Cultural Differences & Bad Jokes with Francois Eppinger

Francois Eppinger, VP Growth at Consentio, discusses the differences between the Unites States and European countries when it comes to tech stack adoption.
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Show notes

VP Growth at Consentio, Francois Eppinger has lived/worked in Singapore, Milan, London, Paris, Berlin, and now Barcelona.

Is there anyone better for RevOps Therapist and CEO and founder of Greaser Consulting, Jordan Greaser, to interview about differences between the United States and European countries when it comes to tech stack adoption?

“Frank the Tank” shares what some of those differences are and his ideas behind why they exist.

If you’re looking to break into other markets, this episode has a wealth of knowledge for you.

Transcript

Jordan  00:00

Hi, everyone. This is Jordan, the owner and CEO of Greaser Consulting. On this episode, I talked to who we call Frank the Tank. He is originally from France, has lived all over the world. I first met him working at a company called Forto in Berlin, Germany. And the topic of today is just about US market versus that European market, some of the cultural nuances. You know, where, where did these European countries really look to for sales guidance, technology stacks? What’s the adoption curves look like? You know, I used to be a trainer that went all around the world training, you know, Outreach, different softwares, for, for different clients. And there were certainly cultural nuances when I would go in and speak and also different appetites to receive some type of technology, some hesitations to not receive some technology. And so bringing Frank on to have this conversation, at least for me, was just a ton of fun diving into some of those nuances and thinking about a world that goes beyond those US borders. So lean in, enjoy, and here we go.

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Jordan  01:31

Hi, everyone, this is Jordan. And I’ve got my friend Francois with me today. Why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself?

Francois  01:38

Hey, Jordan, thanks so much for, for having me. Yeah, Francois, or everyone calls me Frank. As you know, I’m currently working as VP Growth at Constancio and was working before in a scale-up called Forto in the digital freight forwarding market, which is how I, how I know you, and how I get to appreciate your work and your team, and had a lot of, a lot of fun. But also, you know, great advances in our RevOps setups, set up and love to learn from you and your team. And thanks so much, so much for, for having me here on the podcast.

Jordan  02:17

Oh well, I’m certainly glad to have you today. Could you, could you tell me real quick… I know you mentioned Forto and where you’re at now. But in terms of just locations, where all, since you’ve been in your career, what all locations have you worked from? Because I know when I first talked to you, you were somewhere in Germany. Now you’re, you’re speaking French. But then you’re here. It turns out you’re in Spain speaking Spanish. So like, where were all have you been?

Francois  02:43

Yeah, I’m sure it’s, it’s a little confusing when you’re, when you’re speaking for the US, but, so right now, I’m in Barcelona, sunny Barcelona where I moved to around seven months ago. Before that, I was working in Berlin for four years. And before that, I’ve basically, since I’m 14 years old, I’ve been moving around Singapore, Milan, London, Paris, worked in most of these places, internships or otherwise. And yeah, now, now here in Barcelona.

Jordan  03:15

So there’s a, there’s a… this is a terrible joke, but I’m gonna tell it anyway. So what do you call somebody that can speak three languages? 

Francois  03:25

Tell me.

Jordan  03:26

See if you can get this. What do you call… trilingual. What do you call somebody who speaks two languages? 

Francois  03:32

Bilingual. 

Jordan  03:33

Bilingual. You got it. What do you call someone who speaks one language?

Francois  03:38

I’m not sure.

Jordan  03:41

An American. So would you recite a little confusing for the American over here that you’re, you know, you’re living in five different continents, you know, who knows different languages running around, which, I mean, that really brings us to the topic of today anyway, you know, the American ecosystem, you know, we have east coast; we have west coast; we have some different cultural differences along the way. But, you know, you can drive hundreds and hundreds of miles and you know, in your language, we’re gonna say kilometers, right? And you’re speaking English, you’re in a similar environment, similar place. And then we got a guy like you who’s lived all over the world in some, some places, I mean, you hop on a train for two hours, and you’re in a different culture, different language, difference… you know, just a totally different way of doing things. And so our topic today is just thinking about, you know, some of the sort of international differences as you go across borders and, and who knows where we’ll end up today. But that’s, that’s kind of the theme. So is your stop at Forto… is that your first experience in SaaS? Was that your first tech company that you got into when you were… where are you in Germany again? What city are they based in?

Francois  05:02

In the capital of Berlin.

Jordan  05:04

Berlin? Is that your first was that your first SaaS company?

Francois  05:08

Actually no. Or if we, if we talk like tech startup, I started off my journey in a company called Foodora. They are a food delivery service. And that’s how I did my stepping stone; that was in Paris. So I basically opened the Paris branch back in 2015, as a new… the founders that were based in Germany, and that was my, my stepping stone into the world of startup tech. Yeah. And I started there’s an SDR.

Jordan  05:47

Okay, you started as an SDR in France. And then you transition to an SDR manager and then different things in Berlin. And as you think about that, were there like massive changes or differences between those two countries and the way that you think about SDR, the way you think about reaching out? Or is Europe a little bit like a monolith in the sense of how the US is kind of a monolith? Right? Everyone’s kind of doing the same thing? Are there some like deep differences?

Francois  06:18

Well, I would say, there’s massive differences, especially for… from my personal experience. So, so I do speak both languages: French and German. And when I was starting as an SDR, I was more of a, as a field SDR. So we’re basically going out into restaurants to acquire them back then; I mean, this was the days where there was basically nothing, not even a site and so on, it’s starting from, from zero, and trying to get some, some signed contracts with restaurant owners, and sorry, about the background. And well, I had massive difficulties to, to be successful there mostly for reason of we didn’t get proper training; people just told us, you know, “get it; go out there and try to sign up a couple of contracts, and then see what you do.” And people that, that, say, were locals that have done sales in France before or had had some training before, they did really well, and I, who didn’t, and that was basically my first job, I failed terribly. So I would say from an aspect of if you want to be successful as an SDR and if you don’t get proper training, proper process, good, let’s say leadership, that helps you to be successful and gives you the right enablement, you will fail, no matter if you’re in France, in Berlin, or I guess the US. So that changed completely when I, when I joined Forto. Back then I had a great leader, Matthew Solomon, who I’m still in contact with and was a close, close mentor and friend. And he basically took all of the frameworks and best practices from the from the valley or from from the US and invested a lot in coaching, training, the right tools; she got Outreach right away. And Salesforce and the right let’s say, type of tool set, training set and everything that was needed for us to be successful and for me to be successful, and which was then the basis for me to be able to first succeed as an SDR and then move on as a SDR leader, SDR manager that I never had at the end. So I hope that…

Jordan  08:34

What’s interesting about what you just said… Yeah, yeah. What’s interesting about what you’re saying, though, is that you had this leader that went and got sort of best of breed of, of US and then brought that training, you know, over to Berlin. The reason I say that is, I mean, I’ve done, I’ve done trainings across Europe multiple times in the, in the UK, went to French-speaking audiences, German-speaking audiences. And one of the things that’s really interesting that I found is, when I walk into like a US-based place, I can kind of say, “hey, look, here’s the way you do it.” Okay? And there might be some pushback, and some people that fight you a little bit, but in general, there’s this like, “Okay, this is how you operate. Let’s go do it.” Now, if I go, and I speak to a German, or heaven forbid, somebody from France, and I say, “listen, here’s how you do it.” The first thing they’re gonna say is “this dumb American doesn’t know how to listen to anything. He doesn’t understand the culture. He doesn’t know how it works over here.” So I’m a little surprised to hear you say that they took from the US and just like sort of packaged it over. Like in that German market, did you have to do a little bit of fancy maneuvering to like… I found you typically need more of a consultative approach with the people that are there to get them to buy in, or am I way off on this and I really am just a dumb American?

Francois  10:00

No comment. No, I’m just kidding. I’m a…

Jordan  10:05

I appreciate that.

Francois  10:07

No. And, you know, I could, I think it’s a bit more complex than that way how you just portrayed it. I think there’s definitely, you know, that cultural point of how, you know, knowing. I mean, of course, Germans have a certain way of operating, then again, the same human or characteristics topic applies. I mean, people have different personalities, people have different traits, and all these models that you know, about, like personality traits, and so on, these are the same in Germany, as in the US, but you will have a different spectrum, right? So you’ll probably have more people that are, that have a certain personality trait, that know a certain way of operating than others, so that the distribution will be totally different. And then if you go across the border, as you said, two hours on or not even; you go to Poland, on the, on the one hand or to France on the other hand, that that, that spectrum, or the, the spectrum of personalities, again, will be completely different. And another aspect of super importance is language. And if you, if you, for example, if you were to speak French as a German, but you will have an accent, you might not get the slang right, all these are the cultural nuance; you will struggle a lot. But if you, if you if you’re native, then you will, you know, you’ll just, because of that, do what… you will do much better. So there’s that. But again, that personality kind of spectrum, you’ll find a lot of people that have a specific kind of way of operating, a way of being in France, and a completely different spectrum in the US or in Germany, and then again, in the US. So I think that makes it more complex. But another layer of the complexities, of course, also the industry. So if you’re talking, like, we were working in the logistics industry; now, I mean, I’m in the agriculture and retail space, both spaces that are pretty, it’s a, well have some some way to catch up, some, some place to catch up. They keep it old school, really old family businesses handing over from generation to generation. And therefore there’s that complexity as well, like, how do you talk to that sort of customers and businesses? And this is where I want to get back to, you know, why things were working so well with us implementing best practices and frameworks from, from the, from the US. And, again, there, we were looking at winning by design; we’re working with Outreach, with Salesforce, all the, I mean, this was five or six years ago. Nowadays, if you go to a German company, a startup, it’s probably the standard tool. But back then it was, was pretty exceptional. I think we’re one of the only customers in Germany for Outreach. And so, I think that, because we’re selling into a very old school industry, and we do the same now in my new company, in Constancio, all those tools, the automation tools, the prospection tools like Lusha, or [indistinguishable], all of these, you know, very hacky sort of tools, they are way too advanced, or they’re very advanced compared to what people are used to, used to work. So that’s why it works so well. Because using the tool sets, the processes, the philosophies, of, of the US and of the valley, is so ahead, here in the let’s say, in this in different industries or in our industries, that the combination of “hey, you hire people that speak the language, understand the nuances, and use the tool sets and philosophy of the US.” That’s why it’s so powerful. Sorry, for the long, the long answer, but I felt that that needed a bit of time.

Jordan  14:07

Yeah. Do you? Do you think that the like, where? And maybe it’s different country to country right now, right? Because Europe is just, you know, it’s very unique in that way. But do you feel in terms of tech stack and methodology when you talk about extracting some of this information from the US, are you at… is the continent in general at the early stages? Are they at the middle adopter stage, late adopter stage in the sense that is this still a fairly new thing, that if you’ve set up a quote-unquote, modern tech stack, you’re in the, you know, 5% of companies and you’re going to be ahead of the curve, or as has the whole sort of industry… I know we’re not saying one industry specifically but just like this tech space in general over there, has it caught up to now half of the companies are actually thinking this way, like, where are we at on the adopter curve?

Francois  15:04

Right, right. So I said, I think, I think we are in the, in the middle spectrum. So if you had asked me five years ago, where 10% of people were using LinkedIn here in Germany, I think that has changed a lot, especially if you look at startups in Germany. Nowadays, I think everyone is basically done with that modern tech stack. And the industry itself, so if you look at the agriculture industry, in which I’m now, before, it was the manufacturing, industry, furniture, clothing, and so on, they are definitely catching up investing more in digital way of working. But I would say it’s still in that medium, medium spectrum. And, yeah, I think, I think that’s, that’s, that’s where we’re at.

Jordan  15:52

Okay, so you’re about, you know, halfway through that adoption curve. And on that same vein, and this is something that I’ve always been curious about: I mean, I know one of the folks you used to work with, David, has gone and worked with a German VC, and he was talking about tools and technology in the stack and where this is all going in; it just leads me to the question of is it country by country? Or, or sort of Europe in general? Is there a certain place that tech companies are looking to, for like, here’s where the training should come from? Here’s where our methodology should come from? Like, does Europe look to that Silicon Valley very much in the way of saying, here’s the methodologies we need to catch up to? Or are there like regional hubs, where, if I’m based in Germany, you know, I’m looking for guidance out of companies coming out of Berlin on what the latest thing to work for in the German market is?

Francois  16:52

Sure. So one thing that comes to mind, because you’re asking the question about how mature and you know, where in the curve are we… I think that one thing has changed a lot is that maybe five years ago, there was no alternative. If you look at the sales tech, tech stack. There was no alternative, I would say to the thought leaders of the US, and obviously in specific, specifically valley, but now I mean, those sorts of companies are in Seattle, or in Texas, or something; that’s changed as well. But I would say what has happened in between is that, of course, you have a couple of copycats. So European-based companies that simply copy the sales tech stack. And basically, their USP is “Yeah, but we are European.” So there’s one thing, and there’s so much more awareness in the market now that people just kind of develop their own, their own tools. I would say there’s very, very few tools that I, that I’ve gotten to know. And I do accent with David on this; we are still in contact about, you know, kind of building Europe’s best growth engine. That’s, that’s our kind of idea. But I think it’s very rare to see a tool that I would know from the US. So there’s always similarities, or there’s always a company coming out of product in the US. So I don’t think that, in any point, are we ahead. But what’s happened is that there’s a much, much bigger offer in the European market of European tools. I’m thinking of Mojo, for example, who are competing with Gong. I’m thinking of Creatext, who are in the email, email automation or like email AI, for prospecting; there’s a couple of ones that I’ve gotten to know that, you know, that made me proud that in Europe, we’re building these tools, but we’re not thought leaders; we are followers. And so I think one more thing that needs to be said is that Europeans are similar to America’s actually quite, quite proud, not as much but still quite proud of buying local. So even if a tool isn’t as good, maybe as maybe the American competitor, I think there will still be a tendency to, to buy the German or the European product rather than US. Just because I’ve kind of, I can, there’s still this notion of I can, I can rely. I can rely on a local agent, someone who’s there; I can basically call them up, or and he’ll be there, and I’m not sure if I can do that with the US. But definitely less pride and more looking at its efficacy and efficiency. And that’s why adoption of US tools is so high in Europe, because I think that trumps it.

Jordan  19:48

Do you feel that there’s a sense among EMEA nations that, like, there’s a desire for some of these countries to become regional hubs of, like, sales excellence, or like instead of getting your information from cities out of the US, you know, why couldn’t Paris be like a hub of information that, that French companies pull on? Like, is there… I don’t want to get political, but in recent years, right, there’s been a huge movement towards nationalism, right? And so I’m sort of moving that one step further from just, you know, politics and nationalism to also sort of technology in general; is there like any sense that there’s like, well, we need the Germans or we need this Spanish to have our own sort of, you know, voice out there? Or is there just a general of, “hey, whatever the best of breed is… we don’t care what country it comes from? We’re going to learn it, use it, adapt it and move on.”

Francois  20:50

Sure. I mean, that’s, that’s what I was trying to translate; I think it’s very difficult for me to give you a general answer about… but I’ll try to answer that. So definitely, there is some sort of national, nationalism going on, you know, not only, not only the software, but also, if you should think about what just happened with COVID, with supply chains being extremely on pressure. With now the Ukraine crisis, there definitely is a sense of, “hey, you know, we’re so dependent on these on these nations for, for us to function, that we need to pull back and invest much more in our own abilities.” And I think that, that kind of thing… that’s already happened; you know, that thinking has happened, I think, three or four years ago, very intensively, you have a lot of hubs or tools in Europe that have been created. So in southwest Germany, that is, for example, extremely strong on industry, you know, you have more serious portions on from there. Now, then they invested in this huge tech, tech hub for, for software to kind of support the mechanical side of the business. But you have Barcelona, Paris, Berlin, London that are extremely strong and building up these, these hubs to promote software, and you have a lot, and then that’s obviously also driving the growth is European venture capital firms. So they have, you know, statistics in front of my eyes. But I saw that there’s a lot more, say, investments in various phases of startup companies in Europe, European VCs. Yeah, I think that’s, that’s, that’s it from, from that other side. Oh yeah, one more thing. I think one core difference that we have in Europe is that there’s individual countries that will feel nationalistic about their own kind of businesses, or they’re on using their own products. But there’s also the sense of European, Europe being a nation, right? So I think that there’s an inclination of saying, “okay, hey, if, if a software tool comes from Europe, we’d probably adopt it; it will be more likely for us to adopt it because they are down with the cultural nuances. They probably have European customers with the same kind of requirements and complexity and requirements that the Americans don’t get,” and that there was, for many years, an issue. Just an example: We were we wanted to work with Gong a couple of years ago, but they didn’t, they were specializing in, in the American market and in the language of English, but then when you go to Europe; you need to suddenly speak, you have to… your, your software has to be able to convert four or five or transcribe four or five languages. And that wasn’t the case. So definitely. That’s changed as well; American companies definitely understood the value of spending, spending money and spending resources into expanding to Europe. But that’s, that’s been a differentiator as well.

Jordan  24:08

So as we are like, we’re actually getting ready to wind down here. Are there specific, like tools or methodologies that have come out of the US that Europe just has been unwilling to adopt, and let me give you one example of what I mean, and this is what I’ve heard. I don’t, I don’t specifically know this but in the US, there’s been a huge boom over the last little bit of companies using things like a Vidyard or BombBomb or Drift video, right, to send videos to prospects. But then, as I’ve worked with various German companies, they’re saying, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, we’re not sending any videos. We’re not sending any videos; like, that’s odd. Like culturally, that’s not going to work here.” And there was a real hesitation to take on a new piece of software, a new methodology that, in the US, was kind of a hot, new thing. And so, and you can debunk that; you can tell me I’m totally wrong. Maybe video is working well across Europe, but just, are there things that are just that gut reaction of like, “you know, you know what, like, we’re gonna adopt a lot of this stuff coming out of the US. But here’s a couple of things that we’re just not going to touch”?

Francois  25:17

Sure. I think the, the nature of what, especially Germans, but I think Europeans is to play safety and be a bit less, less risky. I think Americans, also because of the historic origin, or the success of the country, as such, comes from, you know, entrepreneurs and people taking huge risks. And I think that, in Europe, you know, we’re more on the safe side. So that’s, that’s to answer a bit general adoption of are, like, going new ways. In general, you know, if you look at venture capital investments, that it’s taking such a long time for European companies to take such, as big risks as the European companies, US companies, sorry about that. So now more focused, so that’s more of a general perspective, people in Europe are more risk averse. And they like security, and they trust in what they know, rather than in new ways. I think if it’s done right, this sort of pattern interrupt you do something, you see something that, you know, your brain doesn’t know. And so it’s your, especially reactive, which you see a lot and in comedy, and so on. I think that, I mean, I, I personally love that. And I totally believe that if you do things differently, people will notice you. But it needs to be done in the right way. And I think that Americans often are perceived as cheesy or a bit over the top, in the eyes of Europeans, especially when it comes to marketing. And that, that definitely doesn’t work in Europe. So you have to be much more subtle. And you can’t you can’t really go over the top; people won’t like that. But in terms of using technology, I think that if technology is used right, it works even better than US because the adoption is so low here; there’s so few companies that would use video because they’re saying “no, we just rely on what we know what what is safe or secure.” Which is why, if you, if you use it right, it can be much more powerful than in the US, just because people are not used to it.

Jordan  27:35

Alright, Francois or Frank the tank, as we say, I appreciate you hopping on today. We’re right at time, but I feel that we could, we could keep talking about this for another hour or so because I’m just incredibly interested in some of the nuances between the two markets or actually many of those different markets, not just two. However, thanks for giving your insight and some of your thoughts on where just the state of technology is, what the adoption curves are, how we think through some of the cultural nuances of, of getting into some of those markets. So, Frank, thanks for coming on. And to the listeners today, appreciate you, you tuning in. So Frank, go ahead and say goodbye, and then we’re gonna sign off.

Francois  28:18

Sure. So goodbye. Thanks so much for having me on. I do… Maybe as the last word, I think it is important to emphasize that, you know, we just talked about half an hour, and I realized there’s extreme complexity, language industries, and so on personalities. And so we could talk, talk about this for a long time and I do think this is very complex and very exciting, very exciting topic. So thanks for, for having me on and discussing, discussing things that concern me on a day-to-day basis.

Jordan  28:50

Alright, thanks for coming. See ya.

Francois  28:52

See ya. Bye, Jordan.

28:54

Hot dog. That was a great episode. Thanks for listening. If you want to learn more about Greaser Consulting or any information you heard on today’s episode, visit us online at www.greaserconsulting.com. Be sure to click the Follow button and the bell icon to be notified on the latest here at RevOps Therapy. Thanks and see you real soon.

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