Sales is local. If you’re not taking care of your customer, your competitor will. Experienced sales leaders understand the value of deploying sales resources as close to the customer as possible. Achieving this across the vast and varied markets of Europe (let alone EMEA) presents an enormous challenge and cost. Experienced revenue leaders look to centralize sales resources whenever possible. Centralizing resources yields cost and managerial advantages — efficiencies in recruiting, supervision, training, coaching and development, greater consistencies with process and execution and usually improved employee comradery and morale. But centralization has disadvantages as well, namely reduced proximity to the customer. What can companies centralize without compromising success? Alexander Group’s recent study on driving top-line growth in Europe uncovers three centers of excellence revenue leaders are leveraging to achieve efficiency and scale without compromising customer intimacy: inside sales centers, regional technical and specialist hubs and sales operations/enablement centers.
Pan-EMEA Inside Sales Centers. Two-thirds of the study participants have centralized inside sales in Europe to achieve cost efficiencies. The best inside sales call centers in Europe mimic a local presence – the call center resembles a mini United Nations where native German sales people are calling on customers in Germany, native Italians are calling on Italians and so forth. Cities like Dublin, London and Barcelona boast a diverse work force making it possible to serve a wide swath of markets across Europe all from one location with sales people representing each target market. Less frequently mentioned cities included Prague, Paris, Amsterdam, Cork and Bucharest. Companies tend to locate sales-oriented call centers in the West. On the other hand, companies with centers focused on support and service roles tend to locate their centers in the East. One study participant stressed, “It’s critical that our talent not only speak the local language, but also speak the local culture.” The types of inside sales roles vary, including lead gen, presales, discrete or paired, direct and indirect, renewals, customer success and support. In many cases these roles support a local account manager or territory sales representative. Thus the sales coverage isn’t entirely centralized, but the local resources are selectively limited to a minimum number of local account managers and/or territory sales representatives and local field sales management.
Regional Specialist Hubs: Technical, vertical, product and solution specialist roles can be centralized in regional offices. Centralizing small teams has some of the same advantages as described above and encourages discretion to deploy specialists only when they are properly needed. Revenue leaders are experimenting with blended inside and field roles where specialists work remotely via phone and video conference calls on certain days in order to conduct more calls per day and ramp up productivity. Centralized specialist roles work because of the specific expertise or technical knowledge they possess. They bring expertise that augments the sales effort at specific points in the process. They can’t replace the local account manager. And in some cases, they can’t replace the presales engineer who has strong relationships with their technical customer counterparts. Some complex sales require heavier involvement and follow-up from specialist roles. But as traditional technology sales shift toward a more services-led or IT-as-a-Service model, the opportunity to regionalize specialist roles increases. “We can bend the boundaries a bit more easily with specialists. They can be centralized in a center of expertise” one participant shared, “but we always have to have an eye towards the customer and what they want or need.”
Centralized Sales Enablement: Where should companies position sales operations, field marketing and sales training? The study results were a little mixed on this topic. Many study participants spoke about the importance of having these resources, field marketing in particular, at the country level. This ensures that sales leaders not only effectively translate sales collateral but in some cases tailor or customize collateral to convey the proper message for the local buyer population. However, others shared staunch beliefs that the message should be globally consistent. To achieve global consistency, organizations could and should centralize support/enablement resources to cover needs across Europe or EMEA. The study did find the need to keep sales tools consistent across EMEA, if not everywhere. All participants agreed on the value of a common tool set, metrics and reporting capabilities for CRM, SPM, ICM or similar tools. At a minimum, companies need to centralize the resources that administer these tools. This centralization can extend to sales operations resources managing territories, quotas and compensation as well.
The countries of Europe represent a fascinating marketplace, filled with rich variety, history and local color. There is a wealth of opportunity. The challenge is getting close to the customer to experience this opportunity without breaking the bank. Given the complexities in Europe, there are two possibilities: take the complexity away and offer less choice or manage the complexity and deliver value. As one study participant stated, “Complexity appears in product and process — including how you sell. In most cases, you cannot take the complexity away. You have to make the complexity manageable.” Centers of excellence help reduce complexity from a management, process and tools standpoint.
Learn more about the Alexander Group’s consulting practice in Europe.
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Original author: Paul Vinogradov