DigiTech Leaders Series

The secrets to Salesforce’s $50 billion ARR global expansion strategy to win new customers

I know what you are thinking, “it's easy for Salesforce, they are huge so they have time, money, and resources that we simply don't have”. Am I right?

It's worth remembering that Salesforce wasn't always the global SaaS company it is today. So this report will take you inside Salesforce’s growth strategy so you can learn and be inspired to adopt the strategies for your company.

At the end of last year, Salesforce became the world’s largest enterprise software vendor with a revenue of $31.35 billion. 

The current target for fiscal 2026 is $50 billion in revenue worldwide.

But during tech layoffs back in March 2023, Salesforce opened a data centre in India and announced plans to generate $66.4 billion in new revenue by fiscal 2026 in this one region alone. 

How does Salesforce do it?

In this blog post, I wanted to walk you through 5 steps that Salesforce has used to grow its cloud computing services both at home and internationally. 

In fact, I got these 5 steps right from Marc Benioff’s book Behind the Cloud.

But I wanted to include a number of examples that demonstrate how SaaS companies have used these same strategies to grow their ARR and how you can start implementing them today whether you have enterprise logos or no customers yet. 

Read on to find it all below.

1: Entering a new country 

Benioff talks in his book about a step-by-step process that he stumbled upon in the US and then re-used to enter every new market since.

The process starts with actually entering the new country (or market).

The approach is supposed to be agile and perfect for startups who don’t even have a paying customer yet.

Below find four takeaways to consider from the very beginning.

Amazon.com: Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went  from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company-and Revolutionized an Industry:  9798200555703: Carlye Adler, Marc Benioff: Books

Build a customer-led product

None of Salesforce’s first users paid a cent for the service.

This was part of the revolutionary SaaS model which offered free trials or ‘freemium’ trials followed by monthly subscriptions – it was unheard of at the time as it put all the risk on the vendor.

In Salesforce’s case, they offered a free trial for 5 users for a year and then intended to charge $50 per person per month.

But in the very beginning, Salesforce struggled to convince anyone to use their new service even for free.

They asked friends and former colleagues in the software industry to try Salesforce.com and with a handful of early adopters, they got insights into complaints and feedback to develop a better product that was customer-led in design.

Salesforce attributes nearly all its growth to being a customer-led company. 

Tip #1 – If your SaaS is still in the early stages can you leverage free trials to create a customer-led product? 

Marc Benioff at the salesforce office/apartment in Telegra… | Flickr

Marc Benioff at Salesforce’s first office – a rented apartment on Telegraph Hill, San Francisco in 1999

Build your product for a global audience

You might read advice to enter a new market or region when 25% or more of revenue comes from outside your home country.

But Salesforce launched with a goal to go global right from day one.

Marc Benioff believed the problems that cloud-based CRM could solve in the US were there in every company with a sales operation. Multinational companies in particular needed to keep all their sales and customer data in one place and were unhappy with existing solutions.

Salesforce knew that building a globally-focused product was very simple with SaaS.

Salesforce’s cloud applications were built from the beginning so that users could configure them to any currency and any language (even character-based languages like Japanese and Mandarin) with just the click of a button.

Salesforce’s sales strategy initially focused on small-to-medium businesses and only later on did they start targeting enterprise customers with a separate field sales team.

But the approach worked well to validate a product-market fit in new countries where there was no physical presence.

For example, by the time Salesforce decided to enter Australia with a dedicated enterprise sales team they had already won the leading telecom provider’s business just by letting customers use the service in their own language and currency in the years prior.

Tip #2 – Can you build out your SaaS to win customers in new markets and regions without actually establishing a base there?

When Salesforce was young: the early years

Salesforce’s first website was designed to look like Amazon.com (at the time) and let users switch languages and currencies at the click of the button

Pay attention to demands from other countries

Marc Benioff launched Salesforce in February 1999.

By February 2000 he was already talking to the people who would become his European country managers and by 2001 Salesforce already had bases in Dublin and Japan.

Annual reports in 2003 show that Salesforce was winning 14% of its revenue from APAC and Europe and by 2005 this had increased to 20%.

Salesforce used exactly the same tactics it used in the US to grow in its new regions.

In Benioff’s words:

“We centred our sales operation with a corporate sales team (what other people call telesales) in one city to leverage training opportunities and build critical mass, just as we had done in the United States.”

With a rented office space on the outskirts of Dublin, this helped Salesforce to keep the costs low while capturing online leads and winning any business that came its way.

The office had a number of different native speakers so any calls from France or Germany or Spain or Sweden were re-routed and the callers assumed they were talking to someone in their own country.

Tip #3 – Could you enter a new region using a skeleton team to generate leads and prepare critical mass for a larger entrance in the future?

The Salesforce Tower will stand for centuries, but the employees are gone

Salesforce Tower in San Francisco today is the second-tallest building west of the Mississippi River in the US

Compare the landscape

It is much quicker and easier to grow in countries with a similar language and culture.

Depending on your SaaS you may need third-party fulfillment services and run into customs, duties or tax compliance issues.

If you’re looking to expand globally and expand fast then it’s best to focus on regions where the risks are fewer until you are confident that you can beat out the competition or start becoming profitable fastest.

Tip #4 – Can you compare revenue statistics from new markets and identify which offer the fastest wins with minimal product tweaking or compliance issues?

3 examples of SaaS companies figuring out a successful global expansion

Paddle – UK unicorn generating 2,475% revenue growth from global expansion

Paddle is a complete payment, tax, and subscription solution for SaaS companies.

They are present in 245 countries and Paddle CEO Christian Owens says international expansions help them boost revenue growth by at least 13% each year.

To identify a new region, Paddle collects data on its traffic and sales in different markets and runs machine learning and AI to predict where is ripe for expansion. Paddle says this approach influenced their decision to directly enter Asia and the Middle East instead of focusing on Europe and America first.

Christian Owens:

“We have a number of sellers from places like Armenia or India or Malaysia who are performing really, really well. They are GT 100 companies. They out-compete their Western competitors. They’re growing much faster. And this is for us one of the biggest growth areas.”

Paddle founder Christian Owens on changing how software is sold

Chris Owens scaled an invoicing software business to $4 million ARR by age 16 and then launched Paddle and grew it into a $1.4 billion unicorn before he turned 30

Remove.bg – Selling to 181 countries within the first two years of business

Kaleido launched their digital product remove.bg as a SaaS tool that removes backgrounds from images. 

The free release of remove.bg attracted millions of users from across the world and CEO Benjamin Groessing wanted to monetise as many regions as possible from the beginning.

The solution lay in using software to navigate global sales tax rules and stay compliant while scaling fast. 

Remove.bg provided options for subscription billing in over 20 native currencies and also allowed for invoices to large companies buying 5 or 6-figure contacts (think Sony Music and AT&T).

Kaleido’s initial marketing campaign helped them scale from zero to 4,800 paying customers in 119 countries within six months of launch – with global capabilities they then scaled to 43,000 paying customers from 181 countries within the next 18 months. 

Notta.ai – Selling SaaS to a country whose language you don’t speak

I found this case study online and think it’s a great one for promoting global SaaS expansion.

Off the back of the transcription service, Otter.ai came the idea for Notta.ai – a transcription service, just for a Japanese audience.

The creators saw a huge gap in the market in Japan and earned 400,000 users and $200k MRR by leveraging SEO to promote their transcription service for individual users.

Individual purchases quickly became team purchases and then corporate purchases until top brands like MUJI and the University of Tokyo were on board. All of this was created from outside Japan with no English-language version of the product.

The founder does not even speak Japanese, according to online reports.

2. Establishing a Beachhead

Step 2 in Salesforce’s 5-step global expansion strategy is about the beachhead.

This means identifying a specific market that’s ripe for your service and building a strong base for the business there first before expanding.

It’s an approach that Salesforce used in the US to win over customers at software firms before expanding. It’s also the strategy they use to enter a new market, region, or vertical.

Read on for two takeaways from Salesforce’s strategy for establishing a beachhead.

Find your message and spread it everywhere

Salesforce’s early marketing was hyper-focused on a specific audience: businesses who were fed up or unable to afford software needed to streamline their sales processes.

Marc Benioff was adamant that Salesforce employees should each wear ‘NO SOFTWARE’ buttons and created one of the first advertisements to show a fighter jet shooting a biplane out of the sky alongside the words ‘THE END OF SOFTWARE’.

Later on, came the staged protest where Salesforce hired actors to go to a Siebel User Conference with signs demanding the end of software.

Siebel executives called the police. Journalists came running.

This was tactical marketing.

Benioff knew that his ideal customers were having problems with traditional software vendors. The tech came with high upfront costs, was time-consuming to install, and required constant in-house IT support. 

At Salesforce’s launch party in 2000 visitors entered the lowest level of San Franscico’s Regency Theater into ‘software hell’ complete with enterprise salespeople locked inside cages screaming ‘Help! Get me out!’. On the level above visitors obtained Nirvana and were greeted with harp music, light, and Salesforce.com.

The marketing stunts succeeded in getting the message out.

Salesforce was featured in a Wall Street Journal article with Benioff talking about the ‘spawning of a new industry’. They built the first website overnight and woke up to 500 leads.

Soon Fortune, Forbes, and leading US newspapers were writing stories about Salesforce and ‘the end of software’ without any of the press coverage costing the company a cent.

The marketing message helped to attract early adopters and visionary software companies who all believed in the future of cloud computing and wanted to adopt Salesforce’s disruptive new model.

This was Salesforce’s beachhead and later on, when Salesforce became the leading CRM provider it was no longer necessary to have disruptive branding like this.

Tip #5 – Can you find a powerful marketing message that builds you a beachhead of loyal customers and leverage every opportunity to spread the word?

Marc Benioff on Twitter: "Channel 22 covering the “end of software” protest  as Moscone Center February 22, 2000. An important moment for the software  industry. Thank you for those who fought this

Salesforce’s legendary No Software protest outside a Siebel User Conference in February 2000

Adapt your message to new markets 

When Marc Benioff was invited to deliver a keynote speech by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, he thought his mock protest strategy might win over the new business in Asia.

He was wrong.

Police arrived 5 minutes before he was supposed to go on stage and threatened to close down the whole event.

It demonstrates how establishing a beachhead in a new market or region can be difficult if your message is not well received. 

One of Salesforce’s tactics to enter a new market in the smoothest fashion is to find a partner – for example, they partnered with SunBridge Corporation which incubated IT startups in Japan to help them get access to new business.

This proved more successful than marketing stunts due to the business culture of the market.

Salesforce also immediately created an independent entity in Japan to avoid the company being seen as a subsidiary of a US company that wasn’t going to invest heavily in the country long-term.

Ultimately, this strategy helped Salesforce build a beachhead of software companies in Japan through a joint venture rather than through direct marketing.

Tip #6 – Can you establish a beachhead through partnerships or other means that offer a good cultural fit for your product and your market?

Introducing Salesforce Tower Tokyo - Salesforce Blog

Salesforce’s present-day tower in Tokyo

3 examples of SaaS companies establishing a beachhead

Blablacar – French carpooling company gets huge word-of-mouth expansion in Spain

Blablacar launched in 2006 in France with a website and app that connects drivers to passengers willing to pay to share the cost of journeys by car.

Blablacar revenue hit $86 million in 2022 and is present throughout Europe as well as parts of South America.

But its first expansion was into Spain beginning in 2010.

The company knew their users’ top priority was to save money on long journeys, and they knew they had a large potential beachhead of customers in Spain looking for ways to save money following the financial crash in 2008.

Country Manager Jaime Rodriguez de Santiago also knew most passengers were aged 24 and looking to save money on travel, while most drivers were parents without children at home anymore and looking to save money on long trips.

Blablacar used very little marketing and instead spread by word-of-mouth to get 20% of the entire southern Andalucia region signed up to the app within five years of entering the region.

Andalucia was the region worst hit during the financial crisis, and where Blablarcar built its beachhead in Spain before signing up 17% of the whole country.

Atlassian – Building a beachhead in the US with no actual sales team

Australian unicorn and SaaS startup Atlassian for years had a controversial business strategy: no sales team.

Instead, the company targeted a beachhead of software developers within larger tech companies. Atlassian’s product suite included issue tracking, collaboration, and software development tools that were better than the competition.

They were also quick and easy to use and Atlassian’s customers liked that.

This bottom-up strategy helped Atlassian to establish a significant presence in US software companies and businesses like Twitter even without an office there or any enterprise sales team.

It was only in 2020 – 5 years after IPO – that Atlassian began building a field sales operation.

Enterprise customers already made up 50% of revenue and the company had already won big logos and this only created a stronger base for expansion.

Workday – establishing a beachhead via acquisition

Sometimes an acquisition can be a fast and smooth method to establish a beachhead in a new market.

Enterprise cloud applications provider Workday, for example, acquired Cape Clear and used this to establish their European headquarters office in Dublin in 2008.

The acquisition helped to get Workday in front of enterprise customers and by 2015 they had won contracts with 100 companies with headquarters in Europe. 

3. Gaining Customers

Gaining customers is one of the first major challenges facing startups – either in their home country or during a global expansion.

Salesforce’s strategy has always been to remain streamlined and avoid over-hiring at the beginning until a country manager or CEO has created a pipeline and has too many leads to handle alone.

But still, actually winning those leads can be challenging.

See two tips below from Salesforce’s expansion playbook to help you win contracts fast.

Don’t forget to download the pdf document with the 5-step strategy, tips, and examples of SaaS companies scaling to new ARR at home and across the globe.

BONUS PDF: SaaS Global Expansion Playbook

Start small and scale up

Salesforce might be the largest enterprise software vendor in the world – but it wasn’t always that way.

Benioff says in his book how the first contract won by the sales team in Dublin was for £35.

The team framed the cheque and went out to celebrate.

As it happens, Salesforce’s approach at the beginning was deliberately to target SMBs both in Europe and back home in the US during its first few months of operation.

After developing their cloud-based salesforce automation with free user trials in San Francisco, for example, Salesforce won their first customer (Blue Martini Software) in August 1999.

Marc Benioff leveraged his contacts and learned the founder of Blue Martini really needed a CRM system to help his sales team transition off spreadsheets – but he couldn’t afford enterprise software. 

Benioff suggested using Salesforce at much lower upfront cost and quicker onboarding and it was the first sale of a multi-billion dollar empire.

Here’s how Benioff says Salesforce’s first customers came in:

“We did not have a formal sales organisation at this time so in our quest for early customers, everyone on the salesforce.com team was encouraged to contact anyone he or she knew in any industry or any start-up. Diane Mark, our product manager, won our second client while she was standing in line at the local market Mollie Stone’s.”

Tip #7 – Can you leverage industry and personal contacts to win your first loyal customers?

Land and expand

Salesforce’s ‘land and expand’ strategy is SaaS doctrine today.

But back then it was the only strategy possible for a disruptive technology that Salesforce’s ideal customers were skeptical of using at first.

Salesforce’s initial pricing model of just $50 per person per month brought in a stream of leads but Marc Benioff knew the key to scaling would be landing much larger deals.

The opportunity soon came with 80 users at ADP and 75 users at Merril Lynch.

Both of these deals then scaled to multi-thousand-user commitments after Salesforce was already in the door and had proved the effectiveness of its service.

Here’s what Benioff says:

“We learned that when you’re starting out, you can’t try to capture an entire company at once. Start in a small division. Companies are looking to limit their investment risk, and they appreciate an opportunity to take a smaller position, experience the benefits, and then make additional purchases. In the end, ‘land and expand’ achieves the same goal, but also makes it possible for newer businesses to win larger or more established customers.”

Tip #8 – Can you target key customers within a larger organisation or leverage existing customers to expand existing contracts?

Start winning customers with a minimal sales team

To save money, Salesforce’s first office in the UK was small and about 30 miles outside of London.

It wasn’t a good location to meet the enterprise customers Salesforce was starting to attract.

So Marc Benioff camped out at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in London and met customers from 8 am until 12 am in his hotel suite.

Salesforce continued this lightweight approach for years and continued to hire employees who worked from home (or hotels) as they began to open offices in Germany, Spain, Italy, and other markets once they had established demand.

Marc Benioff admits that when hundreds of leads came in following articles about Salesforce in its very early days that there was no ‘sales process’ to deal with the interest. 

At times there were phone calls from corporations like Xerox and Siemens…

And only one salesperson at Salesforce to deal with them.

Benioff believed in the power of the Internet to capture leads (via the free trial) and then make the product so effective that happy customers did the job of actual salespeople.

But eventually, he developed a strategy. The plan was to contact any lead within 24 hours (no matter how big or small) and then convert it within 30-90 days.

This approach helped Salesforce minimise operating expenses and make sure that all growth was led by interest and that sales pipelines were always full.

Tip # 9 – Can you find ways to make your sales pipeline overflow while at the same team keeping operating expenses down?

2 examples of SaaS companies winning their first customers

It’s tough to find information on SaaS companies’ first-paying customers due to confidentiality agreements or NDAs.

But I’ve found two great examples from SaaS companies you will have heard of: Slack and Zoom.

Slack – 8,000 leads in first 24 hours

Slack is an instant messaging programme for professional communications, acquired by Salesforce for $27.7 billion in 2021. 

Its story has become legendary in the SaaS space.

It all began in August 2013 when founder Stewart Butterfield launched a media blitz about Slack that included hyperlinks to the landing page where users could request access to a free trial. 

The marketing campaign was very well crafted: an article in Fast Company read: “Flickr Cofounders Launch Slack, an Email Killer”.

The copy included problem-focused claims like ‘eliminate workplace email’.

Butterfield was quoted saying:

“Email is the least efficient way to send a message, with the most cognitive overhead. If someone I worked with emailed me, I’d probably fire them.”

The landing page headline read: Be Less Busy.

The campaign was a huge success and won 8,000 leads for Slack within 24 hours. Two weeks later the campaign had brought in 15,000 users and Slack shut off the launch and spent the next six months learning how companies of various sizes used the software. 

The initial customers soon became paying customers and helped Slack launch its product to a wider audience.

Slack Preview Release

Slack’s limited preview release – Butterfield said he wanted to avoid the word ‘beta’ as it made the product sound unfinished

Zoom – gaining its first customer through contacts and great positioning

Zoom shot to fame during the COVID-19 pandemic as a platform to keep families, friends, and businesses connected through video conferencing.

But Zoom’s story actually begins in 2011, followed by the launch of its beta version in September 2012.

By November the startup had won Stanford University as its first customer and then by May 2013 went on to win its first 1 million users.

Zoom founder Eric Yuan said had lived at Stanford for a summer to do an EMBA program and later found out they were looking for a solution for their online learning and online teaching platform.

They tested a number of solutions (including Zoom) and liked Zoom best. 

This paved the way not just for Zoom to establish a beachhead in the education industry but to later overtake its competitors like Skype and set itself up for massive growth during COVID-19.

4. Earning Local References

Marc Benioff names ‘earning local references’ as the fourth step in Salesforce’s growth strategy.

What he means is a mix of winning well-known logos (and leveraging this to get new business) and keeping the message strong in the media. 

For example, in 2003 Salesforce’s largest CRM competitor (Siebel Systems) announced that it was launching a cloud-based CRM service and then bought UpShot, a provider of on-demand enterprise software. 

Benioff says that business doubled overnight.

This was because Siebel was a market leader and had just ‘validated’ Salesforce’s model.

In 2005 when Oracle (Salesforce’s largest competitor) bought Siebel the news was seized upon as proof that a new market had been created — and Salesforce made sure the media saw them as the leaders of this new era.

See two more tips below on how Salesforce managed to earn important local references both in the US and abroad.

Get talking to your ideal customers

After Salesforce launched in Japan in 2001 they knew they had a problem.

The model to date had relied on customer references and disruptive marketing tactics – but that wouldn’t work in Japan.

The key to winning new customers was to get references from key influencers like global companies and government organisations.

Here’s how they did it.

First of all, Salesforce hired Eiji Uda who came with 20 years of experience at IBM and was the president of SoftBank Commerce (the largest IT distributor in Japan).

Uda had contacts at companies like Hitachi, Nippon Steel, and Canon. 

A sales leader managed to show a demo to Haruo Murase, the president and CEO of Canon, during a marketing event but he wasn’t impressed. Canon was trialling a database from Oracle and the CEO thought Salesforce was just another Internet flash-in-the-pan.

Benioff (a camera enthusiast) met with Murase and later sent him an email asking for a model of the newly released Canon EOS Digital camera.

It arrived. The pair kept talking.

Eventually, Canon agreed to test out Salesforce within one business unit and – thanks to the land and expand strategy – soon there were thousands of employees using the software.

Salesforce leveraged this contract to approach Japan Post (the world’s largest financial institution in terms of assets) and won a bidding process for 5,000 subscriptions that soon became 70,000. 

Tip #10 – Can you get talking to key customers in your market to win their business and then leverage that as a powerful local reference at home or abroad?

Turn disasters into opportunities to win more references

Before Salesforce was preparing to enter Australia a threatening letter arrived.

SalesForce Australia (a leading outsourced call centre provider) claimed trademark infringement and demanded Salesforce cease operating under the name.

Instead of pursuing litigation, Benioff succeeded in agreeing with SalesForce Australia’s managing director (Kevin Panozza) to collaborate.

The two companies donated the money they would have spent on litigation to build a young people’s development centre in Laos and Salesforce eventually won SalesForce Australia as a long-term customer.

The news also helped Salesforce to win important references in a new country and expand its operations there. 

Tip #11 – How can you leverage events, disasters or key milestones to spread your business’ message and win important cultural references at home or abroad?

2 examples of SaaS companies earning local references and leveraging it for new business

Workday – Leveraging its first big customer to bag new logos

In 2008 Workday won its first major customer for on-demand human capital management software. 

The customer was Flextronics. Soon they would roll out the software for 200,000 employees. 

To get the deal Workday beat out SAP and Oracle and was a ‘tipping point’ for the SaaS business to go on to win a 26,000-employee deal with Chiquita and then later high-profile contracts with Hewlett-Packard, AT&T, Orange, Bank of America, Chick-fil-A, Unilever, P&G, Deloitte, PWC, Harrods and others.

HubSpot – Earning cultural references for a community of Deadheads

HubSpot co-founder Brian Halligan was a huge fan of the Grateful Dead.

He even co-wrote a book called Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History

Halligan was convinced the Dead were inbound marketing geniuses – the Dead apparently pioneered the SaaS industry’s ‘free’ pricing model in the 1960s by letting concert attendees tape shows and distribute them for free.

This created a large base of customers by word-of-mouth who would later buy tickets to visit future Grateful Dead concerts. 

HubSpot secured permission to use the Grateful Dead’s name in its marketing and helped the SaaS company gain a name for its unorthodox approach.

Rock On! @HubSpot CEO Writes Book for Marketing Deadheads #GDBook

5. Making Hires

Marc Benioff says the first biggest obstacle facing Salesforce in 1999 wasn’t the lack of customers – it was a lack of talent.

In his words:

“We were competing with scores of fast-hiring dot-coms for the most talented employees. These companies were spending ridiculous sums of money to recruit the best and brightest people […] we couldn’t afford that, so we tried all sorts of odd strategies (like radio ads) to find candidates.”

In Salesforce’s early days, the strategy became one of hiring people who were early in their careers but bright and hungry. 

And it worked out. Benioff says a former assistant at a law firm was hired for an entry-level sales position and soon became a sales manager and one of the company’s top performers.

Obviously, as Salesforce has grown and expanded internationally they can seek out top talent from the start.

Here are 2 more tips from Salesforce’s expansion playbook.

Come up with a compelling story

Salesforce’s core attraction strategy is based on storytelling.

It’s not to do with salary, and it’s not to do with compensation (though both are important).

In Benioff’s words:

“If we are looking for somebody in development, for example, we pitch innovation and our agile development methodology. Candidates are excited to contribute to something that customers are passionate about […] When it comes to winning the best salespeople, we pitch opportunities. Corporate sales is the heart of our business and we promote our program’s built-in career ladder to attract candidates. If someone has the vision to be a top salesperson, she appreciates that we have a defined way to help her get there.”

Tip #12 – Can you create a talent attraction strategy that wins new hires by storytelling rather than just compensation?

Build out your leadership team first 

Salesforce’s talent strategy today is not too different from its “land and expand” strategy to upsell existing clients.

Where possible, Salesforce aims to turn its whole business into a machine that produces talent and continually moves employees along their ideal career path.

But, at the beginning stages, Benioff says the right strategy is to add people to your leadership level first.

In his words:

“If we move into a new market or a new product, I want the most knowledgeable person – the guru – on our side.”

This hiring strategy can be seen in Salesforce’s latest global expansion drive into India. The new Chairperson and CEO of Salesforce India is Arundhati Bhattacharya – the first woman Chairperson of the State Bank of India and one of the 25 most powerful women in the world according to Forbes.

How did they hire her?

In an interview with btMAG, she said the offer felt like ‘a ringside seat to cutting-edge technology’ and particularly liked reading about Salesforce’s philanthropy. 

She says:

“These were two things that made me think this could be an organisation that would give me a lot of added value, and that’s the reason I made the jump.”

Tip #13 – Can you get candidates excited to work with you by telling a unique story that none of your competitors can tell?

Send a trusted leader into new markets, but seek to replace them with a local executive

Back when Salesforce had just launched in Japan, Benioff said the strategy used was to temporarily send one of his best people to establish the business in the new market.

These leaders are tasked with building up customers in a new region, hiring key people, and ultimately finding a local executive as their replacement. 

In all, according to Benioff, that process can take close to ‘thirty-six months’.

An example was sending Carl Schachter who was running half of North America’s field sales to become the COO of Japan. 

Later on with the hire of Eiji Uda, the business had two leaders – one who had contacts and insider knowledge of Japanese enterprise software businesses, and one who understood the global aspect of Salesforce. 

Eventually, with big logos like Canon and Japan Post under their belt, Carl Schachter left Japan for a new post in Europe.

Tip #14 – If you’re looking to expand to a new region, market, or vertical, do you have trusted leaders you can send in and start winning big customers?

Example of a SaaS hiring strategy to scale to $4 million ARR with a team of just eight people

It’s hard to find an actionable hiring strategy from SaaS companies to follow.

But through my executive search firm Skylan, I created one that worked to take the US-based startup Reputation.com (now Reputation) to $4 million ARR with a team of just eight people and within two years of opening a European headquarters.

The task required an agile sales team to build a pipeline and hit high targets in a short time.

Here are the 8 hires in order:

1. Country Manager

Your first hire needs to be a trusted leader who is an individual contributor. Someone who can talk to customers, get leads, and close business all on their own.

Reputation already had a trusted leader on the ground in Anthony Gaskell.

2. Marketing Executive

Marketing is a key hire in a new region in order to drive marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) by any means necessary.

This was the 2nd hire we made and with agile tactics helped to drive even more leads for the Country Manager to close.

3 & 4. Sales Development Representatives

In the book Predictable Revenue, Salesforce wrote about the appeal of the SDR/AE model.

The SDR finds leads and hands them to the Account Executive to complete the sale. 

While the model works it is more agile to hire two SDRs first and have them work with the Country Manager to close. This model can drive revenue quicker while keeping expenses down.

5 & 6 & 7. Account Executives

We next hired Account Executives.

It’s a good move when there are too many leads for the Country Manager to close and when you want to start segmenting your customers into SMBs and enterprises, for example. 

8. Customer Success Manager

Customer Success is key to reducing churn and needs to be hired during this first stage of rapid growth in a new region.

Just a few years later and Reputation has grown its European revenue to $12 million ARR and continues to operate an agile sales team.

In the words of Anthony Gaskell, our candidate selection played a big role:

“The expert recruitment knowledge is what I believe has led to us capturing some of the best talents in the marketplace. In a saturated industry, great recruitment partners are extremely difficult to find, in Skylan I have found one and I will be forever thankful for the continued expert support and guidance I receive.”

What you should do now

Implement any of the tips that made you have an ‘aha’ moment during this blog.

If you are a SaaS company looking to expand into Europe or the US, then book a 15 min. Discovery call so I can reveal in more detail which growth strategies are working best for the other Tech leaders we work with.


Please check out our other videos/ insight here https://skylanrecruitment.co.uk/videos/