Mike Podobnik

 
When we first checked in with Sean Farrington (VP, EMEA Sales), he was six months into a new role leading Medallia’s team in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Now, as the EMEA team expands with a new office in Munich, Sean and Steve Maher (VP, Global PreSales and Solution Consulting) discuss how their teams are working together to bring Medallia’s industry-leading customer experience management platform to some of the region’s biggest names.
First, tell us how your teams work together.
Steve: Our go to market strategy is a two-pronged approach. Our sales directors, or SDs, are part of Sean’s organization, and they’re in the more traditional salesperson role, focused on creating opportunities, building relationships with potential customers, and winning new business. On my PreSales team, we have Solutions Consultants who partner with the SDs to identify ways Medallia can solve our customers’ business problems—and then design an amazing solution.
Sean: It’s a very hand-in-glove relationship. Collaboration is key, and it’s at the heart of our growth plans as we establish the new office in Munich. Sales and PreSales have to be closely aligned on both the customer’s business goals and the technical requirements, especially because Medallia is breaking new ground in terms of what we can offer. We have to communicate complex concepts in simple, accessible language. The best SDs are able to build that narrative quickly because they have strong relationships with PreSales.
How do you collaborate as leaders?
Sean: Steve and I talk several times a week, often every day. Lately, we’ve been collaborating on a highly complex deal, and he’s doing a great job of addressing its technical as well as business requirements. But we also have broader conversations about building out the organization—the skills he’s bringing in and the direction he’s taking. We’re exchanging ideas on a global level, thinking beyond Europe and discussing things in terms of Medallia as a whole.
Steve: We look for ways to divide and conquer, and think each of other as force multipliers. We’re on the same page that our job is to support our teams and make their lives easier, whether that’s engaging with customers, or coaching and mentoring. It’s been great to work with Sean and think about how we grow the business and who we want to hire. He’s a phenomenal business partner.
What’s exciting about the expansion into Germany?
Steve: This isn’t, “Let’s see whether we can do business in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.” We already have a small German team, and we’ve shown we can succeed in this region. This is about expanding our team and accelerating growth. It’s about ensuring we have a strong support mechanism  in place in Europe, so the team isn’t relying on someone who’s nine time zones away. We have people in the region who can work in multiple languages to support demo environments or put presentations together.
We also have seasoned, experienced Solution Consultants in Germany who can coach new team members and help them get up to speed on the domain, the category, and the product. So we’re in a sweet spot right now in that a lot of the groundwork is laid, but there’s still so much opportunity to shape this space and how Medallia is perceived in the market.
Why are you personally interested in working in this region?
Steve: Before Medallia, I got to live in Europe for several years, leading a team across EMEA. My family and I spent many of those years in London, where my son was born, and then we moved to Switzerland. We still have our place there. Germany was right around the corner, and we would visit all the time. It’s one of my favorite places in the world, so I am very excited about our expansion plans.
Sean: Before I worked in technology sales, I spent 15 years in the British Army, and I lived in Germany for about half that time. Since I joined the business world, I’ve worked with accounts in Germany and throughout Europe. There are some subtleties to operating and building a sales team in a multicultural environment like EMEA, and that experience helps me navigate.
Why did you choose to join the team at Medallia?
Sean: The most important reason for me was it’s an exciting market segment with real opportunity. In my opinion, customer experience is definitely the next big thing; it’s how companies are staying competitive, regardless of their vertical. Medallia was attractive because it’s proven that it can serve that opportunity, but also because of its culture. I knew it would be fun to work alongside this team.
Steve: I was a Medallia customer first, as part of the Sales team at a Fortune 500 software company. We started using Medallia when a new CEO came on board, and honestly, I was probably the biggest critic on the team at first. I thought I already knew about every issue with our products and services. But then we ran into a complex situation with a big customer. After I’d exhausted every other possible solution, I said, “Maybe Medallia can help”—and it ended up being amazing. It taught me about so many things that were easy to fix, and changed our relationship with that customer dramatically. I became a Medallia evangelist, and eventually joined the team.
Sean mentioned Medallia’s culture, and it really is second-to-none. No matter which team you’re on or what country you’re in, everyone wants to remove roadblocks from your path and help you learn. We can innovate here without worrying about being wrong. We can ask questions. That promotes camaraderie and also leads to better solutions.
As I was leaving a meeting with a potential customer the other day, one of the C-level executives pulled me aside and said, “I just love your team. They’re so knowledgeable, and so fun to work with.” I think we get responses like that because Medallians are really passionate about what we do. We’re helping companies change the way they do business. We’re building strong relationships with very senior executives at very big companies, and we’re helping them achieve higher revenue, lower churn, and better margins. It’s a lot of fun.
What challenges are you facing as you expand?
Steve: Germany is actually a very mature market, in that most organizations there understand the value of a customer experience solution. But some customers are new to that journey. They know they need to do something, but they’re not sure what. So we’ve built out a series of solutions based on different maturity models, to help us meet customers where they are in their journey.
And while our brand isn’t as strong in Europe yet as it is in the U.S., we already have some amazing companies working with us. When I encourage folks to look at specifics, they’re often surprised to see we’re working with some of the largest organizations in the region. I think the challenge—and opportunity—for our Sales team is to continue building that brand.
Another big challenge is making sure that, as we build and scale in these new markets, we find the right folks to join the team. We are very selective about who becomes a Medallian, because we want to maintain the powerful culture the company has built.
Sean: Absolutely. To be successful in Germany, we need to build a world-class team relatively quickly, which is why we’re investing so heavily in infrastructure and support for the region. We want to attract great people and help them be successful.
And to Steve’s point, we have some world-renowned brands working with us in Europe—customers like Vodafone, Liberty Global, and Metro Group, which is the fourth-largest retailer in the world. With the investments we’re making now, we are looking to grow from those early adopters to own a majority of the German market.
How does the rest of Medallia’s leadership support those goals?
Sean: EMEA is a major strategic focus for Medallia in the next fiscal year, and I’ve been hugely encouraged by the enthusiasm of our executives in San Mateo, in the Sales team and beyond. The idea to double down on Germany was fully embraced, and they’ve put a lot into building out the plan. That’s critical, because the first question a customer in a newer market will have is, “Can I be confident that you are in this for the long term?” We need to demonstrate that commitment, and that’s what we are doing.
We also have experience in and knowledge of the German market within the executive leadership team itself. Marc Vanlerberghe, our Chief Marketing Officer, is from Belgium. His insight has been incredibly helpful in developing the localization of our website, our sales and customer content, and our marketing campaigns. We’re not just translating English into German; we’re making the content relevant to a buyer in that market. Chris Collins, our VP of Global Services, and Scott Aronson, our Chief Revenue Officer, both have experience operating in European markets, and in Germany in particular.
What makes someone successful on your team?
Steve: One of the things I look for is natural curiosity—someone who really wants to learn the product and understand how we can add value. We want people who are excited about finding solutions to big, meaty problems. You also need to be comfortable engaging with customers, because Medallia has fantastic expertise and best practices, but we don’t know everything. We learn a lot from our customers.
Sean: We also look for people who can think creatively, and who are great communicators. Confidence is important, but as Steve said, so is humility. We learn from each other as well as our customers. To be successful in these big, complex, selling situations, we need people who recognize the value of the people working alongside them, and realize they can’t do it all themselves.
 
This story was created in conjunction with Job Portraits, a San Francisco-based creative agency that helps teams scale using culture-focused content.