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Channel Matters Blog > December 2014 > There is No Europe: Insights From My Recent Trip to Nowhere (1)

There is No Europe: Insights From My Recent Trip to Nowhere

by Cristal Herrera
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There’s nothing like an entire week spent with clients to center me on what’s important. While a whirlwind trip to Australia and Asia was a good start to my autumn, wrapping up the season with client events and meetings across Europe was equally productive and informative. More on the reason for my provocative title in a moment, but let me start with a reflection that proved as true in Europe as it has elsewhere:
 
Sales leaders love to connect with their peers and share best practices
Sales leaders don’t have a natural place to meet one another on a regular basis. There’s no professional society and few industry forums dedicated to sales. And let’s face it, within an industry or marketplace, sales leaders can be competitive, despite the “co-opetition” promoted by so many business gurus. However, even while there is their competitive nature to deal with, sales leaders are hungry to hear what’s working and proving to be successful at other companies, especially when the story comes directly from the source and not through some vendor’s semi-self-interested white paper.
 
This trip proved the point again, not only in quality but quantity. In total, about 250 clients turned out to listen, learn, and share at three events:
 
·        The Miller Heiman Sales Performance Summit at Emirates Stadium in London
·        Channel Enablers’ Channel Sales Competency Study Breakfast Briefing in Maidenhead
·        The Sales Performance and Productivity Summit in Brussels, hosted by our partners and Minds & More
 
My takeaways were the same at each of these sessions: channel sales leaders and direct sales leaders are direct, to the point and expect the same of each other. They expect to get a good return on time invested. For that reason, they tend to listen as much to one another as they do to whomever is presenting. Even the engagement with speakers and panelists is direct: no punches pulled, right to the heart of the matter. The most value-rich content came in these interactions, and we are pleased to be able to continue to promote opportunities and venues that allow sales leaders to thrive through sharing with one another.
 
Now for some insights that are a little more provocative...
 
There is no Europe. Viva la difference.
Marketers and sales leaders talk about Europe as if it were a market. Sometimes, we even go so far as to lump it in with other markets when we talk about regions like EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa.) I'm sure everybody knows that as markets go, Europe, the Middle East and Africa have a LOT of differences. Still, from a reporting and staffing perspective, we get some synergy from pulling these groups together. But that's an internal viewpoint. When we're dealing with channel organizations and partners in these markets, it's self-defeating to think of them (much less treat them) all the same.
 
I realize that for many of you, this is no great revelation. If you're in the channels business, you know that from country to country in Europe the markets and distribution can be even more varied than the languages. Yet, I’m continually amazed, especially among US-based leaders, how easily the words EMEA and Europe slide off their tongues as if the differences were no bigger than the differences between the states in the US. If you haven't done much business in Europe, you may accept the differences intellectually, but you won't feel the level of passion Europeans have for the differences.
 
Every European sales leader I spoke with was adamant about the differences between each market, the various maturity levels, the differing business and channel models – and the unique strategies that need to be followed for growth in each market. The end-customer differences and choices in how they buy are a key driver in these differences, but I was also struck by the passion around leveraging the differences instead of seeing them as a challenge. How do we make the differences work for us and for our end customers, ensuring a common customer experience across all routes to market in all of the places we do business in – from Portugal to Poland?
 
The UK is not Europe – or is it the other way around?
While perhaps politically incorrect, a channel leader I spoke with in Brussels (when discussing the UK versus other European markets) said to me, “Well, they are an island, you know.
 
Before my many UK friends snicker, scoff or scowl at this remark, there is a point hiding in the portrayal.  Certainly, the markets and routes to market in the UK are different in many ways from other European countries, but that doesn’t quite capture the distinction. I’ve seen many companies, especially those who have their European or EMEA headquarters in the UK, act differently in the UK than in the rest of Europe. It may be for market reasons or have a historical basis or some level of cultural bias in one direction or the other – but to deny the differences is risky.
 
Savvy channel leaders capitalize on the difference between markets. These differences are not merely excuses for saying “but we do things differently here.” That can be (and is) said everywhere. Find the basis for the differences at the end customer level and adjust your strategies and execution to capitalize on the differences and serve your customer better.
 
Isn’t that what it’s all about? Keeping the customer at the core of everything we do?
Last modified on 12/16/2014 11:52:34 AM
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