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Finally an automated CRM that just works. Meet Salesflare and their CEO.

November 24, 2020

Finally an automated CRM that just works. Meet Salesflare and their CEO.
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In this episode, host Ryan Alford talks with the Co-Founder and CEO of Salesflare, Jeroen Corthout. Sales Flare is the #1 CRM platform on ProductHunt and Capterra.


Welcome to another episode on The Radcast! In this episode, host Ryan Alford talks with the Co-Founder and CEO of Salesflare, Jeroen Corthout. Salesflare is the #1 CRM platform on ProductHunt and Capterra. Ryan and Jeroen break down the following:

  • What lead Jeroen and his partner co-founder, Lieven Janssen, to start Salesflare.
  • Why Salesflare is a different software than other SAAS platforms.
  • Jeroen highlights both the immediate effects and long-term results of having Salesflare as your business's CRM.

If you enjoyed this episode, share it on Instagram and tag us @the.rad.cast | Do you want to hear more from our host? - Give him a follow @ryanalford on Instagram. | Have a Happy Thanksgiving and we'll talk to you soon! #theradcast 

Transcript

Ryan Alford [00:00:23] Hey guys, welcome to the latest episode of The Radcast. It is a podcast Wednesday here for us. Not sure when you'll be listening, but excited to have Jeroen Corthout here. Hear from the CEO of Salesflare. Good to have you here, Jeroen . So, hey, man, Salesflare. I had heard of this a little bit and I didn't know where. And then I saw how popular you were on Product Hunt, and that's when it rang a bell. 

Jeroen Corthout [00:00:54] You saw I was launching Product Hunt? 

Ryan Alford [00:00:56] I just saw it. I used to really be active on Product Hunt. Have been less active the last probably, a year or two. But I knew I had heard of your company. And so that's where it rang the bell. So the number one, is it the number one, most popular CRM ever on Product Hunt? 

Jeroen Corthout [00:01:16] Yeah, I think so. If you type CRM at the top in Product Hunt, probably you'll find Salesflare. 

Ryan Alford [00:01:22] Well, let's just start where we start with most of our guests. Let's talk about your background. Give everybody a little bit of information about you and then kind of what brought you into Salesflare. 

Jeroen Corthout [00:01:34] To summarize my background very shortly I knew when I was 15 or 16 that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I just started building websites, selling second hand phones, and I decided to study engineering. I started off well, I like technical engineering. Ended up in something else. Doesn't matter. I never really liked the idea of having an engineering job. I want to do something with customers, much like the websites I've been building and the phones I've been selling. I'm really adding value to customers and sort of working with them. It's much more interesting to me than just purely creating something for the sake of building something. I really like creating stuff, but only if there’s customers involved. So I ended up doing business school and after that I actually got into marketing, a totally different thing. That was in health care initially because I was a biomedical engineer. So I thought that made sense. I did that for ten months because it was a horribly limited job. I thought I would put a product into the market, but it seemed that I was just basically making a brochure and telling the sales team how to use it. It was not very interesting. And then four years, I worked in a company that's sort of married to my experience in formal marketing with building websites and all my experience in digital, where we help pharma companies to switch from a purely sales driven sales model to something where all the digital channels come into play. Because doctors nowadays, they also don't like salespeople in their waiting rooms anymore. They can read stuff on the internet. 

Ryan Alford [00:03:35] I love it. So. All that background, it led to starting Salesflare? I know you have a partner too.

Jeroen Corthout [00:03:47] Yeah, I actually do explain that very, very shortly in that job that I had, like helping pharma companies. We used Salesforce. I was selling products and partly responsible for their delivery and we use Salesforce. It was my very first year. I thought it was going to help me be productive, follow up my leads. It would be like the system in which I organized myself. It turned out that it was extremely difficult. The only thing we would reliably do in SalesForce was a company's management. reporting like this is what we're going to sell by then and keep track of these things. And that was very confusing to me. But I didn't really do anything with that experience until I was working together with my co-founder, partner that you were talking about. We were working on a different software company and we went to a big conference and we had a lot of interest for our software. And we tried to organize that. We tried to set up a system in which we would always know I could get the next lead to contact. Then, the last thing we discussed with them was their details. And I knew Salesforce wasn't really a great fit for that. Looked a bit around and looked at different systems. And what we always noticed is that these systems failed not because the software was not working or so or wasn't beautiful, or it was more of a problem with us not being able to fill them out. We didn't have that awesome discipline to always neatly fill out every single thing we did, every little piece of information we knew, a piece of information we got from the customer. So it always turned out to be a mess. And then we figured that actually this is information that we were always putting it through the CRM was information that already existed in some system. And if it would just connect all these systems up, we would create an automated CRM that automatically feeds you the information available on emails, meetings, calls, emails signatures, social media, email tracking, web tracking; a system that pulls that all together so that as a as a salesperson, you always know what's what's the latest thing without you having to keep track of its yourself. 

Ryan Alford [00:06:22] I love it because I love hearing that I'm not the only person that's dealt with bloated CRM systems. Because what I see, having used, maybe not a dozen, but a half dozen, they become bloated. They try to put too much into the software. And then the user experience is so manual. And it's interesting. And I started to start a trial, admittedly, on Salesflare yesterday. It's on my list for this afternoon. So we're going to put it to use. I want to do it before the episode. But you know what? I'll follow back up post episode with how it's done. I really love the automation side of it. That makes a ton of sense. 

Jeroen Corthout [00:07:07] And you mentioned the other issue. It's that we need to focus on two issues. One is the automation issue. I mean, a lot of work. And then the other thing is that often it becomes bloated and you don't know where things are anymore. And it's a lot of clicks here and there. And there's so much in there that you completely lose. Like, I want to change this little thing. How does that work? That's the other thing we very much focus on, is keeping it super easy because otherwise people also stop using this CRM. 

Ryan Alford [00:07:38] Salesforce is the example of trying to be more than a CRM. It's like how many things can we jam into this thing without getting a CRM figured out. So talk to me about some of the highs and lows of being an entrepreneur or developing a SaaS system in a very competitive space. You give us something to give everyone some perspective on, on what that's been like. 

Jeroen Corthout [00:08:13] All the highs is always, I think every big product release we do is a high end because it means we've listened to customers. We've created value. We bring it to them. And you can see it also. That's so nice about it. Oh, this is a new thing. And we always communicate back to customers. So we ask for feedback because very often they're like, “awesome”. That's really nice; another type of high, I would say, is often closing a new deal, convincing a customer to get on the software. It happens more often, obviously, so it becomes more of a habit. And the big releases. On the low side, I'd say I mean, there is there's a lot of little things as an entrepreneur to have to deal with. But the thing that stands out is when you think about hired the wrong person for a job because it's an extremely draining process. At first you see that you sort of made a mistake probably somehow in the hiring process. You didn't see the thing. And then you try for a while to make it work, which is stressful by itself. Then you start seeing that, probably you're not going to be able to make it work. And that is a question like ‘when I'm going to fire them?’ which is stressful. How am I going to communicate it? How do I make sure that I do give them a second chance before that happens? Now, all these kind of things, it starts weighing on you quite a lot. And the firing itself is even not too bad compared to everything that comes before it. So that's probably some of the lows. But it's not just about firing any time there's a big misunderstanding or disappointment or whatever. Those are probably the most when it comes to people.

Ryan Alford [00:10:31] People management is the most difficult part of company ownership. I mean, it’s certainly finances, too, and certain things. There's the pressure of all of that. But, it's just the dynamics of humanity and dealing with different personalities and having the right people in the right places. And like you said, making those tough decisions and managing it properly. 

Jeroen Corthout [00:10:59] And in a way that everybody understands it and that, like, emotions are carefully managed. And I think that's the most difficult part. 

Ryan Alford [00:11:10] How has technology changed? I mean, we talked about it being a crowded space. Where have you seen impacts from this year with obviously being in a strange year with covid and in the health situation? I mean, it's kind of a double part question, but how has technology changed in the CRM business and any impact Covid has had? 

Jeroen Corthout [00:11:34] No huge impacts on us because we were sort of already a very digital system. Focusing on digital channels like things that are integrated and things like email and stuff like the digital versions of that. We're not focused on field sales. I know some companies that have systems for field sales. They have huge issues. Obviously, they have to overcome a lot of stuff, lost customers, a lot of customers having issues, not so much the case for us. The biggest changes we've seen, I think, over the past year is that a lot of things have accelerated when it comes to video conversations, logging in more digital channels. And I think also in the AI space, things somehow have gone quicker and quicker, which is partly the direction that CRMs will go in the future, is that as more things become digitalized and more and more data gets gets incorporated, you can start doing a lot of intelligence things with that data to make sure that the computer detects certain things and triggers or it collects more information from places or it can start automating some of the communication. So all these things are going faster and faster. 

Ryan Alford [00:13:14] I know you talked a little bit about this - why you started Salesflare. What do you think? Beyond the automation, what are the differentiators for Salesflare versus the others? I mean, can we give two or three of the very specific integrations or things that they kind of go in that decision making process, 

Jeroen Corthout [00:13:40] You mean functionality or?

Ryan Alford [00:13:43] Yeah, functionality? 

Jeroen Corthout [00:13:45] Yeah, OK, because our differentiators to a certain extent are how easy it is to implement, how easy it is to use and how easy it is to fill it out and all that. But if you go beyond that, pure functionality, things that most others don't offer is one, we have this built in email workflows functionality. If you have your trial, you'll see it under workflows. What you can do there is you can basically build triggers on top of your Salesflare data or filter all the inside of Salesflare data can be a one off workflow or one that keeps running and it can send emails from your mailbox automatically to people in a personalized way. It can be one email per person or it can be a sequence of emails or even not necessarily a linear sequence, but one that ventures out with different possibilities so that you can automate part of your repetitive communication that you're having. Let's say, for instance, when you get people on the podcast, guests to the podcast, that you can start emailing certain things to them before they get on or something. Another thing we are for that most others don't is integrate a website tracking. So things like these emails that you send to the workflows. But actually every single email, you send through Salesflare or through your Gmail with the sidebar next to it. All these emails are tracked with a little pixel, see when people open them up. And also the links are extra tracked. So when people click, you can see it. But linked up to that as well, there is a website tracking and when anyone clicks on the link in an email, it will identify that person as being the one who sees that email. And then when that person before or after went to the website, that will be visualizing in your Salesflare a timeline. And you can follow the whole history of the website page visits and how long and all that and when in the timeline automatically. And then maybe a third one, which sounds a bit more abstract perhaps, but is very handy, is that in sales where you can filter in a very easy way across empathies. And what that means in more simple terms is that when you're, for instance, filtering companies as the things you are filtering, it's not just the things that are on the company level. You can also say show me all the companies that are linked to opportunities in a specific pipeline and that have contacts that have a phone number, for instance. So it's the filtering that goes across all the data instead of just that little siloed data. 

Ryan Alford [00:17:00] I love it. A lot of key features there. I was kind of like mentally paying attention to things that we need, to make a few notes. What's it like? I know you talked about highs and lows specifically, but do you enjoy being an entrepreneur? Do you see yourself building other software or doing other things? 

Jeroen Corthout [00:17:27] I don't see myself doing anything else, honestly. I remember my wife told me at some point it's just like, wow, you're so much happier now. And that doesn't mean that every day is an extremely happy one. But at least there's this. If you compare in general, like when I was just doing a job “for someone else”, I would have a completely different outlook on things, much less of a feeling of, first of all, responsibility. Secondly, personal growth impacts. Yeah, it just feels completely different to be an entrepreneur versus being an employee. I'm sometimes wondering whether I will do this forever or at some point I might switch more to teaching, although teaching is such a weird place nowadays with all the coaches and stuff that I don't know how I would make it work in such a way that it feels good to be. 

Ryan Alford [00:18:55] Yes, everyone's a coach nowadays. It's like there. But in the US suddenly everyone's coaching something. 

Jeroen Corthout [00:19:06] Yes, so I'm wondering whether I want to be in that space or not. Maybe that coach thing is a fad. At some point, teaching will become a more normal thing. 

Ryan Alford [00:19:19] Is Salesflare your proudest accomplishment? I mean, what is your proudest accomplishment? 

Jeroen Corthout [00:19:28] Oh, that's a very good question. Professionally, I guess. Yeah. Beyond that? It's harder. 

Ryan Alford [00:19:40] What's the make up? We talked a little bit pre episode about your customer base across the world, like, what's the percentages? In countries I mean, it's a worldwide platform, right? 

Jeroen Corthout [00:19:53] It's probably 40 percent in North America, 40 percent in Europe, of which, one fourth or so or even more is the U.K., and after that, it's Belgium where we're based actually, specifically places where the people speak Dutch and the Netherlands are very popular, as well as Germany, Poland and some other countries. And then 20 percent is the rest of the world, of which a big part is Australia. Again, it's mainly because our marketing is in English, our software is in English. That's why it appeals more to English speaking countries than to other language speaking countries. 

Ryan Alford [00:20:41] So we kind of close out here. What's the future hold for you and Salesflare? We talked about where you might go, but where for Salesflare? Where do you see the platform going in the next five, 10 years? I mean, it seems like you're just growing and leaning into the AI aspect and everything that's happening. 

Jeroen Corthout [00:21:02] Yeah, that's definitely sort of where it's going. We'll start pulling in more data, make sure that things become more and more automated. The email workflows that I talked about. We call it workflows and not sequences or anything because we think it's going to be more than just emails. And it's not only purely sequential. So that's something we'll develop. But then it's very hard to imagine every single thing sort of where we will add things. What it will always be about is trying to make the sales process as automated as possible, especially when it comes to things that don't need humans. We're saying, if what I mean. So adding all this data collection suggestions, automations of help, salespeople do a better job so they can build relationships at scale, which is what CRM in the end is for. You can build a few relationships without using a system, but as soon as you have, let's say, a few tons of relationships going, you need to organize it somehow. And we're building a system that enables 

Ryan Alford [00:22:29] Love it man. Really appreciate your time here on the Radcast and wish you all the best of success. And I'll shoot you some feedback when we get into our trial. 

Jeroen Corthout [00:22:41] Please do you can you can shoot it to me on LinkedIn or you can you can sign on the support charts or on email or whatever. 

Ryan Alford [00:22:47] Awesome. Thanks so much man. We'll talk again soon. 

Jeroen Corthout [00:22:51] Thank you. Have a good day

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Jeroen Corthout

Co-Founder / CEO of Salesflare