Over recent years at Erevena, we have built a reputation as the go-to search firm in London for VP EMEA hires. We’ve been privileged to run EMEA leadership searches for the likes of Zendesk, Box, Mulesoft, SuccessFactors, Elastic, Duo Security, WalkMe, Asana and many others. Along the way, we have learnt some important lessons about what US companies should consider when hiring someone to lead go-to-market efforts on the opposite side of the Atlantic.

You are looking for both a sales leader and GM in one

The EMEA ‘theatre’ role is, first and foremost, a sales leadership role. You need somebody who will hire a great sales team, develop the correct market approach in region, instill appropriate metrics and KPIs and aggressively drive revenues upwards. They need to be a strong communicator and forecaster, who can win confidence and trust quickly with their European team, as well as HQ.  But you also need to find somebody capable of being the local ‘figurehead’ in region. Whilst many of the functions represented in Europe will report hardline back to the US, this individual will be viewed (internally and externally), as the go-to exec in region for all manner of day-to-day activities. They need to be experienced enough to manage this balance and also enjoy taking on this added responsibility, which is not always reflected in the job spec. It is worth testing how closely they have worked with their marketing, customer success and product counterparts in previous roles because a large part of the EMEA job involves building local cohesion between those teams.

It is sometimes helpful to think of this role as a ‘regional CRO’ more than VP Sales, because the leader’s sphere of influence is wider than the org chart would suggest.

The ‘been there, done that’ candidate pool is a small one.

We are often asked to find someone who has led a specific revenue journey in region for a comparable business. For example, $20m-$100m+ ARR in EMEA. But this is not always a straightforward task, for the following reasons:

  • In Europe, there are only a small group of candidates who have genuinely witnessed that entire growth cycle. In many cases, there have been 2-3 leaders in the EMEA theatre role, each leading part of the journey to $100m+ in revenue.
  • The few that have genuinely witnessed it all do not necessarily want to do it again. They are now getting approached about C-level roles in European scale-ups as well.
  • The few that are interested in doing the role again are approached daily about the most attractive EMEA roles. Competition is extremely fierce for these proven candidates (and their compensation expectations soar as a result).
  • Compounding this, most are locked into 4-year vesting cycles and those on the best journeys are unlikely to move until the end of that period.

Your shortlist may need to be ‘shorter’ (or at least more varied) than other hires

For the reasons outlined above, it is a tough ask for any search firm to find you 4-5 top VP EMEA candidates who have witnessed the perfect ‘journey’ in region and are fully vested, simultaneously.

The shortlist will likely need to contain some different archetypes to make sure you meet the best, hirable talent at that moment in time. We advise our clients to meet some talented HiPos as well as experienced, serial VP EMEAs with ticks in all the boxes. This might be a strong VP who has run a smaller part of the EMEA region but is now ready for the step up. It could also be a talented EMEA VP who has not yet built a business all the way to your target scale but has all of the skills to do so. This is particularly important if you expect your search firm to build you a gender diverse shortlist. The sad truth in European SaaS is that there are far fewer women in these roles today than their male counterparts. This is changing rapidly and we are delighted by that momentum, but it becomes more difficult to buck the trend when there is zero flex on the scorecard.

If a step-up profile is simply not an option, our advice is to be decisive when you meet someone you are excited about rather than wait until you have 4-5 people to choose from. If you find 2 candidates who demonstrate your desired experience in companies you admire and are great culture fits, you should move to hire your favorite quickly!

How you sell will dictate which European cities likely hold your answer

If you sell an enterprise solution in a traditional ‘top-down’ manner, you will find the bulk of your talent pool sits in London, Paris, Munich, Frankfurt or Amsterdam. However, if your sales cadence is more velocity-led (bottoms-up), many of your target candidates will be in Dublin or Berlin (with smaller pools in Amsterdam and London).

Of course, there are always outliers. But, as a general rule, it’s helpful to consider the above when you are planning where to base your leader.

Conclusion

In conclusion, these are our 4 top tips for hiring a great EMEA leader:

  1. Find a top sales leader who also has strong GM skills.
  2. Be aware of how few execs in Europe have built a business from sub $20m all the way to $100m+.
  3. Consider meeting the best of the HiPo candidate pool as well, particularly to give yourself the opportunity to see as diverse a shortlist as possible. It is worth noting that many of the most successful EMEA GMs in SaaS were first-timers in the role.
  4. Consider how you sell and where the appropriate talent lies when you decide where to base your leader.

It is a fiercely competitive market. When you find a candidate you are excited about, our advice is to move quickly to secure that person. If you don’t, we can guarantee that someone else will.

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Author

Joe Abbott, Partner

Specialisms: CEO, CRO, COO, GM EMEA

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