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How to Hire the Best SaaS Leaders / Sales Execs in Europe

Why do many Enterprise SaaS firms find it so challenging finding and hiring great B2B SaaS Sales Leaders and Sales Executives in Europe?

Here is a break-down of some of the key points on a country-by-country breakdown:

1 – United Kingdom

 

Having worked on multiple UK SaaS hiring projects as well as spoken to hundreds of Senior candidates over the last 12 months, we constantly hear that there seems to be a mistake being made by hiring SaaS firms.

Essentially, many hiring firms are not meeting top candidates quickly enough in person until it is too late. In the past, SaaS firms would invite and meet face-to-face a shortlist of candidates within 4-6 weeks of starting an Executive Search, if not sooner.

What we often see in 2019, is a combination of multiple phone and video interviews during the first two months of a process. The chance to meet face-to-face often only happens in the 3rd month or sometimes later! And guess what? By then, the top candidates have already been snapped-up by faster, SaaS firms with more hiring urgency, who have managed to meet the shortlist in person and create an in-person chemistry / bond. Or the candidate has lost interest and withdrawn from the process.

In 2019, if you want to attract and hire the best candidates, you need to deliver an amazing “Candidate Experience”. There is nothing wrong with a video interview (make sure you dial-in on time and don’t forget to attend – that is another subject!), but it shouldn’t replace the face-to-face, bonding element and/or delay the hiring process, resulting in SaaS firms missing out on the best candidates in the UK / Europe.

2 – Germany

executive search - saas firm germany

Our latest research indicates that Germany is by far the hardest country in Europe to find great B2B Senior Sales Executives.  Further, we know that 68% of German Senior Sales SaaS Executives would often rather work for a North America employer (of course there are some amazing European SaaS firms too!).  Especially early stage, high-growth firms, stock and with some kind of unique proposition. Germany SaaS hiring is not so straight forward.

So why do so many SaaS firms find it so tough to attract, hire and make successful their German operations? (We are referring to Enterprise Senior Sales Executives in DACH)

 

Source: “2019 b2b, SaaS Market Report / Survey

 

The top reason seems to be a lack of understanding of the German culture, buying habits and appreciation of how the German economy operates. Much feedback we receive from our German network claim that US firms approach Germany by just making a few small tweaks to their US/UK business plans and the revenue will flow in! How wrong can they be!

Further, it appears the sales cycles and time to become successful can take much longer than the US, UK and other countries so extra patience is required.

It will be extremely difficult for for SaaS companies (started in the USA) to have their data hosted anywhere else except Germany to be successful.

There are very few German-based, Senior SaaS Sales Execs out of work and notice periods can be long and the urgency to switch employers can take months unlike the UK and US markets!

For a SaaS start-up operation to be successful in Germany, it has to offer a solution totally unique.   Further, something the local established vendors such as SAP are not able to provide as German firms can be extremely sceptical and concerned of buying from SaaS firms with no local references.

3 – Sweden

In 2019, it is still challenging recruiting in Sweden,  hiring great Sales Leaders / Executives is a skill that needs to be learnt and the cultural factors respected throughout around the hiring process.

For Sweden SaaS hiring, here are some other key takeaways I would like to share that may surprise others outside of Europe or the Nordics:

 

  • Hiring-cycles can be SLOW!  It is pretty standard for all employees, to have a 3 month notice period!  
  • There is not much CHOICE! There is virtually a full-employment situation in the Nordics for SaaS Senior Sales Leaders 
  • It can be EXPENSIVE! Employers often contribute up to THIRTY PERCENT in pension contributions for their staff and pay well.
  • Urgency levels for employees to make an employment change can be much slower than the UK or US

 

4 – The Netherlands

 

The uncertainty of Brexit, attractive tax deals, a business-friendly climate and an English-speaking workforce are just some of the reasons why the Netherlands is becoming a more and more attractive location for SaaS firms to use it as their European Headquarters.
 
Panasonic, Magnet Forensics, Smart Yields, Optimizely, Kaseya, Inseego and Netflix are just some of the High Tech firms who have announced that they are moving their European Headquarters to the Netherlands.

Amsterdam is often chosen as a great location to locate “European Inside Sales / SDR Teams”, whilst Rotterdam has also been selected by others.

Business taxes and the 30 per cent tax reduction rule for qualified expats are advantageous.
 
With World Class airports and outstanding train networks, along with access to 500 million consumers across Europe,  the Netherlands is an amazing location for Enterprise SaaS firms looking for a central hub to launch or move its European Headquarters.
 
Of course, like any country there are downsides too.  For example, the traffic around the main cities can be very heavy and motoring expensive. Employment severance is a complex subject and must be carefully considered with due legal procedure.
 
In conclusion, we believe the Netherlands offers a fantastic geographical location and springboard for SaaS firms looking for a foothold in Europe.  The Netherlands can offer thousands of English speaking SaaS Executives and close access to markets such as the UK, Germany and the Nordics.

5 – France

France continues to be a major SaaS expansion market for North American and European headquartered SaaS firms.

Some tips:

 

  • The legal notice period is 3 months, hence the speed to hire can often be slower than the UK and USA
  • It is crucial to make the right hire as terminating an employee’s contract can be difficult and expensive
  • France can offer scaling B2B SaaS firms entrepreneurial SaaS Executives, most of whom are located in or close to Paris
  • Salary levels are slighly less than the UK, Sweden and Germany, but higher than Spain and Italy

 

For any questions around hiring in the Nordics, please drop Ben Watkins an email.   

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