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In Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), customer experience management is still an emerging space—which presents unique challenges and opportunities for Medallia’s Sales team. For this story, Head of EMEA People and Culture Toby Hough spoke with Sales Director Estelle Villard to discuss what first drew her to the company, how she approaches cross-continental collaboration, and what’s most exciting about selling in the EMEA region.
To start, tell us about Medallia and your role.
Medallia is a customer experience management, or CEM, platform that allows businesses to collect, analyze, and share feedback across an entire company. We make sure everyone, not just the marketing or market research team, hears the voice of the customer.
I’m a Sales Director in our Paris office, and I spend most of my time working with key accounts to understand the challenges they’re facing and develop solutions. CEM is still relatively new in the French market, so part of my job is to evangelize and explain how this tool can help businesses.
Why did you decide to join the team?
Before I came to Medallia, I was in sales at Oracle, IBM, BMC Software, and most recently, Google. So I’d spent a lot of time in the software space. I really wanted to go beyond that comfort zone and grow my skills. Medallia appealed to me because to sell this platform, you need to understand the entire business of your prospects and customers. You’re working with people not only in IT, but across the company—business development, marketing, the steering committee. There aren’t a lot of SaaS sales roles where you’re able to work directly with such a wide range of people, but with CEM, the applications are almost endless. Medallia is still a SaaS platform, of course, and it’s important that we understand the technical side. But we also have an opportunity to go further and impact virtually every aspect of a company. We’re helping transform businesses, and that’s exciting to me.
What else is exciting about your role, particularly in an emerging market like EMEA?
I like being in a growing market because I can make a bigger impact. I came here with specific goals in mind as far as key logos I wanted to bring on board, and so far, I’ve been successful. We have a lot of opportunity to close major deals, which helps us grow our own careers within Medallia.
And while CEM is relatively new in this region, it is increasingly the number one issue steering committees are talking about—because it’s often the best opportunity a business has to set itself apart from the competition. Companies in EMEA are starting to understand this, but they don’t yet know what to do about it. That’s where the evangelizing comes in. Part of what I do is explain how CEM works, and how Medallia is more than a simple customer survey. What I’m doing here is a very different approach from selling the platform in a market that’s more familiar with CEM. It can be challenging, but there is also so much potential for growth.
What are some of the challenges?
One challenge is helping companies shift their mindset around sharing data. Historically, customer experience data hasn’t been available to everyone across the business—it usually belongs to a small team of market researchers. Those teams do great work, but we believe that a company can become more customer-centric when data is “democratized.” If you’re used to owning the data, though, that can be an adjustment. So we collaborate a lot with market research teams to help ease the transition.
The time difference with Medallia HQ in San Mateo (California) can also be a challenge, but we do have a lot of resources here in EMEA. Because Paris is a small office, we often collaborate with our teams in London and Munich. The network of people here who can help you is one of the reasons I chose Medallia.
Working with other offices is also a great way to increase your visibility when you’re based at a smaller office. If I call on people from the U.S. and elsewhere in EMEA for help with a deal, then they’re naturally aware of what I’m working on, and they’re invested when that deal closes. We also travel back and forth pretty regularly. Medallians from other offices will visit here in Paris, and we try to go to London every month or so. That’s not required—and I have three kids, so it’s not always possible—but it’s just nice to see each other face-to-face when we can.
How do Medallia’s global offices collaborate with one another?
Since I speak French with most of my clients, I’ll often loop in the other French speakers in the Medallia network. It’s a good way to show our customers that, while Paris is a small office, we have global resources. We have a great relationship with our office in Quebec, for example, and we talk with them regularly.
I also have a lot of support from Steve Maher, our VP of Global PreSales and Solution Consulting. He’s based in the U.S., but whenever I tell him about something I need, it’s taken care of in 10 minutes. He’s also happy to talk with my customers. I had one case recently where a company was new to CEM and concerned about predicting costs. I set up a meeting with Steve, the customer, and me, and within a couple of hours we were able to design a solution to address the company’s issue and still offer the flexibility they needed.
What’s the culture like on the Sales team?
We can be ourselves. As with any sales job, there are certain qualities that will help you succeed—you need to be resilient, committed, and willing to take ownership. But beyond that, we’re free to develop our own style. I think that’s due in part to the diversity of backgrounds on our team. We have people from large and small companies, people like me who come from software vendors, and people from the consulting world. We all have different areas of expertise, and none of us sell exactly the same way.
It’s also just a fun team. We all like what we do, and we’ve gotten to know each other even though we work in different cities. A lot of sales teams at other companies have a very aggressive, super-tough culture, but that’s definitely not the case here. Putting the team first is a company-wide value, and that’s what we do.
This story was created in conjunction with Job Portraits, a San Francisco-based creative agency that helps teams scale using culture-focused content.