SaaS Founder Interview with Jeroen Corthout, Co-Founder of Salesflare
Jeroen Corthout is Co-Founder of Salesflare
Salesflare is an easy and automated CRM for small businesses selling B2B.
Tony Zayas 0:00
SaaS Founders Show! Welcome to the first new show in the new year. I think we had a great group of founders in 2020. Excited for 2021 I think like everybody here, Andy how you doing?
Andy Halko 0:16
I’m doing fantastic. I’m excited. It is a new year 2021. We all got out of 2020. And yeah, like you said for the SAS founders show, man, we’ve got a ton of awesome people lined up for the next couple weeks. And today, it’s exciting to launch a new year of SaaS founder interviews.
Tony Zayas 0:38
Yeah, for sure. So with that, we have Jeroen Corthout, he’s the co founder of Salesflare. I’m super excited to have him. So with that, I’ll bring him on. So Jeroen, how are you doing?
Jeroen Corthout 0:52
I’m doing well. How are you?
Tony Zayas 0:53
Awesome. Really good. And, you know, I am, I’m super excited to have you on because you are one of the founders that you know, I recognize Salesflare. You know your brand to me is so cool. When we booked you, I was excited about it. And we’re happy you’re here. I’m just gonna kick it off with asking, first of all, before we dive into your story. Knowing six languages, how does that help you as a founder of the SaaS company?
Jeroen Corthout 1:27
Not terribly much, I would say for now. In the sense that we do everything in English. It’s it’s a good thing in life. But so far in for Salesforce, it hasn’t helped me much. So I come from Belgium, where this is not too abnormal, like, we speak Dutch and French as two official languages. And I actually I’m Dutch-speaking but I grew up partly in the French-speaking part of Belgium. So that came naturally. I speak more English than Dutch because my wife is Brazilian and internally we speak English. So my whole day is speaking English, except when it’s family or friends or something.
Tony Zayas 2:05
Yeah, that’s interesting.
Jeroen Corthout 2:07
And then on top of that my wife is Brazilian, right? So I’m studying Portuguese. I speak German as well, actually. I had a German girlfriend also, at some point. I studied in Italy for a bit. So that’s Italian. And it’s six now? I also studied Spanish, but it’s really, really crappy. And at school, I also have old Greek and Latin. But that’s that’s, that’s even less useful than all the other.
Tony Zayas 2:33
Well, I’m just good at english. So yeah.
Jeroen Corthout 2:37
You’re good at English. That’s good.
Andy Halko 2:39
How about programming languages? Do you have a tech background? Or?
Jeroen Corthout 2:44
Andy Halko 3:17
Yeah, it’s great. So maybe you can open up and tell us a little bit about Salesflare and what the product is, and then what you do.
Jeroen Corthout 3:27
Yeah, so I’m co-founder and CEO of Salesflare. Salesflare is a SaaS company, obviously, what we do is we help other SAS companies to some extent, but also salespeople and founders and agencies that’s like marketing agencies, but also software development agencies, we help them with organizing their sales in a better way to really keep track of their customers well, and we do that without burdening them with a lot of data input. So we built a CRM that people actually keep using. They don’t fail at some point because their discipline fails at filling out the CRM and then this room becomes useless and all that. We’ve started elsewhere now almost seven years ago with the mission of changing ads. There are so many CRMs out there that salespeople just hate that they don’t get any get any return from that they have to spend an enormous time, amount of time filling them out. That are don’t seem to be really built for the end user but more for management. That’s actually one of the first slides I made like assigned CRM, like like you have from Salesforce like software with the thing to it, we made with CRM, and we said CRM is for management, not for salespeople. But it’s all very much based on making it super, how can I say, lightweight? As a salesperson, the software is just there to help you. It’s not to burden you with a lot of work and stuff, it helps you sell. It’s great overview, it keeps track of everything for you. And we have now been over 2000 companies using the software actively.
Tony Zayas 5:23
Very cool. I was going to ask. I love in your LinkedIn profile you have ‘Making CRM human;. That’s like, so great. I mean, I think for many, you know, many SaaS businesses, that’s the goal, that’s something that is user-friendly. And makes sense. It’s intuitive, it’s something that you want to keep coming back to. And you know, I’m familiar with a number of different CRMs. And it’s your point, the users typically hate them, like, you know, it doesn’t matter what they’re on is a bit cumbersome. So what gave you the idea to to create Salesflare? What did you identify? Because that is a crowded space at the same time. There’s a lot of big players, there’s a lot of small ones. What is it like to launch, you know, when it’s such an ambitious product?
Jeroen Corthout 6:13
I know. Yeah, it’s a actually, it started from first of all a big frustration we had, I had been using Salesforce for quite a while, which is like the big gorilla there, it’s 20% of the market. And I was very, very frustrated. But then it’s not very difficult to be very frustrated at Salesforce. So I’m sure a lot of people recognize that.
It’s it’s very much like what I just said, it’s, it’s it’s made for management, not really, for salespeople, it’s not really made for the end user. It’s, it’s really great for an organization, but not for the people in your organization using it that doesn’t really help you much if when you’re on salesfront. And I actually had to use it for four years in a marketing consultancy. And we also deployed a big pharma customers of ours. And so I knew that was not going to help when we had another SaaS company.
We were in the business intelligence, software space, and we had a lot of leads we had to follow up. And we wanted to organize that and I looked a bit at the stuff out there in the market. And I did find much better things and Salesforce. Thank, thank God, like much more focused on helping you sell and all that. But what we always found is that we didn’t manage to keep that alive.
Like at some point, we would fail at filling out some stuff here and some stuff there or we didn’t, we forgot this or wasn’t updated at some point and then, you know, the data and the system became unreliable.
And that made that the system stopped being useful. And that’s sort of the start of a downward spiral, where at some point, you just stop using the CRM at all. And at some point, we had this epiphany where we saw that actually, everything that we were inputting was already available somewhere else, like datawise.
Like, we’re like, sending an email and one system like our mailbox, and then going into CRM, or send this guy an email for next time, then we will have a meeting with them, and then afterwards, log that, call them and put that in, or they would we would meet a new person at a company would have to say, okay, we met this new person, this is their phone number from their email signature, this is their address. Or we would find some info in a company database, put them in a CRM, or we would have the separate email tracking thing and was connected at all. So we figured like all of these things are digital.
Many of those have an API. And while email tracking, we built ourselves, of course, and web tracking link to that. And if we just pull all that data together and build a system that organizes that for you as a salesperson, then that just makes things so much easier, because then you don’t have to rely on your own discipline.
And actually all that data input is something that a computer is much better at than than you are. So we we had that very theoretical idea at some point. And we started thinking like, how can we make this happen? Initially, we thought we were going to build a sales platform. Like something that you could connect to a CRM, we saw the the issue mostly in bigger companies where they they bought something like Salesforce, and it doesn’t work for them, and they don’t want to get out sales for us.
So we thought like, people have support platforms, why don’t they have a sales platform? Why didn’t they need to be in the CRM We tried to sell that to bigger companies. But they had two issues with that first, they wanted to fix Salesforce, they don’t want to get an under system. And secondly, then if they would get another system, they didn’t really trust, the synchronization part. They trusted with other systems. But it all started with a sales platform that was crazy for them. And at some point, we were in a startup incubator, and we got more interested from the startups sitting next to us that we got from from these these large enterprises we were talking to.
So we just decided to switch and we said, well, we’re not a sales platform, then we’re a sales CRM. And we started selling that. And that’s, that’s going very well, now companies that come on sale for getting larger and larger. We still sell to a lot of small companies. But we also have a lot of midsized companies coming on the software nowadays.
Andy Halko 10:57
And you mentioned an incubator. How did you did you have co-founders? How did you finance ,kind of, starting out? Were you working at the same time? What was kind of that? That experience?
Jeroen Corthout 11:10
Yeah. So yes, I have one co founder, we were working together on that business intelligence software company. It was there that we had the idea. Salesforce was much more exciting. And what we’re working on, we did have some good customers on the other one, but we decided to refocus at some point. The incubator was really great for us. Like, we started off in a small office, just the two of us and my dog and his two cats and a turtle and stuff. It, it was nice. But once we entered that startup incubator, it helped us so much, because we talked to all these other companies that were going through similar things, and we were that we were going through. And yeah, that’s, we learned so much in these, I think we spent three years in an incubator.
Andy Halko 12:08
Jeroen Corthout 12:09
We also entered two accelerators, probably a bit of overkill. I wouldn’t totally recommend that, in retrospect, but we got some money from both of the incubators, which helped us tremendously in the beginning.
So that was some of our early money, it was a 25 gift from one accelerator, for which in the end, we didn’t have to give anything in return from another accelerator, then we added some, here in Europe, you have all sorts of subsidies stuff. So we got 50k in subsidies for a feasibility study. And then we added 100k from the bank. And that’s really how we got started, because it took us a while to to get Salesfalre sold even for the first time. And as you know, in SaaS, you need some sort of Yeah, investment before you see things rolling in, especially if you’re selling SMB, you need to build some volume until your your like your revenues, start start keeping up with your investments, let’s say and with the amount of people you have hired and stuff.
But we did these things, we got some more subsidies, we got some angels on board, we got some more loans and analyzed that. We were able to fund everything until our revenues were big enough to do that, basically.
Andy Halko 13:36
What was that like that period between kind of starting and getting your first couple of customers? Was it hard? You know, where you…How did you stay motivated? What was kind of that timeframe where I know things can be pretty difficult for SaaS founder.
Jeroen Corthout 13:56
Yeah, I must say it’s a while ago, and I really really imagine it anymore. But it wasn’t easy. I remember we would often meet the head of the incubator, for instance, it would be like, and how’s the sales doing or like, yeah, we’ve sold at one time. Um, I mean, it was a breakthrough for us for the first time. Yeah, I think we got a bit over 2000 euros for that, which seemed like big money then. But now in retrospect it’s it’s really nothing. Yeah, it wasn’t always easy. You need some sort of optimism and be slightly naive and don’t look too far ahead and just just focus on the next thing. Keep, keep making progress. That’s I think what keeps you going at that point?
Andy Halko 14:52
Did having a cofounder help from that standpoint of you guys. You know, if that one person was feeling down, the other person helped?
Jeroen Corthout 15:03
I wouldn’t say that we keep up each other’s motivation, such but it helps to have a sort of a commitment. I remember I tried to start a company on my own at some point. And it was just very hard to get out of bed when the days were a bit worse, you know? You just don’t feel like starting. And when you’re when you have a team, like when you’re at least two, we very quickly became three, you go to a group, I mean, there’s a social interaction, you have a commitment to each other, you’re working together. So that that keeps things going. It’s much easier, I think, to keep motivation. And now
Tony Zayas 15:48
What is the what is or was the dynamic like between you and your co-founder? Like, what roles did you guys play? Even personalitywise, like, you know, who’s the risktaker was the other one a little more conservative.
Jeroen Corthout 16:05
So, so, very high level, I take care more business, and he more of the technical aspect? And he’s more of the risk taker, and I’m more the one who tries to keep everything in line. That’s the very high level description.
Andy Halko 16:25
And do you guys have a good relationship? Is it is it easy to make decisions? Or do you have different visions? You know, I often see with co founders, sometimes the vision can be off and you know, how do you stay aligned?
Jeroen Corthout 16:39
It’s it’s quite okay. I mean, it’s not to say that we don’t have some, some hefty discussion sometimes. But I think it’s quite quite healthy. I don’t have a lot to complain about.
Andy Halko 16:50
That’s good. What about getting into competitive market? You know, I, we talked to a lot of SaaS founders and software folks, and even, you know, cutting edge technology, and some of them are in markets where no one understands it. And they’re kind of working head, you know, some in the middle, it seems like a CRM, and obviously, that space, I mean, you’re going up against a lot. So how do you, you know, how have you looked at that? And face that? And how do you figure to find your place in the market when it is so competitive?
Jeroen Corthout 17:27
Yeah, yeah. First of all, we, from the beginning, we did believe that we make things significantly better. So in, I mean, I explained what we focus on, it’s really like helping fixing CRM.
Basically making it something that stays alive, that actually helps and all that. Now, we found that, even though you can be… in theory, very well differentiated, it’s not super easy to communicate that. And people’s patience is so low, and people have way less understanding of the markets than you that it’s not very easy to sort of when just based on differentiation.
I mean, like product differentiation, like, like SaaS founders, or SaaS founders be ,well, a part of us, we look a bit further than the the general business owner, we just want a CRM and just type CRM into Google and then, and then reads a few lists and says, Oh, this one comes back a few times now and then just picks one and that’s how it’s free. Oh, I get that. Although I see a lot of SaaS founders, also not thinking too much about their decision, and just going something with free with the big brand name and then regret their decision after three months or so. But what we try to do to counteract that is really make sure that people have the best experience possible when they get on our software.
We give a lot of importance to a word onboarding, and to building personal relationships with customers to creating quality contents, nothing written by copywriters or something that’s a real real stuff. No rehashed content from another place or something.
And if you look at for instance, our G2 rankings, we rank, I think currently for third or fourth easiest to use CRM, but also the number one most implementable CRM of all 640 day list. So it’s it’s work and and in terms of relationship I think we’re second. So great. It’s the the second CRM that has the best relationships with customers. So that’s working out for us, especially because our main channels of growth are word of mouth. It’s Google and review sites, it’s sort of difficult to decouple the two because a lot of Google ends up in review sites, and third, our content marketing.
Very, very hard for us to grow based on pay channels. For a simple reason that first there’s 640, CRMs, at least 40, listed on G2. Some of those have a lot of money. So a lot of VC money or public or whatever. Some of those are so overpriced, that their customer lifetime values are way higher than than ours. So that makes that these companies can spend much more, and we can never win that battle.
Andy Halko 21:06
What was like getting those first couple customers was that like, hitting the pavement and making phone calls? I mean, you talk about like SEO and review sites now, are a big driver, but you don’t have that when you start. So
Jeroen Corthout 21:19
No, definitely not. That’s a very good point, actually get a lot of SaaS, SaaS founders and founders of other types of startups that that say, Oh, your marketing is great. We’re going to learn how you do that. So we can we can do something similar and all. And then I’m like, okay, that’s, that’s great.
So your product I’ve seen, it’s nice, like, how many times have you sold it already? And they’re like, Oh, we have one pilot running? Like, why would you care then about all the stuff we do for marketing. We we didn’t do that at the time.
At the time I was I was contacting my network. And very initially, we do customer interviews. And at the end of these interviews, I would ask like, which other people should I interview and then more customer interviews. And then from there, we had some of our first contacts. We always thought about PR as some sort of channel that would bring us growth, it actually worked out. Our first customers found us because we got in, in local press. It’s much easier than the global tech press. That’s really, really hard. But I think most of our early customers came from either the networking, or the local press. And I would do everything. Very, what can I say we didn’t have some sort of self-guided onboarding and all that.
Everything was me. So from convincing them that Salesflare was great for them to setting them up, like connecting their email address was hard in the beginning. Setting up the software to write things left and right, showing them how to use it supporting them afterwards, closing the deal.
We did that all sort of manually, which actually was great in the long run as well, because we learned so much from doing that manually. Whereas if we would just have launched a link and say sign up here. And we would have to rely on the little information that came to us through a chat and through some videos of Hotjar. That would have made it much, much more difficult for us to really make that experience great, because now I was there all the time, and I could see all the embarrassing moments, write them down and make sure they would get solved.
Plus, I remember when we switched from the very guided sales process to the self guided one. Obviously, our amount of trials went way up, but our close rate also fell immensely. And in these early days, you just don’t have the amount of trials. So it’s better actually to to keep those customers to really do all your best to do like, like Paul Graham says to do things that don’t scale. And really, like build that process manually and automate as gradually as you go. When you’re when you feel ready to let us onboard go, you know.
Andy Halko 24:39
Yeah, I really love that point of like, automate slowly because you’re right. I mean, you just don’t know enough. And if you automate too much upfront, you know, you’re not getting the information you need. And I think like you said, the close rate is so low and I think it’s worth putting in that manual like on the ground effort in the beginning to really know your customer, to really know th e product and to make it happen. So I love that point. What, you said, so you wore a lot of hats, there was a lot on your plate like every SaaS founder. What was the first role that you hired? So who was that? What was the first thing that you said, I gotta stop doing this, or my co founders got to stop doing this.
Jeroen Corthout 25:24
The first role we hired was an extra developer. And the second rolewe hired was an extra developer. And then the third role we hired was a sales guy, which was a very dumb idea. Because I basically let go part of what I was supposed to do, as being really close to the customers going through that whole thing to someone else, I would not recommend doing that it only took took a bit. But it was expensive, and also some time. Then the next role was someone in marketing, I think. Which at that point, by the time we were there, that was around the point where we started launching online. So the more self guidance sort of process, the beginning of that. So that actually made sense. That was good.
Tony Zayas 26:24
So Jeroen, I think you mentioned onboarding is something that was, you know, really important piece and how you get your users up to speed. How did you, you know, how did that look, when you first started as compared to the onboarding experience today? And what are some recommend, you know, suggestions you would have to share with other founders about, you know, really focusing and what is, you know, how do you make a great onboarding experience?
Jeroen Corthout 26:53
Yeah. It’s about a few things. First of all, you need to make sure that everything is as easy as possible, like people don’t need to go over love hurdles, right? Like, like very, you know, like, connect this here, boom, and it works Connect is there, boom and it works.
And then as quickly as possible, you need to show some value. And what we did is we built quite early on, we built this experience that actually shows you how you’re going to use Salesflare. And it it shows you how to use Salesflare. But it also shows at the same time, like what sort of value you’re going to get from it. And that is that works really great for us because it’s, it’s clear for people and they just like have like this, this aha aliveness moment for them.
Then next to that, that was a quite a breakthrough for us last year, was when we built this sort of a gamified setup guide in our software. So if you sign up for Salesflare. And you go through the whole onboarding experience, at the end, there’s a guide popping up. And it tells you exactly the steps you can take to set up Salesflare. You click on it, takes you to the right place, you can do it there. And then when you do it, it automatically completes it, and it shows you the next thing. But also it gives you extra days on the trial.
And it sends notifications on the whole team like hey, ‘Jeroen, you just did this step and earned your team four more days, yay!’ That makes that people know what to do, which is important.
Some of the feedback we got before that was like, okay, it all looks great, but what do I do? And secondly, we noticed in the data that actually people who get upset up further are, first of all more likely to subscribe, but also in the long run. You can actually correlates how well they get set up in the trial, not not even after so within the trial period, to their long term success and their churn, the better they get set up and the lower the chances that they turn… And, uhm… Yeah, that that was a quite a big thing.
Another thing we tried last year was making sure that people can see the software without having to actually make an account like an actor emails, and I think it’s live right now. When you go on the software, and you click on Sign up for a trial or something, try it for free. You first you, you get in the software immediately. And then you can see the walkthrough that I was just talking about. And it’s only at the end that it says, hey, and now you can connect your emails. We did this because we see that a lot of people nowadays there before they even try, and then this is quite a hurdle more and more. And before it was like, Oh, you can try to suffering and people would go in and go to trial.
Now people are trying to avoid starting trials. And there’s a lot of people shopping around for CRMs. And we just like to offer them the possibility of, of just seeing it without connecting to emails first.
Tony Zayas 30:47
That’s pretty cool. So yeah, you’re gonna get a sense of what the experience is like before your trial. That’s great.
Andy Halko 30:55
Yeah, I love a lot of what you said there. We’re big fans of gamification. I always talked about time to value, how quickly can you get somebody to value? And then I love what you’re doing with just having people jump into the software, and then they use it and then register after they’ve, you know, kind of gotten to a certain point. That’s awesome. How did you, how did you guys get to that? Like, what’s your process of determining features and roadmaps? Is that you know, like a committee is do you have a process where you’re evaluating different things on ranking factors, you know, how do you, how do you figure out the features and functionality and making decisions like that, on the onboarding?
Jeroen Corthout 31:43
Yeah, the… We have different processes for the different types of sort of things we want to do. For more like bugs and small improvements, we have one process. And actually, we had a meeting this morning, where we run through all the things we see, every everything that got new input from customers, we run through and we prioritize, we have like different levels, like, goes from instants, to urgents to high, medium, low. But for the features, it’s a whole lot of process.
Features and onboarding, improvements and all that, that goes through a process where we try to calculate what the impact is going to be on our funnel. Throughout the different steps, we combine that into one number, and then we combine a number also, which is a bit less scientific, but a combine that also in alignment with our efficient where where a product wants to go. And then we returned, then in a score, and that score indicates to us it’s not, it’s not defining our choice, but it indicates what the best choice is. And… yeah, and then we, it also, it’s, it’s that.
First is the effort we’re going to take. And actually in the whole funnel, what we also have as a factor is the amount of support it’s going to add or remove. And the way we actually select features to go into that process is mainly based on the amount of customer requests we get. So when I reached some threshold, and we say, ‘Okay, this is something we need to start scoring’.
Andy Halko 33:35
Scoring factors that you have.
Jeroen Corthout 33:38
Andy Halko 33:39
I really like those scoring factors that you have, like alignment of vision, you know, how much support. We usually talk about, yeah, impact and then effort, but I really like alignment of vision and amount and impact to support as being ranking factors for those features as well.
Jeroen Corthout 33:57
Yeah, that’s, that’s… Rou can just pick a framework of the internet like RICE or so like reach impacts what is confidence and effort or something? We also like to think a bit ourselves like, what do we find important? What have we learned and then and then try to, like, make them all out of that, which which might be to some extent, close to RICE, but actually different.
Tony Zayas 34:30
Jeroen, what does your team look like these days? And how is that grown and changed over the years?
Jeroen Corthout 34:37
We are a team of seven. It’s for mostly work on products. I mainly work on marketing and some other stuff, like financial stuff, HR and all that. One person on customers and one person on partners.
Tony Zayas 34:57
Are you guys remote?
Jeroen Corthout 35:00
Right now we are. Usually we are on the same office, but since March last year, we haven’t been to the office.
Tony Zayas 35:09
Andy Halko 35:11
Are there any big challenges you’ve, you’ve found with people or hiring, you know? That seems to be a common topic that we end up talking about is, you know, finding great people or keeping them or even dealing with folks that, you know, don’t fit the vision of the company.
Jeroen Corthout 35:29
Right now, we are very blessed with having a consistent team. The person who is the least longer does is one year and the person who’s longest with us is already six years and four months. And all the others are somewhere between that. that’s really great. It’s a very solid, constant team, good culture, everybody is really up to speeds. But we had issues in the past for sure. One of the issues was like what I said earlier, is hiring for a role at the wrong moments, like hiring for a role before you have really nailed the role yourself, and you’re ready to give it to someone who’s better at doing it. That’s a mistake we’ve made. We’ve made the mistake of hiring the wrong people, mainly on a cultural level. But also sometimes on a competence level. So we put a few extra things in place, it’s certainly something we can still improve. But it’s like trying to get people on a little project working together, at least involve a few people on the team, not just one person making a decision or so. Do background checks, you know, take these things really seriously, because you might get excited about hiring someone. So but then if you have to find out afterwards, after a whole process, they them coming. That it’s it’s really a mistake. Try to keep that going until you’re like okay, this there’s a breaking point here, that’s just very, very wasteful. And stressful.
Andy Halko 37:24
Yeah, I think that’s one of the biggest things that I hear any business owner talk about is just that stress of having a bad team member. And, you know, what do you do? And how long do you wait, and we talk a lot about the hire slowly, fire quickly. Not only around our own business, but with all the founders we talked to… What, with, when it comes to people, you said you’ve had some people that have stayed on? So a startup can be stressful. People, you know, sometimes you don’t have the funds to pay people the same level? So what have you done to kind of keep folks, you know, motivated, keep them locked in? Like, are there things that you do with culture? Do you? Do you purposely try and do that? Are there other things that you do?
Jeroen Corthout 38:19
To keep the culture it’s mostly about selecting the right people, I think, but it’s partly also proactively building towards a certain culture. So if you, for instance, want to have a culture in which everybody speaks up when things are going wrong, then you need to every time somebody comes with something, you need to respect that. I think it’s kind of simple things really, that can keep a culture going. Keep, keeping, when you keep a team stable, it’s a bit easier to, to do that. When you’re growing really fast. I think it’s a bit harder. And it’s really, really important to do, to do the right hiring. We have a lot of things also like stand up meetings and team meetings and all that to keep our communication like up to make sure that we we never under communicate. I don’t know what other tips I can give?
Tony Zayas 39:24
Just similarly on those lines. How do you, because it sounds like you’ve done a good job with the culture and the team. Just that they’ve stayed with you. How do you articulate the vision that you have for Salesflare, so that you know all the team members get it and they kind of see the big prize behind being a part of that?
Jeroen Corthout 39:45
We currently have a Google Doc, I think it’s about one one page and a half. I still need to make a shorter version, which is sort of a vision statement internally. We haven’t, I might have to like, open that up to customers. As well at some point, but it’s, it sort of makes a statement of ‘Okay, we find this important we, that’s why we do it, this is who we do it for. And that’s why we do it for them, and not for other people.’ And that’s also the document we will grab when we do that vision alignment during the feature process.
Tony Zayas 40:27
Andy Halko 40:29
So what, you know, as you’ve kind of evolved and changed, are there any big mistakes or things that you would do differently, either in the beginning, or even recently?
Jeroen Corthout 40:44
Uhm hiring mistakes were the biggest ones, I think? Waiting too long with, with providing, let’s say cash guarantees, if you know what I mean, like making sure you have enough cash in the bank can be very stressful, it never went wrong. But now I try to at least six months ahead. I like to have eyes on making sure that we’ll never get into issues or the smaller mistakes I made… Yeah, those are those are the biggest ones arnd not like being complacent can also be a mistake. We saw for instance, in 2019. We did a lot of stuff, but we didn’t really get super, super forward. And we notice that where we got most forward was where we like defined what we’re going to do instead of what we’re trying to achieve. And for last year, we then decided to focus more on on this kind of things. Like we define habits, we still define our goals, like numerically, like we want to grow that much. And we want to lower churn that much this kind of stuff. But we also define habits, like stuff we were going to do consistently every month, to make sure that these things would happen, which makes it so much easier to keep that rhythm and to then eventually also hit those goals.
Tony Zayas 42:21
That’s a really good one. But finding, defining those habits. I love that idea. Very cool. Um, back to the motivation part, how do you? How do you stay motivated? And how do you motivate your team?
Jeroen Corthout 42:38
I figured just about a month or two ago, I think? And this whole COVID situation, I work from home every day, and so many calls, like this huge surge of fatigue.
At some point I was like, but then I figured just just the…Just when you when you think like, I’m going to take every call and every meeting, I’m going to enjoy to the fullest have some small talk, don’t just run through business, but take a bit of time try to enjoy it. That makes everything so much more pleasurable. And that makes also that you can keep your motivation up.
Talking to customers really helps for me. Because it keeps the vibe, you know, you see that you’re helping so many people, for those who are not in, in customer roles. Like for instance, our developers, they also often see customers because we have this rotating support hero system. But when they’re working on features, what really helps for them is to divide the big tasks into smaller chunks. Because then you can more easily check off like, Okay, done, done, done. Instead of sometimes when you’re working on a feature, and you don’t know where it’s going to end, and it’s so big, that, that can be really, really painful for them to keep their motivation up.
Andy Halko 44:10
So I’m looking ahead to the future a little bit. How do you again, just kind of coming back a little bit to a competitive marketplace and a lot of you know markets are competitive, but you know. How do you how do you look at staying innovative and watching what other people are doing and making sure that you know, you’re being aware of the market? How do you keep that forward-looking viewpoint? You know, right so that you can take the product forward?
Jeroen Corthout 44:47
Yeah, first of all, we know the market very well. Lots of people talk about ‘oh this product does this product does that’. We try some stuff for ourselves but also on a more systematic level when we get a lot of input also from our customers, you know, in the beginning, we had to really drag, drag it out of them. But nowadays, it just keeps coming and we ended the process. But now for instance, we’re back in a process where we’re defining what we’re going to do for this year, and it’s really a deep thought exercise of where we think the market is going to go. And where we think we can be stronger and more differentiated versus others. And a lot of discussions with my co-founder right now. Yeah.
Andy Halko 45:42
So what’s the future of the product? What are you? Can you share with us? Some of the, you know, interesting things that you’re looking at doing a little bit of the roadmap, what what’s it look like?
Jeroen Corthout 45:54
Yeah, I cannot really say anything about our current discussions, because it’s basically in discussion. But if you take the long view.
So we’ve always been interested in helping people follow up their customers and connect with them and sell in a much easier way. And that started with automating data. Because that was actually the main issue in CRMs that it’s just very hard to keep them up to date. But more and more when there is that data, that data is available, then you can build many things on top of that.
And we’re looking at all the possibilities. To do that, basically, to focus much more on Sales Automation that we do now, like, last year, for instance, launched an automated email sequences feature. Sorry, that’s my dog. Yeah, she stopped. So we launched an automated email sequences feature. So you can you can trigger emails based on like, the fields in the CRM on when you were last in touch, when it, what it’s tagged with, in which stage, the opportunity link to the contact is and all that. And you can send automated sequences based on that. So like they don’t reply and another one, they don’t click, you send another one, you know, this kind of stuff. We’re looking to do much more of that, that there’s so many opportunities in the sales space, to automate more and to make sure people can can basically sell more and build better relationships with less work.
Andy Halko 47:48
Given that you’re International, you know, for us, but what what market are you selling to? Are you selling typically local? Are you selling all over the world? Do you have a focus area?
Jeroen Corthout 48:02
We sell 40%, in the US, 40% in Europe and about 20%, rest of the world of which a lot is Australia and the UK and stuff. It’s a lot of English speaking markets, because our software is is mainly in English. The… we sell mostly to SaaS companies and agencies. And that’s a lot of marketing agencies and software development agencies. And apart from that, it’s all B2B companies, and it’s all small and medium-sized businesses.
Tony Zayas 48:49
Very cool. Well, your own, do you have any, anything that you want to share? That’s kind of a big picture goal for 2021 that you guys have or maybe even you personally?
Jeroen Corthout 49:04
Yeah, still in discussion. So I’m afraid I can’t share much. If we would have had this interview in a few weeks. I would, I would gladly. But right now, I don’t think I can really. But, suddenly, I’m looking forward to a year where we’re… In 2020, we pushed a lot of change. But it was a bit painful. Perhaps for 2021, we can we can push some more change, but in a less, less painful way.
Andy Halko 49:32
Yeah, so we have a lot of, we have a lot of interviews signed up for 2021. And I think I’m going to ask the same question everybody, at the end. And, you know, so you’re going to be the first one. I’m curious, if you were to go back in time to the first two months of starting the business and you were sitting and having coffee with yourself. Now what’s kind of the one thing that you would say to yourself, about you know, the future or the business? or what advice would you give yourself?
Jeroen Corthout 50:07
I’m not gonna say anything revolutionary, but I would say, focus very much on trying to get that validation. Try to understand what you are building for whom and all that and start with customer interviews and then make some something very simple show it to people. We did some of these things well, but I think by the time we did systematic customer interviews, we had the idea in April, I think it was September by the time we started doing that. So that was a quite a while.
Tony Zayas 50:48
That’s great. That’s great. Super helpful. Well, this has been excellent Jeroen. We really appreciate you spending this time with us here today. Well, I recommend everyone go to salesflare.com. Check it out, especially given that you got some things coming up here with, with the product that’s going to be you know, exciting for people. So, again, thanks a lot, and thanks for everyone for tuning in. And we’ll see you again next week.
Andy Halko 51:20