How to sell your SaaS in the Netherlands?

Nils Brosch
4 min readOct 3, 2018

There are 18M living in the Netherlands, which also makes it one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Historically, the Dutch have been merchants, who have put a no-nonsense business attitude on the map with the renowned Dutch East India Company. Amongst others, their merchant background has contributed to a special way of communicating and engaging with each other in sales.

Is such a small market worth the effort?

As I have said the Netherlands has 18M inhabitants, whereas the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands & Luxemburg) even have around 29.2M inhabitants of which 82% speak Dutch. If you equate the size of the country with their vibrant economy (the Netherlands have the 12th biggest economy based on GDP per capita) and a high tech-savviness (ranked 6th worldwide by the World Economic Forum), then you get a highly attractive market that should be part of every European expansion strategy.

How to communicate with Dutch leads?

The Netherlands have a low-context culture, meaning that the Dutch heavily rely on explicit communication. In other words, they are direct and they expect directness in your sales approach. Moreover, the general communication in a business context in the Netherlands is rather informal. If you think that you encountering distant hierarchical discussion like in close-by Germany, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Although the Dutch language allows for formal & informal distinctions, do not bother trying to be polite, but speak to your leads, as if you know them i.e. “Hey Henk, how are you?”.

Client: “I want to see the person that I will do business with.”

My hypothesis is the following, the smaller the country the more likely your lead will ask you to pop by for a personal face-to-face meeting. The Netherlands is a small country, which is very densely populated, thus, the expectation of your leads is to showcase your product in person. This is mostly not optional and a deal-breaker if you do not show up — so either prepare your CFO for a lot of travelling costs or have feet on the ground.

Once you are in the meetings, prepare yourself for a rather long-winded meeting that starts with a long personal introduction to get to know you, the person behind the product. Your lead mostly expects that you are also there for them in cases of emergency, even, if you have handed over the account to an account manager/customer success manager.

Thus, in SaaS, where we expect our accounts to stay with us for 4 or more years, you can expect your clients to call in every so often to discuss how they experience your software. This direct communication also entails that customers call into your support line a lot to discuss their questions, instead of chatting online with you. If you are only offering online support, this will likely be a big minus in the sales process.

Client: “I heard about you from a friend of a friend.”

The dense population of the Netherlands formed certain social behaviours like the personal meetings, another one is the reliance on referrals. The Dutch call this getting something ‘via via’, via a friend or acquaintance. A winning strategy is to incentivise referrals and host events for clients and leads to meet and share experiences.

The Dutch are … economical.

The Dutch have the reputation to be cheap. I think that is an exaggeration, however, they will only ever pay a fair price for your product. If you have competition that offers a similar product to your own service, then be sure that your Dutch lead will compare these products and make the price a relevant factor in their final decision.

Can you sell to the Netherlands in English?

EF English Proficiency Index 2017

The Dutch are the most eloquent non-native English speakers in the world, which was highlighted by EF English Proficiency Index. So, it is fair to assume that you can sell your product in English. Nevertheless, your chances are likely to be increased significantly if you can sell your product in Dutch as well.

Nils is a practitioner, not a content writer. SaaS.eu.com helps companies with through interim projects and consulting services to setup scalable sales processes. Have you made different experiences in Netherland or just want to chat? Send me a mail at nils@saas.eu.com.

I will continue to write about the various local particularities that you’d encounter in various European countries. Stay tuned.

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Nils Brosch

Founder of SaaSCollective.net - European SaaS Sales Knowledge & Consulting. Founder of 3 successful companies in Berlin and Amsterdam + experienced VP of Sales.