The SaaS Podcast
Salesflare: Finding Your Niche in a Crowded SaaS Market – with Jeroen Corthout 
Salesflare: Finding Your Niche in a Crowded SaaS Market
Jeroen Corthout is the co-founder of Salesflare, a simple but powerful CRM that automates updating your data so you don't have to.
Jeroen had to use a CRM system in his job and hated how much effort it took to keep everything up to date. And if you didn't, your CRM quickly became useless.
He also realized that a lot of salespeople tracked deals outside of the CRM because they didn't want to be hassled by management until the deal was further along.
He came up with the idea of a sales tool that could build off the data that was already there, make better use of automation and rely less on people having to manually update information.
He built it not as a replacement but as an extension for a CRM application.
But he had a really hard time selling it because his prospective customers couldn't see the value or benefit of having another tool alongside their CRM.
And it took him some time to find the right market for his product. Eventually, he realized that smaller companies were using his product as a CRM system, not as an extension to it.
For the first 18 months, he and his co-founder did a lot of things that didn't scale. He would do all the demos and personally onboard new customers. People couldn't even pay for the product online. They would send them invoices and wait to get paid.
It was a lot of manual work to sell a product that was all about automation. But slowly, his efforts started to pay off.
Today, Salesflare is used by over 2,000 companies and the founders have raised about $1M.
We talk about how they acquired their initial customers, how they've scaled their marketing and sales, and the lessons they learned from selling their product on AppSumo.
I hope you enjoy it.
Omer: [00:00:00] Welcome to another episode of The SaaS Podcast. I'm your host Omer Khan and this is the show where I interview proven founders and industry experts who share their stories, strategies, and insights to help you build, launch and grow your SaaS business. In this episode. I talked to Jeroen Corthourt the co-founder of Salesflare, a simple but powerful CRM that automates updating your data so you don't have to.
Omer: [00:00:37] Jeroen, had to use the CRM in his job and hated how much effort it took to keep everything up to date. And if you didn't do that, your CRM quickly became useless. He also realized that a lot of salespeople track deals outside of the CRM because they didn't want to be hassled by management until the deal was further along.
Omer: [00:00:57] And he came up with the idea of a sales tool that could build off the data that was already there. Make better use of automation and rely less on people having to manually update information. He built it, not as a replacement, but as an extension for a CRM application, but he had a really hard time selling it because his prospective customers couldn't see the value or benefit of having another tool alongside their CRM.
Omer: [00:01:28] And it took him some time to find the right market for his product. Eventually, he realized that smaller companies were using his product as a CRM, not as an extension to it for the first 18 months. He and his co-founder did a lot of things that didn't scale. He would do all the demos and personally on board, new customers, people couldn't even pay for the product online.
Omer: [00:01:52] They would send them invoices and wait to get paid. It was a lot of manual work to sell a product that was cool about automation, but slowly his efforts started to pay off today's Salesflare is used by over 2000 companies and the founders have raised over a million dollars. We talk about how they acquired their initial customers, how they've scaled their marketing and sales. And the lessons they learned from selling their product on AppSumo. So I hope you enjoy it. Jeroen Welcome to the show.
Jeroen: [00:02:24] Thank you. Good to be here.
Omer: [00:02:26] So what gets you up? What drives or motivates you to work on your business everyday?
Jeroen: [00:02:30] What gets me out of beds? I would say, first of all, my alarm clock. But after that, I think it's the idea of being able to keep building on our business, our products, our team, just the idea of always building something bigger and better.
Jeroen: [00:02:48] That's that's really what motivates me. I think.
Omer: [00:02:52] So tell us about Salesflare. What does the product do? Who is it for? And what's the big problem that you're helping to solve?
Jeroen: [00:03:01] What the product does is it helps you to follow up your leads at least if you're a salesperson. So Saleflair is a, is a CRM, most specifically more of a sales CRM.
Jeroen: [00:03:13] What was it for it's for, small businesses to sell to other businesses. So this all B2B, we mostly have agencies that means marketing agencies and software development agencies on the software to get over it. A lot of the companies of which a big part or SaaS companies actually. It helps salespeople to follow up leads and helps sales managers to get a good idea of what they do, how well they do it, and also helps teams to work together as a team.
Jeroen: [00:03:44] Now why Salesflare there. We started this from the understanding that almost every CRM out there fails. At some oint it fails because you just don't feel like filling it out anymore. It might start with, with good intentions, but at some point, either because you're selling well, or you just gave up or you just stop filling it out.
Jeroen: [00:04:10] And that's when, the CRM becomes useless. And why this happens is because there's this big unbalance, I would say between the amount of work you need to put into the CRM and what you get out of it. So most CRM ask you to do a lot of data inputs and don't help you done too far pure leads. We try to turn that around.
Jeroen: [00:04:32] It's actually, our CRM is built on top of existing data, so we figured that all the things we were filling out in a CRM. we're already somewhere. They were in your emails. So all the emails you exchange, the people you're in contact with how so stronger relationships are, the email signatures, all these things are in your emails, similar in your meetings.
Jeroen: [00:04:53] You have meetings with people. We have people there. And then in your phone, there's phone calls and there's company databases, there's social databases, all these things, somehow need to be inputted twice again, into a CRM. And we figured why don't we automate that? So our whole system is built from the premise that it's not a CRM that you manually update and then maybe a sinks in some data automatically.
Jeroen: [00:05:19] Now it's built on top of existing data and actually inputting data as secondary and extra that way. Add on a whole aspect from the beginning of a tracking like email tracking on opens and clicks and website tracking and all that, that from the start was very important to us as well, because then it's, it's, it really completes the whole sales. And if you want marketing. Flow in the CRM automatically.
Omer: [00:05:43] So how did you guys come up with the idea, but what were you doing? How did you come across this problem?
Jeroen: [00:05:48] Yeah, I actually worked at a marketing consultancy/agency before we worked a lot with Salesforce. That was because we in life sciences companies, a lot of pharma companies, we would introduce Salesforce in marketing and sales projects.
Jeroen: [00:06:07] We also use Salesforce internally. And it was the first CRM I got in contact with myself. I worked in a pharma company before, but I had never seen a CRM there. It was the first one I had to use and I never really got how it would practically help me. I try to work with these tasks they have in there.
Jeroen: [00:06:29] And I tried to log things I did so that I could, I have an overview, but it seems so cumbersome and so useless. And actually most, so my colleagues were weren't doing that but when I talked to one of my fellow account managers, He told me don't put the opportunities in the system too early because management is going to start to expect things and you don't want that, how it puts some contacts in there.
Jeroen: [00:06:53] So they, they would get the newsletter. But that's, that's just about in the end, what I would do, in, in Salesforce, I would manage most of my things at that moment from outlook. I would have my emails there, my contacts, my tasks, I would have some tasks and, and things like Wunderlist as well. And it seemed like two very different worlds.
Jeroen: [00:07:13] One where I could actually yeah, organize myself. And the other thing seemed like a thing that management had invented to get some overview somewhere. But not a tool for me. And then when my current cofounder and I were working together on a, another section, sure. Our company did business intelligence software, and we had a lot of leads and we looked how we could actually organize that in a good way, in a practical way.
Jeroen: [00:07:37] We looked at a bunch of things we saw for instance, Zoho, but it looked like a, a cheap Salesforce. It didn't really solve any problem. We started working from a Google sheets, but then we found that even the Google sheet in all its simplicity, we still had to fill it out and we would miss filling it out, which meant that the overview we were looking at was not up to date.
Jeroen: [00:08:03] And then we figured it's gone through all the main dance. Is there no possibility that that's the fact that we emailed someone that we don't have to, like type it in a second time. And then actually the moment that we just excited to work on Salesflare, when I showed my co-founder, MailChimp. We were sending out our first email newsletter with that company.
Jeroen: [00:08:23] And I showed them that you can, you can see who you send it to, who opened, who clicked. And now it's super interesting. So if there was this aspect that we were thinking about a bit already, like automating our sort of CRM we had created. And on the other hand, there was this whole tracking aspect and we, when we saw these things coming together then we figured like, yes or we can do something for salespeople, like marketing, people have all these fancy things with which they can track everything.
Jeroen: [00:08:50] The data just flows in. We can make something like that for salespeople as well, so they can get a better grasp on their leads and stop having all these deals, going to falling through the cracks and all that.
Omer: [00:09:01] So what happened to the other software company that you were working on?
Jeroen: [00:09:05] It existed still for awhile, but then, after a while it got closed. And had a good amount of customers, but it just didn't get a lot of attention anymore.
Omer: [00:09:15] Okay. So you've got this idea. You can see the problem from your past experience, as well as with you and your, your co-founder, trying to make sense of all of this data. And these leads that you're getting in there. You probably already know that there's, isn't a shortage of CRM products out there.
Omer: [00:09:35] How did you go about finding your initial customers or validating the idea? So you guys feel that you have this problem that you're experiencing yourself. How did you go about finding other people who had a similar problem?
Jeroen: [00:09:52] Yeah. Yeah. So we, we, actually started reading, Getting Real by 37 signals and be read in there that indeed you had to validate quickly.
Jeroen: [00:10:03] So what we did very early on is we made this very rudimentary prototype for the product and we made a presentation and we started showing that to people and see what they thought about it. At that point, our idea was to make a sales platform. That would communicate with CRMs like Salesforce. So our value proposition was that you could still use Salesforce for your, company we're aiming at mid sized companies, but your salespeople would get to work with something that then they would actually use, because we saw a lot of companies that didn't use the CRM. So we thought we're going to fix that by putting a sales platform next to it.
Omer: [00:10:43] So. Just to be clear, you didn't start out saying we're going to build a replacement for a CRM, but instead we know that salespeople are doing a lot of stuff outside of the CRM, like you had been doing, whether it's in outlook or Wunderlist.
Omer: [00:11:05] And there was this opportunity to at least take all of that stuff and put it into a better place for. The sales team to be more effective.
Jeroen: [00:11:16] Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. We saw a simple, a sales platform that would integrate super well with your emails and all these other things I mentioned and that's salespeople with use.
Jeroen: [00:11:30] And then all the data that it's created, it would sync back to Salesforce as well, so that the company, if they want to do all the other things I want to do, I am talking midsize to big companies now that they could do that.
Omer: [00:11:43] Okay. So tell me about the kinds of conversations that you had and what you learned from that when you went out and talked to these companies.
Jeroen: [00:11:50] Yeah. So at first we started doing, some conversations in a slightly disorganized way, I would say. But after a while we, started doing customer interviews and this was with different sizes of companies, from really enterprise to small ones, with people in different positions. And we learned that what we were talking about was actually true.
Jeroen: [00:12:12] And we got some good interest for our idea. We refined some of the things we thought based on what we heard a small issue was that, that, that we got so much feedback that it just started blowing up our idea in terms of the scope. And at some point we had to get it all away again and go back to the essence.
Jeroen: [00:12:32] But what we found and also is that when we tried to sell this sales platform, that companies weren't really trusting that it would make their life easier. No, they just saw two databases. They saw the sales platform database with a whole lot in there. And then the problem of sinking that all back to Salesforce.
Jeroen: [00:12:53] And we couldn't convince anyone of the idea that, that, that would work. So what happened after a while was that we were in between a lot of smaller companies and they actually saw our platform. And as a smaller company, they're much more interested in a practical CRM in something that works for the end user.
Jeroen: [00:13:12] Right. They started being interested in that. We figured like, why don't we then go after smaller, smaller companies? Why don't we just build a CRM then something that works better for them, then that was on the market now. And then that's what we're still doing.
Omer: [00:13:29] So when you identified these smaller companies as being the potential market to focus on, did you already have a product at the time or was this just as part of the doing the customer interviews, you started talking to them.
Jeroen: [00:13:45] By then , we sort of had a product. I mean, it did stuff. Nobody really loved it yet, it there was something, yeah, I would use it very actively. And then I think the first guy that's also started using it actively must've been already at that point, it was a guy from a student organization or really used it for his sales and that at that point, other companies started being interested.
Jeroen: [00:14:12] They were a bit confused by our first version, because what we actually did was we believe that everything should still happen from the inbox. So we made a plugin for both Outlook and Gmail, and next to your emails, you would get all the information and you didn't have to go into it. Any other system or tab, it was all just there, but the company started asking us like, why don't you have like this thing I'm used to like this full screen thing as actually then something we built after we had the whole blogging and mobile experience. And it's a sort of a, let's say we started mobile. And then we, during the, into a desktop experience as well. And still today, that means that's all functionalities we offer on desktop.
Jeroen: [00:15:01] You will also find on mobile and in the plugin and I am in 100% and the whole app is fully resizable on all screens. It's the same experience. Okay.
Omer: [00:15:10] So let's talk about how you went from zero to your first hundred customers. Because you know, in, in the last couple of years, you'd be doing a lot of different growth marketing, and we can talk about some of those things, but usually getting from zero to 100 is, is a very different journey. So tell me about, what you did to get to let's say the first 20 customers,
Jeroen: [00:15:44] the first 20 or even 30 was largely based on sales. We tried to do some PR efforts as well. And actually our very first customer was due to an effort like that. And I think some from these first 30 as well, the very first customer was because we got in a Dutch tech magazine for marketers.
Jeroen: [00:16:06] And he had read that we built something that basically was a CRM that would fill out itself. He called it the living CRM, I think. And, he had issues with the salespeople not using Microsoft dynamics. so he was very interested to learn more about this. But then all the next customers we actually got through our network and through selling, it was a lot of work I would say, but rewarding work. I also remember a few coming through. We got in, let's say the financial times of Belgium and that brought us a few of those as well. But largely it was through our network, like people in the startup community, people, they knew people we knew from somewhere else and the whole process was, was, was very manual.
Jeroen: [00:16:56] We didn't have a signup process on the websites or anything like that. It was really us convincing people, getting them on annual plans. We didn't even have a monthly plan back then and paying invoices, all this kind of thing.
Omer: [00:17:09] How much were you charging back then?
Jeroen: [00:17:11] We're charging what we're charging today? Actually, we were charging 30 per user per month on an annual plan.
Omer: [00:17:18] Got it. And then, so what could people do on the website at the time?
Jeroen: [00:17:22] On the website, the website would show our Salesflare was and all that. And then there was a form where you could request a trial. If you wanted one. That way we could any trial we request, we got in, we, we get, fully guides and we would get close and maximum of the deals to me we got in, but also we could really help people through the different steps because we didn't really feel comfortable yet with having them do it alone. Just the first step of the process, which was connecting your emails was super difficult at the time. So we really needed to be here.
Omer: [00:17:54] Yeah. You know, we've heard this. This thing over and over again, you know, the Paul Graham thing about do things that don't scale in the early days, but it's still so tempting to, to build a website that's going to automate everything and people will get there and sign up and know how to use the product and onboard and be happy. And the reality is that when you're starting out, you know, the product, isn't usually that great. And there's still a lot of work to do, but also I think there's this, once we are working on the product, you sort of get familiar with it. You stop seeing some of the flaws because you're seeing this day in day out, you know, that you need to improve it.
Omer: [00:18:42] But when you see a customer and you sit down with them and when the next step seems obvious to you and they can't figure out what to do. That's when I think it really hits home that
Jeroen: [00:18:55] No, no, that's, that's, that's exactly what happens. So we would get people through the signup process and then the first steps of getting on the software as well.
Jeroen: [00:19:04] Basically the calls would go like this. I would demo them the software showed them all the cool things in depth. And then they said, Oh, I'd like to try this. And I'm like, shall we schedule another call or do it right now. I mean, if he wants and knows, Oh, he can do it. One of the two, if, if it would be at that moment, we would basically share their screen and I would follow.
Jeroen: [00:19:27] And I would say, let's do this now, let's do this now, let's do this now. And then every time they hesitated or something went wrong or I saw something that really was off. I noted it down and I took a whole lot of notes. These calls were often super embarrassing, but it's still exciting because I mean, now it's putting people on the software who were excited to get on there, even despite all the flaws.
Jeroen: [00:19:55] And by the time it would get through to call, they would be on the software. They would have an account. They would have learned the basic ways of using it. I would maybe have helped them with creating some things in the, in the software already and all that. So they would get it. And then maybe we would do a followup call a bit later, to go through some other problems.
Jeroen: [00:20:18] We didn't have anything like chat or signup software they would personally be in contact with me, either over Skype or WhatsApp or email, or it didn't matter. And there would be this very, very close, intimate contact where we would help them through all the steps, which meant that our close rate was actually pretty good.
Jeroen: [00:20:40] And, and also made that with the very small amount of people we got on the software, we could still get a maximum of feedback, because as soon as you let the process become self-service, Then immediately that it's not only the close rate, that falls, but it's also the amount of feedback that just becomes almost, almost nothing compared to what you had before. I would say
Omer: [00:21:01] So apart from the PR, what else did you do to help you get to that first 100 customer milestone?
Jeroen: [00:21:12] Yeah, so, so we did PR we did sales and then we started thinking of taking it to another level. The first lounge we did marketing wise was the moment that we started our blog also. And I think we were about two years into development at that moment, which is about two years in a bit after we two years and four months or so after we had the idea for the for Salesflare, we did an online lounge where we actually made that people could sign up to the software online. And we started building like the Stripe integration and all that.
Omer: [00:21:49] How long had you been, had you been selling the product before you added that feature?
Jeroen: [00:21:54] Let's say we sold from the start. So that two years and more than two years, actually.
Omer: [00:21:58] So for two years, is there was no people couldn't pay online. There was no Stripe integration. You would just signing people up and sending them an invoice.
Jeroen: [00:22:06] Yeah, like, like from the moment we had an actual product, I would say more than a year and a half, we did it like that. Yeah.
Omer: [00:22:14] You know, it's amazing how sometimes we just kind of put things in our own way and say, well, I can do this when this is there and this is there and I've got this capability.
Omer: [00:22:24] And I think it's just, it's a very useful reminder that, you know, you don't have to have everything perfect. If you can figure out and find a problem that people care enough about.
Jeroen: [00:22:37] Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Well, if you don't have that, of course, you're not going to convince people. And probably you should make the barriers lower from the start, but if you, if you can, I would, I would hold off as long as possible on letting the whole process go.
Jeroen: [00:22:55] And you can get away with a lot of things. As long as you take the sales approach, the whole guided approach, and you solve every problem that comes along, you can get away with a lot of things and it makes that you can make the whole experience much more perfect than if you would just let it go from the start.
Omer: [00:23:13] You also did a Product Hunt launch and a promotion on AppSumo. How did they go? What did you learn from that experience?
Jeroen: [00:23:23] They both went really well, super happy with both of them. What we could have done better, especially for the AppSumo launch is, preparing for it out I would say. But the, the, the product launch was about, I think, seven months or six months after we did that online launch. We have built an extra onboarding experience and we really prepared super well for the Product Hunt launch. Got of tons of faults, got a ton of trials. I looked at it earlier today and it was somewhere between 200 and 300 trials. And we go from this Product Hunt launch.
Jeroen: [00:23:59] And that was just at the beginning because we still get trials from there every week. Right now we got up forward to a, the number one CRM on Product Hunt. And we're still getting up for us because if you'd type CRM at the top of Product Hunt, you're where the first CRM you find. And that was the moment that's really quite a big amount of people starting knowing about us because we launched in also in a few communities where we were active. I don't know whether we doubled, but we got to a good extra amount of customers through that product and launched just about immediately. The churn was higher on the same on productions, sign up.
Jeroen: [00:24:43] It's more, early adopter audience that truly likes new products, which is what we needed of course tend to them if they see something else go away again, or whether they're on projects that don't last super long or
Omer: [00:24:57] The shiny object syndrome, right?
Jeroen: [00:25:00] Shiny object. Yeah. But that's, that's okay. In the beginning when you're starting off. Now you need some, some people that's a go for new stuff. And then the AppSumo launch was about two, three months later. That was huge. And we saw underestimated the impact of dance where we, I think about, I don't know what it was 300 trials, but somewhere in that order, we had about 6,000 people signing up for our software in a matter of three weeks.
Omer: [00:25:33] Wow.
Jeroen: [00:25:34] And we were not at all prepared for that. Let's say that the, the, the morning that we launched, I was still writing, saved replies, and we prepared a few sheets in which we would start inputting all the things we heard because the system in which we were putting things, we just couldn't do it fast enough in there.
Jeroen: [00:25:53] So we would just type it all in one, one huge sheet, which we migrated then afterwards. We're told that we were soft launching that day. And that way it would just go on the website and some people would sign up. But immediately the first day we had more than 400 signups, which was more than we could handle the launch when they send out the email itself has over a thousand people in one day. I remember, but it was heavy for really three straight weeks. In which we worked around the clock, we did support around the clock literally. So we would work in shifts. I would think the early morning shift waking up at four and immediately going into support until our fingers are hurt.
Jeroen: [00:26:44] And we actually, three of us got sick at the end of the three weeks because it just put so much stress on our body, but it was a really fun experience at that moment. It was really accelerating.
Omer: [00:26:56] So now people are thinking, listening to this and they're thinking, great. I'm going to go out and try to do an AppSumo launch. What are also the downsides of doing something like that?
Jeroen: [00:27:06] Oh, the downsides are, I'll tell you when to do it and when not to do it, some of the downsides are that there's a lot of people coming into your software and you need to support them and they only pay once. That's probably the major downside.
Jeroen: [00:27:20] Some of the people in the AppSumo community also expect a lot. Even if they don't pay much, they have huge expectations. And that's, there's some, I mean, there that are a bit more difficult to handle with AppSumo people, Sumo links, they call themselves. You will get a way more intense interaction than you get with beta customers, which has pros, cons the corners, and that you have to handle that.
Jeroen: [00:27:48] But the pro is that you get a done a feedback they really care about you're a software and we'll will give you a feedback on just about everything that doesn't work, that they would like to see another way, then you know, all kinds of stuff. So it's really brought us so much more feedback than before.
Jeroen: [00:28:06] What it also brought us is a lot of visibility. All these people are using it also recommended to other people. They're there to ride reviews. We also got quite some good upsells because the deal, we didn't do a deal where everything was free forever and unlimited. The limit for us was on the amount of users.
Jeroen: [00:28:27] So there was a one user for free and the other is at 50% off. And I think we're one of the AppSumo deals. I've got the best upsales from that when I would do it is when your software is actually targeted to the community. That is on AppSumo, which is a lot of, I imagine it does a lot of, there's obviously a lot of types on there, but largely marketing agencies, solopreneurs.
Jeroen: [00:28:55] So, if that's what you're aiming at, then there might be a good match. Your product can not be too hard to support. so not too many extra costs when you bring on more people. Preferably if, if possible, a product that is visible to other people so that if people use it, other people see it and also want it, then, then from an AppSumo launch, which people that, that don't necessarily pay you a subscription, you can then get customers that actually pay your subscription. Yeah. I think I covered the main, main points.
Omer: [00:29:31] So what's been the main growth driver over the last. A couple of years. So getting to first a hundred customers was one thing. And then last year, what's the main thing that's been working for you?
Jeroen: [00:29:46] Yeah. So the, the main things that are working for us as, as all a sorts of organic, I think it's very hard for us in the CRM space to really break through with, with outbounds kind of things, or, I mean, beta ads or outreaching, or a lot of channels are saturated it's one thing. And the second thing is that there's also people don't just jump into a new CRM, which is good for churn, but it's, it's sad for acquisition. What has mostly been working for us is different versions of organic. Like I said, a big part of that is word of mouth. What if miles into sends out people to other people which CRM they use and recommended it's people writing reviews and finding us in review sites lists and all those kind of things.
Jeroen: [00:30:37] And then the last part of organic is, is the whole content yeah. Marketing. We do our own Salesflare, which is it's sort of targeted at the personas. We, we mostly have on the software and as lately more and more around things where Salesflare might be useful so that when we write about a certain topic, they can actually see how they could use the software for that purpose as well in a certain way.,
Omer: [00:31:07] Yeah. I've come across that approach. A little bit more recently and I think HREFS
Jeroen: [00:31:16] Yeah.
Omer: [00:31:17] All of that, they create content and the content is basically telling you how to use their product.
Jeroen: [00:31:22] Yeah. Yeah. It doesn't all need to be about using a product, but at some point, you show some parts of, so, okay. So you're trying to build a sales pipeline.
Jeroen: [00:31:32] First you talk about what is the definition of a sales pipeline? I was a defendant and sales funnels kind of things. Then how do you set the stages then a show like, okay, so this is how it would then look in Salesflare. And then how do you manage your sales pipeline? And then now, and then you just show how that would work in an easy way in Salesflare, better than in other systems.
Jeroen: [00:31:53] And then people they have what they came for, they learned all about it, the topic they were researching, but at the same time they also saw in their minds how it would be if they would use Salesflare for, for this particular purpose.
Omer: [00:32:08] Yeah. I think that's a smart approach. Alright. One of the things that you told me earlier was you didn't really believe in processes and kind of setting up those kinds of things to organize and run the company.
Omer: [00:32:25] And that's something that you guys. I've been doing a lot of lately. So tell me about what kind of problems you started getting into as, as you grew, what kind of problems did you start to experience without having processes in place and you having a resistance to putting any in place?
Jeroen: [00:32:46] Yeah, like, like my co-founder and I, we mostly feel that processes are limiting and they make us less nimble. So it makes us more difficult to go certain directions. If we put all these things in place that seem to be sort of ingrained, but that's only with certain processes. And when I was referring to processes, whereas they've lately been working on, this was mostly around communication because like, before on the communication level, we would all be sitting together in a room.
Jeroen: [00:33:17] So everything we do with customers is remote because we have customers all over the world. But as a team, we prefer to be in the same room because we felt that the sort of, let's call it accidental communication. We would be, would be having there would be good for us because the closer we are, the better we communicate and, the less things don't get said. And then everybody knows everything. That's what we thought at least. But then we started working remote with the whole lockdown and all that and actually, until today we're still working from home and we started seeing that that was not actually something that worked. And we started rethinking these things and that's on many levels.
Jeroen: [00:34:02] It's, how we organize meetings. It is around how we communicate in between meetings and, and, and also a bit under the, the setup we have there with the different platforms and all that. But if you want me to go in a bit more detail, we, for instance, started limiting maybe, maybe a bit more about the issue first, like the efficiency of meetings.
Jeroen: [00:34:25] We have quite some of them because we are very focused on building value for Salesflare as a team. And that requires communicating a lot and a good part of that as a meetings. But we started really feeling that it was dragging us down. So meetings started to go over time and we needed to book new meetings.
Jeroen: [00:34:45] People started losing focus in meetings. Discussions would get stuck on some points. We would forget what we decided before and then have to come back on it with. But lose touch of each other's feelings, during discussions, all this kind of things. And what we started doing is putting a few things in place.
Jeroen: [00:35:07] Like now we, we limits most meetings to just treat people because what we found is that if we have more than three people in a meeting, then there's, the others are mostly not participating. They're just sitting there losing focus and you cannot have a discussion with more than three people. Often in, in the three, three people meetings, it's even two people discussing in the third person sort of sorting out, but three is good because then you, if you just do people under discussion and a bit harder, we started limiting meetings to two hours. Where half an hour before we sort of give a sign that it's going to end in 20 minutes so that we can start wrapping up. So that, that 15 minutes we can and actually wrap up, where redone, right announcements for the meetings and also booked the next one if needed. And this announcement thing is also a big thing that we've been doing lately.
Jeroen: [00:36:02] It's always summarizing the results of meetings for the whole team. So that everybody is always up to date on every important thing that was said in meetings, because otherwise we would find that some things were discussed in a meeting and we had notes and all that, but nobody reads them that people would not be up to date on these things. And that just makes communicating as a team, much more difficult.
Omer: [00:36:24] So how do you do that? Do you use some sort of tool or is it just a having a process and making sure that somebody is responsible for doing that?
Jeroen: [00:36:31] It's this specifically it's, we discussed responsibility and then at the end we just type it up. One person was responsible for that and we put it in Slack in a specific channel and everybody can read it and maybe have a further discussion on that in a, in a Slack thread.
Omer: [00:36:51] I had a guy on the podcast, a guy called Darren Chait who runs a startup called Hugo.
Jeroen: [00:36:58] And yeah. I also had them on my podcast.
Omer: [00:37:01] And Yeah. So I think that's a great tool. I don't know if you've, have you had any luck with that?
Jeroen: [00:37:06] Yeah, I know. No, I, I know of the tool and I've been thinking about using it, but it's just that currently things run quite well. And with our combination of Google docs and Slack, That I haven't really taking the leap yet. There's so many other things that we're, working on that I, I don't feel this, you know, you show a company speech that it doesn't have priority right now.
Omer: [00:37:31] Yeah, of course. So for people who aren't familiar with that, the nice thing about it is that it will automatically send, reminders to everyone who attended a meeting to, to summarize their notes and then it sort of puts it together and shares that with everybody, which is pretty cool.
[00:37:46] Okay. So looking back at the last, I mean, you founded the company in 2014, I think. Right? So looking back in the last six years, What's and I know this is a tough question, but what's one thing you wish you'd done differently.
Jeroen: [00:38:02] One thing I would say taking a more systematic approach to some things, and I already spoke about taking things slower and about the necessity for processes.
Jeroen: [00:38:16] But I think on the topic of trying to improve things. We've often been very haphazard, I think is the right words, quite ad hoc, and then trying something here and then trying something there, but not super systematically. I would definitely really improve that if I, I ever start over again, another thing we've been should do this year to sort of start making that better is we've introduced a system of habits.
Jeroen: [00:38:46] So there's a bunch of habits we define. That we do every month. For instance, we develop two features that people love. We make one in boarding improvements, regrowth improvements where two times visible outside of our own audience, we improve our support approach once a month. And we, we actually do that on a schedule. So we, we never forget to do these things and then when you start doing that, you also start needing to build out processes around that, to make sure that you actually have a good pipeline of all these initiatives. And that's, what's been helping us lately, quite a lot in making, making all that more systematic.
Jeroen: [00:39:26] There are some of the prioritization that we're still working on there to improve, because then you start feeling the pain there when you start organizing things a bit better. If I, if I would go back, I'd probably focus more on that because it's easy to say, okay. Our numeric goal for this year is that. I'm going to reach this, but if you don't put the whole system behind that, it's just, just very hard to get there.
Omer: [00:39:51] Yeah. Okay, great. We should wrap up. We're going to go through the lightning round, but I'll ask you seven quickfire questions. So you know, the drill, you've heard the podcast, so what's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?
Jeroen: [00:40:05] The best piece of business advice I've ever received, but it's something that's, that has stuck with me at least it was my first boss who I was leaning against the post of a door. Very nonchalant. I don't know whether that's also word in English. That's French. And she was saying like, you who you want to become a product manager? I was, I was still in a pharma company back then. She said, you need to look like a product manager.
Jeroen: [00:40:28] You need to behave like a product manager, because people need to think of you that way. If you're not going to do that, then you're never going to get that position. And that's sort of the, it's applicable to a lot of things you do. Some people might call it, fake it till you make it. I don't like to think of it that way, because then you get into this. Let's say fire festival situations or whatever, but still, you know?
Omer: [00:40:51] Yeah. Good. Okay. What book would you recommend to our audience and why?
Omer: [00:40:55] If it's for a life? The one book I would recommend that I've read in the last year was a why we sleep. I forgot the name of the author, but that one had the big impact on my life at least it explains you all the, the things that grow, if you don't sleep all the advantages that sleep has how to go about sleeping well, and it's just so important, since I've read this book. I sleep much better. And that makes that my day is spent in a much better way and less tired. I eat less crap and just, but more concentrated and there's less weird impulses, all those kind of things.
Omer: [00:41:36] And that's actually, I, I did my master's thesis on the topic of sleep. So I should have known, but this book was, was still really mind blowing.
Omer: [00:41:47] Yeah. We'll include a link to that in the show notes. What's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder?
Jeroen: [00:41:54] A lot of listening, combined with persistence I would say that you have to figure out what's best for everyone and, and persist that you're going to find it.
Omer: [00:42:03] What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit?
Jeroen: [00:42:06] A difficult one. What I would usually recommend the super easy one to start with is just getting a calendar booking link because it saves you so much time emailing, back and forth. Everybody accepts the thing nowadays, you don't have to be afraid of, of sending someone your calendar link and it saves you so much time and hassle.
Omer: [00:42:25] What's a new, crazy business idea. You'd love to pursue if you had the extra time?
Jeroen: [00:42:29] Yeah that's a difficult one. I've been thinking about what I do after a Salesflare. Sometimes I don't really know. The one thing that grabs my attention right now is, somehow trying to make more startups succeed and doing something around that because there's so many problems you can get into trying to prevent those, that would be, would be cool.
Omer: [00:42:52] What's an interesting or fun fact about you that most people don't know?
Jeroen: [00:42:55] I don't know whether it's interesting of fact. The first thing I can think about is that I'm a, I'm a US citizen, both Belgian and American. And, I was born in upstate New York. In a small town called Mount Kisco.
Omer: [00:43:11] Cool. Well, that is interesting cause I didn't know about that. And finally, what's one of your most important passions outside of your work?
Jeroen: [00:43:18] Outside of my work, it varies a bit until the beginning of the lockdown. I was actually picking singing classes, but then, it's it's appeared that it's the best way to spread Corona singing. So I haven't been having classes since. But I, I really enjoyed that and, and I've been enjoying it for very long time. It was only last year that I said I should maybe take classes. And that was amazing. I really love it. Awesome.
Omer: [00:43:47] Yeah, Jeroen. Thanks for joining me for me. It's been a pleasure to chat and share the story of Salesflare. If people want to find out more about Salesflare, they can go to salesflare.com. And if people want to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that.
Jeroen: [00:44:01] My swim would be LinkedIn, I think, but please include a personal message because otherwise, I mean, I have nowhere of making a difference between all the people that sent me connection requests out of nowhere every day and someone that's genuine. Listen to this podcast and liked it.
Jeroen: [00:44:19] Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I mean, if someone listens to the podcast or mentions the podcast, you know, that, that makes it much easier to connect and people can send you the so-called personal messages, which say, The, you know, the the one I love is like, you know, I came across your impressive profile.
Omer: [00:44:38] It's like, come on. It's like, you know, isn't that being used enough? Okay.
Jeroen: [00:44:42] Yeah or I see. We have so many things in common. Why don't we connect?
Omer: [00:44:49] Don't do, don't do either of those two things.
Omer: [00:44:53] All right. Great. Well, thank you. And I wish you all the best.
Jeroen: [00:44:57] Thank you. Yes. Same to you.
- “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams” by Matthew Walker