stuff, which can be a bit of a hurdle for a lot of companies coming to Europe. We take away that hassle and risk and just help tech companies focus on top line revenue growth.

Sam Jacobs: How long has the company been around?

Matthew Gowen: We’ve been around for about two and a half years now. I’ve been at the company for 18 months. It was founded by a guy called Marc Baumgartner. He’s an American guy actually, but lives in Geneva. And yeah, he convinced me to move away from Veeva to start this new and exciting opportunity. So we’re having a lot of fun doing it.

Common mistakes in entering a new market [07:59]

Sam Jacobs: Let’s start with common mistakes. What are the big mistakes that most companies make as they try to enter a new market, but particularly the EU?

Matthew Gowen: First of all, you’ve got to tap into a talent network. So the first thing you want to do when you come over to Europe is you want to hire the right people. But if you don’t know who those people are, you end up working with some recruiters and that costs money and maybe it works out, maybe it doesn’t.

The second part is how do you support and enable salespeople when they’re potentially thousands of miles away from headquarters? You need the right sales enablement and culture wrapped around them. And then the other piece which is a hurdle is just getting into the local market. So of course you want proximity to customers. You want to be in France, Germany, Switzerland, UK, you name it, wherever your customers are, but you don’t necessarily want to have to put people on the ground in all of those different regions. Pangea tries to put that the right way round. So we’ll help tech companies come to Europe. We’ll give them access to a trusted talent network through our team at Pangea.

The final piece, as I mentioned, is taking all that hassle off, the back office hassle, because we’re already set up to go across most major markets in Europe and North America. So just focused on sales really and getting that piece right.

Sam Jacobs: How has Brexit changed or will change your business, do you think?

Matthew Gowen: For our business, complexity is good, and so I think it will help Pangea and please there’s got to be some winners out of the Brexit situation. We work with software mostly as well and I think it’s one of the most stable industries to be in with the whole Brexit situation.

Lessons learned from international customers [12:06]

Sam Jacobs: The nice thing about working at a company like Pangea is that you get to see a lot of different companies and a lot of different products and a lot of different go-to-market motions. When you think about some of the biggest lessons that you’ve learned from working with these customers?

Matthew Gowen: I’m in a really privileged position because I get to condense a career that most people would have over a few decades of maybe five, six, seven different companies. A lot of organizations don’t necessarily focus on the fundamentals, which I think are absolutely critical in setting up that sales organization. Having the right go to market is really important, but unless you’ve got the right foundations in place, it can be a struggle. So for me, it’s not just about hiring the right sales talent and giving them the product training and the introductions to the team that any sales person would need to be successful.

In my view, having a successful sales process and an outcome is really a holistic company approach and takes a tremendous amount of teamwork. So I’ve seen that when an organization hires that team, they really should spend a lot of time just asking themselves a lot of questions. What is the sales process that the organization is using? What does it mean? What’s that language that sales people speak? What is sales and operations and enablement and who is it and what do they do? What does marketing do in detail and for what purpose? Does everybody know their roles, responsibilities and who’s accountable for what? And I think quite often it makes a lot of sense to really go through that together as a team and to document it. I see so many companies just not having the right sales foundation set up for success.

Sam Jacobs: One of the pushbacks you might hear from a CEO or a founder or an executive team that is not sales or marketing focused would be hiring a chief revenue officer or an SVP of sales to help us build a sales process. Do you think that that’s looking at it from the wrong perspective, given that so many companies hire too senior too early?

Matthew Gowen: To some extent, that VP hire, that COO hire is absolutely critical, but for me, it’s not an abdication of responsibility from the CEO. It has to be a partnership and they have to, because sales isn’t just about the sales team. It’s about all of the other supporting infrastructure around that as well. So just making sure everyone sings from the same hymn sheet and ensuring that everybody’s doing the right things. I’m a believer in doing the right things every day and eventually you’ll get the right results. It’s critical though, that the COO and CEO have a very tight relationship and work together.

The impact of COVID-19 [17:20]

Sam Jacobs: We’re recording this on April 28th. How has COVID-19 affected your business positively, negatively, flat?

Matthew Gowen: There’s a negative impact for almost everybody. Some organizations seem to be having a successful period of time, but for us, there aren’t too many better industries to be in. We typically work with tech companies, quite a lot of life sciences tech organizations as well. And then you layer on top of that sales, which is about as critical as it can be now certainly coming out of the COVID process. For the most part, I see this as an opportunity to plan, prepare, and move forward for success, but don’t want to be too disconnected with a pretty difficult situation globally. You’ve got to really lead with empathy, more than anything.

Sam Jacobs: How are you advising your clients on scenario planning and forecasting? What advice are you giving to your customers as they try to navigate this crisis?

Matthew Gowen: The term, if you like, is the same. Your approach to it might be slightly different, and ultimately everybody’s an inside sales team right now. It’s about refocusing the team, making sure that they go through the right processes to have that outreach to customers.

Ultimately when it comes to forecasting and planning for the future, there’s a few different approaches that you would look at. And I think this concept of the top down forecasting is kind of out the window. I think it’s really a bottoms up approach now. What are your prospective, current customers doing on the ground? How can you translate that into your business and what the growth opportunity is? And for that, you really need information on the ground from the sales team.

Cultural differences for European sales strategy [21:48]

Sam Jacobs: Are there cultural differences that maybe American companies or Asian companies that are trying to enter EMEA don’t appreciate when they think about building it? Is a successful sales culture in Europe different from a successful sales culture in the US?

RELATED: Sales Around the World: Business Development Across Cultures

Matthew Gowen: It’s subtly different. Treating Europe like it’s the US when you come over here for the first time is, I would argue, not the right approach. And you’ve got to break it into different regions and then have local speakers or local language speakers in certain regions, which can really help with those relationships. Sales is very similar in Europe to North America, but there’s just some extra layers of complexity that you have to deal with. Language is one of them, but culture is another.

Buying culture is different. The way that Germans will buy is very different from how French and the UK will buy.

Sam Jacobs: Tell us, how do Germans buy?

Matthew Gowen: Just super skeptical. Building that relationship in Germany is very challenging. It’s really interesting though because when you get to that closed stage of the deal and actually they’ll work with you completely differently. Suddenly you’ll go perhaps onto first name terms and you might not have been before then. So very different to how you might work in the US to my experience.

Southern Europe is really different. It’s very cost orientated. So lots of negotiation rounds, which is a challenge, but some of the countries that adopt technologies faster would be places in Nordics, like Denmark, actually places like Belgium and the Netherlands adopt technologies pretty fast. And then the UK I think is the closest as you would expect to the way that the US buys.

Sam Jacobs: Are there regulations or prohibitions against cold calling in Europe?

Matthew Gowen: GDPR is a thing and you have to be very much aware of that in Europe, but ultimately you’ve got to do sales. There’s a multichannel outreach. Cold calling is part of that. Emails are part of that. LinkedIn connections are part of that. It’s a rhythm of different sorts of activities that relate to one another. So yes, you can do cold calling, but you have to be cognizant around GDPR.

Get in touch with Matthew on LinkedIn.

Sam’s Corner [30:17]

Sam Jacobs: Hi, everybody. Sam’s corner. Thanks so much for listening. That was a great conversation with Matthew Gowen. One of the things that we talked about is just this reality that cultural differences are real. Regulatory issues are real. And so when you’re entering EMEA, it’s important that people understand that entering Europe is more than just entering Europe. It’s also entering all of the different dialects, all of the different cultures, all of the different traditions, and really thinking about what’s the smartest, best, most effective way to do that. Of course, Brexit is also going to create additional regulatory complexity. And that’s why I think, particularly when it’s about starting offices overseas, onboarding and support, and support to those different regional time zones is so important.

What We Learned

  • Finding a talent network in EMEA
  • How Germans buy
  • Being aware of cultural differences
  • How to enable salespeople when they’re 1,000 miles from HQ

Don’t miss episode 113!

I hope you enjoyed the show. Before we go, let’s thank our sponsors. The first is Chorus. Chorus is the conversation intelligence platform that provides key insights into the sales conversations your team is having every day. Go to Chorus.ai/saleshacker to try it for yourself. Our second sponsor is Outreach, the leading sales engagement platform.

If you want to reach out to me with feedback, you can find me on LinkedIn. If you haven’t rated the show, please give us five stars on the iTunes rating system so that we can remain in business and continue to bring you this show.

As always, thanks so much for listening, I’ll talk to you next time.

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