The Biggest Challenges of Scaling Your B2B SaaS Firm in Europe

Europe is a major target for B2B SaaS firms seeking to scale their businesses internationally. A region consisting of 750 million people and 50 sovereign countries, with multiple languages and countries, means there’s plenty of opportunity to get it right.

During Q1 2019, Intrinsic surveyed over 400 CXO, VP and director-level executives, mostly based in Europe, for their views on the market. We’ve released the results in our survey and highlighted a few of our findings below.

The biggest challenges facing SaaS firms in Europe

It’s clear to see that finding new logos in Europe has given many scaling SaaS firms a big headache during the last year.

Further research from Intrinsic shows that top-notch business events and personal referrals are by far the most successful channels in engaging with new prospects. We’ve also found that cold emailing appears to be becoming less and less effective each year as alternatives such as LinkedIn InMail appears to have stronger results.

The toughest EU country to hire senior sales/commercial talent

As we can see from the above, hiring great sales executives is a major challenge here in Europe. In fact, 72% of the respondents claim that is has become harder than ever to recruit great SaaS sales executives.

Once again, Germany was ranked as the hardest EU country to find great enterprise SaaS Senior Sales Executives!

So why do so many SaaS firms find it difficult to attract and hire successful German executives?

The main reason seems to be a lack of understanding of the German culture, buying habits and appreciation of how the German economy operates. Our German network claims that US firms assume that they can make a few small tweaks to their US/UK business plans and the revenue will flow in. How wrong can they be!

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

The best EU city location for an inside sales team

Where is the best EU city for a SaaS firm to locate and build its inside sales team? There are many choices in Europe and from the research, there’s no obvious answer. London and Dublin have been popular in the past, but the cost of labor is expensive and the hiring market is highly competitive.

Does The Netherlands provide the answer?

Amsterdam and Rotterdam

These Dutch cities received the most votes under the ‘other’ section. The Netherlands has certainly become a location of major consideration for many companies in recent times, especially with all the uncertainty around Brexit.

English is widely spoken. Culturally, The Netherlands is well-aligned with the UK and the USA. It also has great transportation networks around Europe, entrepreneurial individuals and a favorable tax system, making it a magnet for US and European B2B SaaS companies. We’ve found that Amsterdam, London, Dublin and Barcelona are the main inside sales centers of the B2B SaaS industry here in Europe.

Salary levels in Europe

The chart below represents SaaS firms that target their Senior Sales Executives with a quota in the region of circa $1 million, with an average deal size of $250k. The size of the target and deal size can affect the size of an individual’s base salary. For instance, a lower target and deal size may reduce the base salary.

*The basic salaries below do not include car allowance/physical car or other benefits such as pensions and health insurances.

One thing is for certain – salaries for the above roles are only going in one direction – up!

58% of the respondents have experienced a fixed salary increase of at least 10% over the last 12 months, with over a third having their best total earning year in 2018! In Germany, B2B SaaS Senior Sales Executives are earning around $110k – $140 as a base plus the same in commission.

Further, the demand for Customer Success Executives is outstripping demand, which results in salary inflation across the European Union for these individuals. SaaS firms are now paying up to $170k base salary for senior leadership, individual contributors and customer success executives!

Conclusion

Scaling a SaaS firm across Europe is no easy task and there are many different considerations to make due to the diversity of the European region. Where do you locate your European HQ and your inside sales team? What is the best approach to finding new logos?

Further, when it comes to hiring senior commercial talent, the hiring market is tough! Countries like Germany and Sweden often have full employment for the best senior sales executives, meaning many candidates can pick and choose who they work for. The hiring process is typically much slower in these regions, taking 3-6 months in some cases due to longer notice periods.

To succeed in this region, it’s best to talk with the experts who have personally scaled teams within Europe or VCs/PE firms who have invested in the European market.

For even more highlights from our survey, you can access the entire B2B SaaS Survey Report 2019 here.

European SaaS Headhunter
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