How to look for a deep customer pain and address it

How do you address a deep customer pain?

Brandon Bruce is the Founder of Cirrus Insight, which makes it easier for sales people to log their information in Salesforce without ever leaving their email.

Brandon was able to address such a deeply felt pain that he had customers lining up for Cirrus Insight even before he launched.

Brandon Bruce

Brandon Bruce

Cirrus Insight

Brandon Bruce is the Founder of Cirrus Insight, which makes it easier for sales people to log their information in Salesforce without ever leaving their email.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses.

The big insight that I’ve gotten having done over a thousand interviews is this. If you find a customer who has a really big pain, you don’t even have to solve it. You don’t even have to get it right. You just have to address it, and they will work with you to get it right because the pain is so bad that they need relief. I’m spitting up as I say this, because I’m kind of fiery about this, Brandon. It’s a good thing we’re not in person.

That is basically what Brandon Bruce, the guest that I’m about to interview, has discovered himself. He realized that for salespeople who live in email, making the trip over to — this sounds so silly, but it is a trip from one software that you live in to another, which is Salesforce, to record what you just did in the software you’re already in, it’s a bit of a chore and people forget to do it. Stuff comes up. I get it.

It was such a pain that he said, “You know what? I’m going to solve it. I’m actually going to create software that makes it easier for salespeople to log their information, to keep their Salesforce updated without having to leave the software that they’re in already, which is email.” It was such a strong pain, such a good solution that before he was even up, back when he just had a simple WordPress website, didn’t mean to index it, people started signing up and buying from him. To me, that’s an example of how important it is to look for a deep customer pain and address it.

So, as I said, today’s guest is Brandon Bruce. He is the founder of Cirrus Insight. They allow you to sync your calendar and email with Salesforce. He’s also the new author of a new book called “The Slow Sale: How Slowing Down Can Help You Win More Deals.”

This interview is sponsored by two companies. The first is HostGator, which allows you and me and Brandon even used it, to host our websites. And the second one is the company that will help you hire your next great developer. It’s called Toptal. I’ll tell you more about them later. Brandon, welcome.

Brandon: Thanks for having me. Excited to be here.

Andrew: I’ve got to ask you about one of the past businesses you had before. As a kid, a lot of us have sold candy. You sold what?

Brandon: Well, my brother and I thought maybe we could sell rocks. We kind of tried to pass it off as candy, which I highly don’t recommend, but we had some rocks and we had some mud. We figured if you let it harden it a little bit. So we went out and tried to sell those with mixed results. Some people could tell these were rocks. Others, though, were willing to take a risk and buy until they realized it was a rock. Sufficed to say there were a lot of refunds in that business. But it was an afternoon of fun for two little kids.

Andrew: I feel like this is an indication of an entrepreneurial bent that just had to come out somehow. Am I right? Are you a salesperson at heart, an entrepreneur at heart, or am I just reading too much into this?

Brandon: No. Clearly, it should have been real candy, that way we would have had actual money.

Andrew: No doubt.

Brandon: That would have hooked us. We were just on the playground and so we were like, “Let’s try and see if we can sell rocks.” For my kids — I actually published an article about this recently when my son and my daughter, who are five and seven, went out and sold lemonade and grape juice and it was great. My son woke up in the morning and said, “Dad, can you help me carry this table and two chairs?” I said, “I can. Where are we going with them?” He said, “I want you to take them out to the curb. I’m going to set up a juice stand today.”

That came out of the blue, the first thing he said when he woke up. No idea where the idea came from. So I said, “Sure, I’ll help you set it up.” I said, “How much are you going to charge for the lemonade?” expecting him to say $0.25, $0.50. He said, “I’m going to charge $1.00.” I said, “What do you think about like $0.25 or something?” He’s five. I don’t know where this stuff comes from. But he goes, “Dad, I know you’re trying to be helpful, but this is my idea. So I get to do what I want.” I said, “It’s true. It is your idea.”

Of course, he was right. For one, he didn’t have to make change, which would have been hard. For another, he’s five and he’s a pretty cute kid. So people were all too willing to say, “Here’s $1 for a cup of lemonade.” Way back when Warren Buffett said one of the key indicators of entrepreneurism is how early you start your first business, whether it’s selling candy or lemonade or whatever. It’s like how early do you have that urge to get out in front of people and say, “Hey, I have something that might be valuable.” Obviously, lemonade is better than rocks.

Andrew: I read that article. He made money from it. How much money did he make including tips?

Brandon: He did. He did it one day and liked it so much and did it the next day. It turns out the reason he had the idea was my wife told him, “You’re starting kindergarten next year. We need to raise some money for your supplies, your books and pencils and stuff.” He goes, “Well, I better go do that.” He woke up the next morning and wanted to do it. He cleared like $38. Then the next morning, it gave me the opportunity to talk about, “You made $38, but we did actually comp you the cost of the lemon, the table and the chairs and the space to put it,” but I said, “That’s our contribution.”

Andrew: Speaking of dollars and cents, Cirrus Insight, what’s the annual revenue from this business?

Brandon: So, right now, we do a little over $1 million a month.

Andrew: $1 million a month.

Brandon: In MRR. So last year, we finished right around $10 million.

Andrew: So talk to me about where you realized this problem. What were you doing in Salesforce? What were you doing in email that made you say, “There’s got to be a better solution?”

Brandon: It was one of those really obvious pain points once you stop and think about it. What we learned is, Ryan Huff and I, my cofounder, is that we were in Gmail, because we were early users of Gmail when you had to get an invite from a friend of a friend to get a Gmail account. So we were in Gmail all the time, and our customers were in Salesforce.

So every time we got an email, we’d leave Gmail and go to Salesforce and look up the customer and find out how long ago did they buy, how long they’ve been a customer? Are they a big customer, small customer? After a while we figured out, “We’re doing that like 200 to 300 times a day.” So we keep a little log. That’s not good. That’s a huge use of time. So credit to Ryan. He started building the app. He’s the architect of the app.

Really the concept like you described is very simple. We just said instead of leaving your home screen for sales, which we didn’t want to build a new home screen, we thought email is where we all were. We’ve learned that over the last six years. Walk around any sales floor and you’re going to see people either in their email inbox, which is Outlook or Gmail, or in their calendar, those two places. They’re rarely in a third place.

Andrew: This was a Chrome plugin at first?

Brandon: Yeah. This was a Chrome plugin. So we had been inspired by other plugins. Really, the first one that was the big inspiration was Rapportive, which showed you a LinkedIn profile inside Gmail. We thought that is so awesome. Of course, LinkedIn ended up buying it. We thought, “Okay, but our customers’ information, like prospects are in LinkedIn, but our customer data is in Salesforce. So why don’t we do what Rapportive is doing for LinkedIn. We’ll do it for Salesforce.”

Andrew: What were you selling at the time that you needed to keep going back and forth?

Brandon: At the time, I was actually frontline sales for a university. I was in fundraising. I was in the inbox all the time sending out messages to alumni and to other donors, but then I’d have to go log the information into the database. I thought, “Yeah, this is taking a lot of time to do manual data entry. It’s a lot more fun to talk with people and sell than it is to type in results of the call.”

Andrew: Of course, we do research on our guests, which is how I knew about the $38 that your son made from the article in what was it, Knoxville News?

Brandon: Yeah.

Andrew: But we also have a pre-interview process, and our researcher who talked to you said while your partner, while Ryan was out coding, you started talking to businesses and potential partners. Can you talk about some of the stuff you were doing while he was working?

Brandon: Yeah. It was a great partnership, because Ryan was head’s down building this application, which took a tremendous amount of effort. So I thought, “What can I do to make sure we get the right product out to market when the time is right?” So I basically spent the whole time on the phone. I had a full-time job at the time. But while I was driving four, five, six hours at a time, I just put together my call list, and I would call anybody that I thought was in sales or partners that work with sales team and just say, “Hey, we’re going to build this product. Are you interested? It’s going to connect Gmail with Salesforce. Do you use Salesforce? How do you use it?”

Andrew: What did you learn?

Brandon: What I learned from them is there was in fact a gap. That was the number one thing. We had read about a gap in various message boards online, like Salesforce successful forums, Quora. People were saying, “Man, this is becoming a pain.” But we needed to verify that. If five people say it, it’s one thing. If a thousand people say it, it’s another. On every call, I said, “If we can make it so you didn’t have to switch back and forth and if we made it so that you could save your email correspondence into Salesforce in one click, would that be valuable to you?” And thankfully, the unanimous feedback was, “Okay, I get it. Yeah.”

Andrew: Was it just validation, or did they help shape the product or turn you on to something you didn’t realize before, like maybe they weren’t using Chrome as often as you thought? What did you learn that you didn’t know?

Brandon: That’s a good question. It was a combination of both. The initial value is validation. We knew we wanted to show you who the person was in Salesforce. We knew we wanted to allow you to put basic information into Salesforce. What came next, though, is as soon as they said, “Yeah, that would be valuable,” then of course, they’ve got a product person on the phone, so they’re going to say, “You know what would also be cool is if I could update opportunities without leaving Gmail, or if I could set a follow-up reminder task or set an email to go out in three days because I know it’s not right for follow-up now, but it will be three days from now.”

Andrew: I see.

Brandon: So that became the road map. Then our big decision was back in 2001, “Do we launch next week, or do we launch in four months?” We had like a four-month roadmap of features that we thought were going to be pretty awesome. So we were like, “That would be pretty neat if we could launch with a fully baked product.”

But thankfully, I still think this was the best decision we made in the company to date, we decided to launch right away. That made a lot of difference, because we were able to be the first app to market that connected Gmail and Salesforce.

Andrew: With nothing but, which is not that simple, but I’m in my Gmail and it was Gmail only, as I understand it at first, I look to the right of my screen and in that margin, which is kind of empty in Gmail or I guess it has ads if you don’t have Ad Blocker, which I do, right in that right side is information about the contact that you’re talking to from your own record that you saved in Salesforce.

Brandon: Exactly. The original value proposition was twofold. That was one of them. The other one was now that I’m emailing with this customer prospect, I want to save that correspondence into Salesforce so that I have a record of it in the future.

Andrew: I see. It was also the ability to take someone who you’re messaging and add them to Salesforce.

Brandon: Yeah. Those were the two killer features. There were a few other features in there, but those were the two that really sold people.

Andrew: You know what? I was laughing as I said it because it seems simple. It’s on the same computer, the same keyboard, the same mouse, but you know what? It takes you out of the momentum. It stops your momentum and shifts you in a different direction. I completely understand the frustration, and I completely understand the value. You also were talking to people and trying to sign them up for beta test, right?

Brandon: Yeah. We had about a thousand people sign up on the most embarrassingly simple one-page website that I could hack together.

Andrew: Same URL as you have right now, Cirrus Insight.

Brandon: Yeah. CirrusInsight.com. They would just put, “Are you interested in trying out our connector for Gmail and Salesforce? Put in your email address.”

Andrew: How did you get a thousand of those?

Brandon: Ryan did a good job. He carpetbagged Dreamforce. So the big Salesforce conference in San Francisco, he went there in the fall of 2011 with little post cards and said, “Do you use Gmail? You should check out our app.”

That and I did a lot of direct outreach, everyone I talked with on the phone, thousands of phone calls and then a lot of direct LinkedIn and on message boards like, “Hey, you guys are complaining about this pain point. We’ve got something. It’s not ready to sell, but we want to get your feedback and you tell us if it’s what you wanted.” Those folks jumped in and it was their feedback that really encouraged us to get it out to market. They said, “This is valuable enough we think we would be willing to pay for it.”

Andrew: I see. The first version of the website, this was — tell me if I’m wrong, but it seems like this is a WordPress site with standard theme with some customization on it, right?

Brandon: Yeah, probably. Probably the one you’re looking at may be the first one after launch. The one pre-launch was one page, and it had the little twinkly stars in the background.

Andrew: I see.

Brandon: It looked like outer space.

Andrew: So that was you building it also. You said to our producer, “There was a mistake that I made as we were trying to build the site. I accidentally . . .” You know how in WordPress, guys, if you’re listening, there’s that setting that when you first set up your site it says, “Do you also want it indexed?” Usually you say, “I don’t want it indexed. I want to play with it a little bit.” Well, that’s what you changed, right?

Brandon: Yeah. I didn’t know that setting existed. I was thinking, “This is secret until I tell Google.” But Google found it. They’re good at that. So it got indexed and people started finding the new site pre-launch. One of our beta users arrived at the site and put an order through. This was great news for lots of obvious reasons and some non-obvious ones.

Originally, it was great news, because we figured out the order system worked, which was a surprise because we hadn’t tested it internally, but Ryan did a great job building it, so when an order came through, it would hit Stripe that we use for payment processing, then hit the bank account, then we’d get a text message that would say at the time $5 user a month. So $60 hit your bank account. So I got a text message like, “Holy cow, someone put an order in that’s not one of us. Something worked.”

So I called them and said, “Hey, you’re a beta user. We’re going to give you that for several more months just because you’ve been nice with your feedback.” He said, “Well, don’t worry about it, after those months, I’m going to sign up anyway, so I’ll just be your first customer.” Like any good barbershop, that was our first dollar up on the wall from someone that said this was valuable enough software to buy. All of us use great software every day that’s free. So that was important validation that we could possibly build a company around it.

Andrew: You know what? I like the first version of your site, which I’m looking at right now. It even included like a Google Voice call me button, which were all the rage back then.

Brandon: Yeah, that’s a classic.

Andrew: What I can’t figure out even looking at this page is what’s the difference between what’s free and in the premium package? I don’t think the sales page made it clear at all. It seems like the free package includes instant Salesforce lookup in email, immediately see contact info for your contacts. What was the difference? What were you charging?

Brandon: I think on the paid version, if I remember back five years ago, it had more to do with the ability to save incoming and outgoing emails into Salesforce. If you wanted it to be read only, then at the time, we provided it for free just to get you involved. Then as soon as you want to start adding data into Salesforce, that was essentially the pay wall.

Andrew: How did you know that? How did you know that’s where you should be charging? Did your calls influence it? Was it something else?

Brandon: Yeah, some. As with most pricing decisions, we were not terribly scientific about it. We looked around the market and looked for apps that had similar utility, apps that we were using and we looked at their pricing and said, “We’re new, so we’re not going to be at the top end of the market, but we also feel like we have more value than stuff that’s out there that’s free.” We were unique, so we didn’t really have a comp to say, “We’re going to get into the market against so and so.” We were the first in. We thought we’re going to price it at $9/user a month. But for our initial users, for the first 500 people to sign up, we said they’d get it for $5/user a month, paid annually.

Andrew: First 500 users get it for $60 a year per user for life?

Brandon: Yeah. Some of our customers still have that. Many of them have upgraded the plans that we released, but we still have customers that pay that, which is a great deal.

Andrew: I imagined as I was looking at it that you guys said, “If we can get to $30,000, then it gives us some comfort and allows to do something.” I just don’t know what that something is. It seems like there was a reason behind that, that you wanted that money for something.

Brandon: Yeah. A lot of it had to do with the fact that we borrowed some money to get some development help on the areas we weren’t as strong in, the app itself. That was a $50,000 loan which we were able to pay off four months after starting the company, which was a great feeling because it’s like, “We’re free and clear, we don’t know anybody anything. They helped us get the company off the ground. They’re happy and we took risk off the table.” Now, from then on, it was just let’s see how fast we can go and can we get it big enough to leave our jobs and do it full-time.

Andrew: All right. I’m curious about your funding. I’m curious about how you got customers beyond that initial Dreamforce set of conversations. Let me take a moment to talk about my sponsor, which is a company called HostGator. And before the interview started, I asked you the same question I asked every guest, which is, “Can I talk about HostGator or are you investing in a competitor?” which often happens or maybe there’s some issue where there’s a partnership with a competitor and I never want to step on your toes. You said, “Actually, no issue. I’ve used them.” What did you use them for? What did you build on a HostGator —

Brandon: I think I put up one of the original versions of my own personal website up on HostGator, and I also put up a website that was designed for like young people to gather and essentially meet new friends. So this goes back. So I built my first website, hand-coded it back in ’95, so right after Netscape went public and we put a website out because we thought it would be fun with friends in high school. But then later on HostGator, I put up more professional sites because they had that control panel, which they probably still do now, but it’s probably got a lot more bells and whistles.

Andrew: Yeah. Now it’s super easy, one-click WordPress install, lots of other software can be hosted on it. One-click WordPress install and then you’re in WordPress and you run your site using simple software.

Brandon: That’s good.

Andrew: Of all the sites that you launched before — and I want to come back to the HostGator ad — what was the one that you thought was most promising? I kind of picture you with a HostGator account saying, “I’m going to try this idea and this is going to be the best.” Actually, let me adjust — what was the one that seemed most promising?

Brandon: I think a lot of us early on were intrigued at the ability to connect with other people on the internet. So we had done bulletin boards and email came around and you could do chat on AOL. You signed in and you could start chatting with people all over the world, which was pretty cool. So I was like, “What about a website where we can all meet each other?” Then I had this great experience in high school, where I applied to this essay contest and won, and they flew a bunch of us out to Japan to talk about the future of the internet and I thought this was the best thing ever.

So when I came back to build essentially our first website, some friends in high school and I built a website that was in like five or six languages. So, in that respect, it was pretty unique. We put it up in English and Japanese and German and French and Spanish with the idea that folks from any of these countries could come and log in but then we would essentially translate for them.

That didn’t become a business or even a thriving project as it were, but it was great experience for me building a site. Looking back, we learned a lot. When you go to publish your first page in Japanese and it comes up, the encoding is different. So it comes up looking like gibberish because we hadn’t encoded it properly. We learned a lot about how the internet worked.

Andrew: Well, anyone out there who’s looking for a new hosting package because you don’t like your hosting company, I really urge you to try HostGator. There’s a reason why so many people who I’ve interviewed have used HostGator at one time or another. It’s easy to set up. It’s reliable. It’s the company today that will really scale with you. For example, you can start out with what they call the hatchling plan, which is a $3.48 a month plan, but if you want to keep growing and have dedicated server, managed WordPress hosting, whatever it is, they will grow and they have those options that you can use.

I feel like there are tons of opportunities, by the way, Brandon, for businesses like the one you kind of described, which are these matchmaking services—build a website that match makes people. Imagine one for translators or one for running coaches or whatever, you do it as a match making service and then you grow it into a marketplace and then it stands up on its own as a business.

So whether you guys are listening to me and you want to do something like that or you have another business idea or you already have a site up and running and you’re looking for a really good hosting company, go check out the one I just put my new site, my new business on.

Go to HostGator. Check them out at this special URL where they’ll not only give you 50% off their already low prices, but you’ll also be tagged as a Mixergy customers, which means if you have any successes, I’d love to talk about you the way I have about entrepreneurs here on Mixergy. If you have any challenges, I’d love to help step in too. Here’s the URL, get that discount, get that promo code. It is HostGator.com/Mixergy. I’m grateful to them for sponsoring and giving 50% off to our audience.

Funding, you guys were just a couple of guys, you borrowed money. Who’d you borrow money from?

Brandon: This was originally from Ryan’s family. We borrowed some money early on. This was the classic friends and family. Who’s going to support you the most? Who believes in you? Who thinks your idea is good but more importantly thinks that you’ll work hard and you’ll pull it off regardless of what the idea is?

Andrew: Who was it in his family that believed in him that much and had the money?

Brandon: His folks.

Andrew: It was his parents. So they put in $50,000, and within a year you guys were able to pay them back?

Brandon: We paid them back four months later.

Andrew: That’s phenomenal. I’m looking at the business to get a sense of what you were thinking of doing with it. Yeah. The site was called CirrusInsight.com. But I see here on the bottom it’s Cirrus Path, LLC. I get the sense that you had this idea that it might expand beyond this one site.

Brandon: Yeah. That was exactly right. Ryan’s concept we’ll call it Cirrus Path. The first product will be Cirrus Insight. Thankfully for us, Cirrus Insight has been very popular. That’s given us all we could eat.

Andrew: What were you going to do, create more plugins?

Brandon: Yeah, or just more applications. Ryan’s got a lot of expertise. He’s one of the best in the world at building Salesforce apps. So he knows the platform really well and he built a lot of the other apps that you see on the app exchange for other companies before we started Cirrus Insight.

So I think the thinking was we can build all sorts of stuff that would be useful for folks. But we also didn’t know what would be appealing and what would work, necessarily. You never really know until they get out to market. Thankfully, folks started buying Cirrus Insight. We saw a path toward growing it. We said, “Let’s focus on that.” We tried to do that with at least one other product, but we quickly returned back to focus on Cirrus Insight.

Andrew: What was the other product?

Brandon: So we acquired an application that had a connection between Google Drive and Salesforce. We thought this is great. We added Gmail to Salesforce and then we added Outlook and Android and iOS. We connect any inbox in the world, really, with Salesforce. Then we thought now let’s tackle the problem of you’ve got files in a repository like Drive but you want to associate them with contacts. You want to associate a contract with a contact.

So the app was really slick. We used it a lot internally and we had some great customers for it. But at the end of the day, Cirrus Insight was growing a lot faster. So in terms of where we spend our time and resources and dedicated roadmap, as a small company, we had to make the choice to focus. So we doubled down on the Cirrus Insight side.

Andrew: When you were talking to people before you launched, were you doing anything to make sure they were all similar? Obviously you wanted everyone to be using Salesforce, but was there any other screening process you went through to make sure you were getting a consistent group of people?

Brandon: A lot of the outreach that I did was to partner. There’s a directory of folks that had gotten certified with Salesforce as partners. So I talked with them.

Andrew: Meaning these are the people that help implement Salesforce at other organizations.

Brandon: These are people that help companies get on board with Salesforce, that help customize Salesforce once they’re on board or that build apps for folks that use Salesforce.

Andrew: Why did you focus on them, people who build apps and service clients?

Brandon: We knew they knew the platform really well. By talking with one partner, they could speak to the experience of dozens of their customers. Say across my whole customer base, x-percent used Gmail and x-percent have this problem and I’ve seen it with my own eyes and I can take this product to them and they would want to use it.

Andrew: It’s validation that they’re using Chrome or Firefox, which you were using at the time, and not suddenly Safari or something else. I’m surprised they weren’t using the desktop email client.

Brandon: It’s interesting. The vast majority of folks that use Gmail use Gmail on the web and then by contrast, almost everybody that uses exchange or now Office 365, even though there’s a web-based option, almost everybody uses Outlook, like 99 —

Andrew: And you guys now work with that desktop version of Outlook?

Brandon: Yeah. We work inside Outlook. We work in Office 365. We’ve tried to branch out to make sure that we meet any sales person that’s in the inbox where they are.

Andrew: So you know what, Brandon? One of the things I noticed is yeah, it starts with a problem and then it goes on to a group of people who are all similar so that their issues are the same and their pain is the same and the solution could be similar for them. The final leg of this three-legged stool seems to be new technology that didn’t exist before. So its’ not so much that you just discovered a pain that didn’t exist before, but there’s a new way of solving it or addressing it that hadn’t existed before. Is that what happened in your case? I know it’s not 100%.

Brandon: I think it was pretty new. It’s safe to say that we were not the first browser extension out there, but browser extensions were still pretty young at that point. There are hundreds of thousands more of them now than there were back in 2011 when we launched. I think what was certainly unique about it was the concept of — lots of people even back then and especially now were starting to build sales software.

A lot of them start with this concept of, “Hey, we’re going to build a place where salespeople can live and it’s going to combine email with phone with the database and all these things and we’re going to build them a new home.”

Our philosophy from the beginning has been salespeople already have their home and it’s the inbox and that’s not going to change for a long time. People have said Twitter is going to replace email, and then Facebook was supposed to replace email. Every new platform is going to replace email. But we say what do you need to sign up for what of those services? You need an email address.

Andrew: These days actually a phone number might be enough.

Brandon: Maybe. But sufficed to say most sales now still happen through email. Our interview today, we scheduled it by email.

Andrew: Yes.

Brandon: And with a calendaring tool. Then it went to the calendar. Did it make it into Salesforce on either of our sides? It did on my side because I automatically synced it with our app. So, the app takes care of that part, but the relationship part—I always tell people, and Salesforce is not unique in this respect, but any CRM is really a misnomer. CRMs are not customer relationship management tools.

Andrew: What are they, then?

Brandon: No one’s ever forged a relationship in a database. It’s a sales management and reporting tool. It’s a place to put data and then run a report on it and see how things are going. Customer relationships are built in the inbox, over the phone, through the calendar and in person. You can also do some correspondence by mail, but not too many people do stuff by regular mail, though it can be valuable. That’s where relationships are forged, no one has ever built one through a database and said, “I’ll meet you inside of our Salesforce.”

Andrew: Here’s what else. I’m actually doing research as we’re talking just to bring up something and have you tell me I f this makes sense. I’m looking at the history of Google Chrome. It wasn’t until September 9th, 2009 that Google enabled extensions by default in Chrome developer channels, so not the mainstream Chrome.

It wasn’t until I think it was the following year that they finally launched the extension gallery in 2010. This is just before you guys launched and then they had 1,500 extensions. It wasn’t until the following year, 2011, the year that you guys launched, that they finally had a robust extension ecosystem.

So what I’m getting at is without extensions in Chrome, this wouldn’t have been possible. Without Gmail, this wouldn’t have been possible. So you found a pain that a group of people had an maybe this new way of solving it that wouldn’t have been possible five years before when people were using just Outlook and Outlook wasn’t really extension friendly — tell me if you disagree because I want to learn.

Brandon: Absolutely. That’s the risk and reward of the way that we’ve built it. The reward is stand on the shoulders of giants. Gmail and Salesforce are these massive fast-growing platforms. We thought if a lot of people are going to use both—this was right at the time where Gmail was starting to become popular in companies. So there were a half-billion people using it for their personal Gmail accounts, but companies were starting to get comfortable like, “Sure, we can move all our email to the cloud. That would be okay.” Companies are still making that move.

So it was a good chance for us to lock in and join at the hip, if you will, with two companies that were growing really fast, as companies said, “Great, let’s go to the cloud.” At the same time, and people have written a lot about this, building on other people’s platforms can have some risk. So we’re built inside Chrome.

So if Chrome had decided two years later, “We don’t like having all these extensions in there. We’re going to just build it ourselves,” that would have been it, right? It’s their playground. We just built there. Thankfully, we were among enough other extensions that provide value that Google has stuck with it as a framework.

Andrew: What about this? When people started dropping the desktop as a way of communicating or shifting more of their attention to mobile, you can’t put plugins on Chrome for mobile on my iPhone. What happened to your business at that point? How did you guys adjust to that?

Brandon: We spent a lot of time on mobile and we’re proud of the mobile app we’ve built. It’s not been easy. There was a big focus three, three and a half years ago, everyone said, “Everything is going to go mobile, 100%.” It was like mobile, mobile, mobile. This was when the big mobile app acquisitions were happening, so we were like, “We better get on the bandwagon.”

That’s when we started our mobile app development. Has everything gone mobile? No, it has not. Is it good to be mobile enabled? Absolutely. But at the time and still now, there are no hooks to get into Apple Mail on your phone, nor is there a good hook to get into Chrome on your phone running Gmail. So, we had to build from scratch a mail client for your phone.

Andrew: A brand new mail client just so you can —

Brandon: A brand new mail client just so we could connect it with Salesforce and also do kind of the email power tools and calendar power tools we like to do. When you send an email from your phone, you want to know if the person who received it opened it or not. I do. If I sent a proposal and they never opened it, the chance of it getting signed it really low. If they did open it, I can call them and say, “Hey, I’m just calling to follow up on the proposal.” “I was just looking at your proposal, what a coincidence.” That’s just good follow up, right?

So having that ability for mobile is great. For us, it all runs on the same platform. So while it’s a native app for iOS and Android, it runs on the same platform as our Outlook and our Gmail. That way you can send a message through Outlook and you get an alert that someone opened it on your mobile phone that night and that way you’re always plugged in.

Andrew: You were doing individual sales. We talked about the first early pricing. Then at some point, you guys started doing these bigger deals. I’m looking here at a list of milestones at the company and one of them was this $5,000 order. How did you get that?

Brandon: Yeah. That was the power of a deadline. We had said the special discounting is going to end on midnight on this date. If you want that $60 a year discount, you’ve got to get the order in. So a pretty significant company out in the Midwest saw the app, just learned about it and said, “Oh no, the clock is literally ticking,” and they put the order in just shy of midnight. So it surprised me because I had been doing all the demos up until that point. I said, “I’ve never heard of this company before. I’ve never showed them the app.” It’s because I didn’t have time to see it.

So they called me to say, “Hey, we’re going to put an order through.” I said, “It’s working well for these other folks. I think it will.” I didn’t know they were a big company. Then they came through and put in a big order. So when that hit our fun, we were like, “Wait a second, if companies are willing to spend thousands of dollars on this, this could get really interesting pretty fast.” So that was exciting.

Andrew: Is that what led you to think about raising money? Talk about that. Why raise money first? Then we’ll talk about what happened when you went out to raise money.

Brandon: Part of the impetus to raise money was there’s a lot of rockiness. It’s a rollercoaster to do a startup on the emotional side but also on the financial side. So one day, we’d have a $5,000 deal come through and we’d think we’ve got the answer, we’ve created something of value, let’s do this every day and then you don’t get orders for three days after that. You’re like, “Maybe that was it. Maybe we found the one customer that wants what we’re selling.”

So to help smooth out that cash flow, if you will, there is a benefit to having money in the bank. That way you go to the well when you need to and when sales are good, then you replenish it. Part of it also though is just the competitive environment. So it wasn’t long after we launched that other companies started to say, “Wait a second. We’re going to compete in one way or another with what Cirrus is doing.” So we thought it could be good to have some ammunition if we’re going to go into a competitive situation. That’s when we started talking with various investors.

Andrew: And so you found one. Can you talk about the company you told me about before you started? What was the name and what happened?

Brandon: We had talked with a software company in Irvine that was called Quest at the time. They had said, “Hey, we’re really interested in backing you all.” So, we were kind of excited about that possibility and we kind of came to a verbal on it and we had built out a big plan, “Here’s what we’re going to do with that money. Here’s how we’re going to scale and so forth.” They ended up — if it wasn’t the next day, it was within two days after that they got acquired by Dell in Texas. So that really throws all of the venture and M&A or certainly throws our deal.

So what we were left with was a plan that we were excited about, but not in the [inaudible 00:34:41]. So we kind of said, “We’ll go back to doing what we were doing.” But we still felt strongly that we could execute on the plan. At that point, thankfully, some angel investors stepped up and said, “Send us your plan.” This was just in conversation. We said, “We thought we had a deal and the deal fell through.” “It happens. Send us the plan if you like the plan, we’ll just do it on the same terms.”

So they came in and we did. That was great. It provided us with the ability, really to hire our first employees. Cash flow was rocky enough. We didn’t feel comfortable emotionally hiring someone and saying like, “Great. We paid you last month but sales weren’t as strong so we can’t pay you this month.” We can do that to ourselves. But it felt like it was going to be hard to do that to someone else.

Andrew: Do you remember what was in that original plan?

Brandon: For that plan, it did have to do with very much just basic scaling. We will add salespeople, we’ll add a marketing person, another developer and a support person. We’ll be able to invest in some marketing. A lot of the guerilla marketing that we had been doing, but invest in some actual marketing that required some dollars like going to an event, travelling, sponsoring things and then trying to hit roadmap deadlines. It was like everything takes time. We need a little bit more firepower on the dev site too. It was kind of all those things rolled up in one.

Andrew: Let me talk about my second sponsor. The second sponsor kind of connects in with your experience. This business wouldn’t have been possible if not for Ryan Huff, right?

Brandon: Yeah.

Andrew: Fantastic developer. You had an idea. You were the guy who experienced the pain. You worked with him. You didn’t have to say, “Ryan, here’s what I want you to do. Line one of the code needs to do this.”

Brandon: This was already off and running because he had the same pain point, right? So he was already developing and said, “What do you think about this idea?” And then the two of us had the same pain point.

Andrew: And he had experience having developed other software for this platform. It’s amazing when you find the right developer. That person thinks in a way that 100 different crappy developers couldn’t possibly think, which is why so many people in San Francisco first of all live here and second of all, they’re constantly racing to do hiring, to find the best of the best developers because it will change your business. That’s why so many people hire Toptal.

The idea behind Toptal is they have a network of the best of the best developers. When a company needs to hire, they go to Toptal’s matcher first. They actually have a conversation with the matcher. The matcher understands the business, understands the software they work with, understands their goals, they have full-time need, project-based need, part-time need, whatever it is, they understand it, then they go to their networks of developers who have all past tests, have all gone through the rigorous hiring process and say, “Here’s the best one or the best team of developers.” They make that introduction.

If it’s a match, you can often start within days. We got started within two days. Derek Johnson, I interviewed of Tatango said he was looking for developers, spent time, he and his CTO, talking to 20 to 30 people. It just became so distracting from the main business. They said, “Let’s try this Toptal thing.” They interviewed two people from Toptal. They were both good. They picked the one they felt best about and they ended up partnering with that person, hiring that person not just part-time, not just full-time but full-time plus and Derek’s CTO said this guy is so good, he could beat our CTO. That’s the level of developers that you get at Toptal.

So if you’re looking for a great developer, I want you to go not just to Toptal.com, but this special URL I’m about to give you where Mixergy listeners like you are going to get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when they pay for their first 80 hours in addition to a no risk trial period of up to two weeks. It is Toptal.com/Mixergy.

Go use them and come back and let me know. I’ve talked about so many other people who have used them here on Mixergy. If you give me permission after hiring a Toptal developer, I’d love to tell your story as I’ve done for Eric Brown, as I’ve done for Eric Johnson, as I’ve done for—there’s one other one I mentioned the other day, Brett Stapper of Hack PR. Lots of people have used them.

Brandon: I like how you said if you’re looking for a great developer, like who isn’t? Everyone is looking for the best developer.

Andrew: What I wanted to screen out are those people who are — now that we’re not in the Toptal ad, I can just tell you my mentality now, my thinking — I know that Upwork is out there. I know there’s an audience for Upwork developers. If you’re looking for the cheapest developer who you could brag to your friends you’re only paying $4 in some part of the world, this isn’t that. This is the, “You know what? I need somebody who’s going to think differently, who’s going to help me think through how to solve this problem and come up with ideas I couldn’t tell him.” That’s who I’m going for.

Brandon: The hunt for the 10xer.

Andrew: Right, a 10xer. Who are the angel investors? I’ve actually been doing a little bit of prying on your social feeds. I’ve been looking at your AngelList profile. You guys aren’t raising that much money.

Brandon: There’s a range. It was interesting. So, friends and family, but also some of our early customers. That was just through inbound from them. We never went to our customers and said, “We’re looking for investors.” But we had several write in and say, “Hey, we really like what you’ve done with the app. Are you guys venture-backed? Are you raising money?” We said, “Not actively, but are you interested?”

They said, “We’d like to be part of the story. We find so much value in it, we think others will too and we’d like to participate in the upside if there’s going to be one.” We said great. Some of the angel money is from our customers and then some was through a group of angels on the coasts, so, in New York, in San Francisco.

Andrew: Is there an angel group you can mention that did it that was a part of this?

Brandon: Yeah. I think — I’m trying to remember. . . I’ll get back to that.

Andrew: I know there was a period there was a period there when you guys were raising that these smaller angel groups were really big, these teams of investors would get together in meetings.

Brandon: Yeah. And that group was called DOT Capital.

Andrew: Okay.

Brandon: They put together a group of angel investors that pulled together.

Andrew: When one of your investors is also a client, is it hard to say no to them even though you know that it’s not the right fit, what they’re asking for is not a good decision?

Brandon: Yeah. I think it would have been. We said yes, so I don’t know.

Andrew: You always said yes? If an individual client asked, you’d build it?

Brandon: There were just a few, right? It was, “Hey, these folks are good.” Obviously we’re predisposed to like each other because they’re saying nice things about our application and that we have a bright future, so we’re like, “That sounds great.”

Andrew: I mean for a feature, you’d build features just because someone was a client and an angel?

Brandon: No, we haven’t. Certainly they’ve got our ear. So we build features for any of our clients. That’s probably one of the things we’ve done well and especially Ryan’s team has done really well is listening to the customers. So when they submit ideas at Ideas@Ideas.CirrusInsight.com or they tell us as the sales team, we filter it back to development. We go, “Do we think other people have the same problem?” We’ll go ask our customers base and if they do, then we’ll try to build it.

Andrew: One of the notes that our producer took on your conversation was this little sentence that I’d sum up as saying that staying focused was a challenge for you guys. I don’t know how you phrased it exactly, but you did say that was a challenge. Can you talk about what you mean by that?

Brandon: I think it’s symptomatic of a lot of us that classify ourselves as entrepreneurs. We like the next thing, the shiny, exciting thing.

Andrew: When did you go too far? When did you take on too many shiny new things?

Brandon: I think we took on too much. Things started to heat up with respect to analytics and how people are calling it artificial intelligence. I’ve written about this. I have an opinion on it. My sense is it has a lot of promise. There are some cool things you can do with it. Most of the things that are being hyped right now as artificial intelligence just aren’t. They’re just coding. It’s just computer programming. Artificial intelligence is long on artificial and short on intelligence. Most of the apps — and I’ve tried a lot of them — don’t do particularly well.

Andrew: Like what? Give me an example of something people were asking for that was artificial intelligence?

Brandon: So something that we built is a calendaring tool. It’s not AI. It’s I want to schedule a meeting with Andrew and I send you ten meeting times that are available. You choose one. It shows up on my calendar. It shows up on yours. There are other applications that I’m emailing with you and you say, “Great, my assistant, some made up name, will schedule it for you.” That assistant is a made up person. That’s a bot. Now I’m communicating with a bot and your bot is going to try to schedule a meeting with me based on the content of my email. That does not go well.

Andrew: I’m glad you’re saying it. I signed up for this because I wanted to see how it works. I’m constantly scheduling with people. I signed up for — I’m going to say the name — x.ai is the one that everyone talks about, right? I’m seeing a weird look on your face. I’ll mention it.

Brandon: Yeah. There are a number of them, right? They’re great teams and I think they’re building some cool tech.

Andrew: In the future, it will be here, but now it is a pain. My assistant knows, “If Friday is all open, Andrew probably is going to work outside of the office, so if there’s a meeting, I’ll schedule it for Thursday or Monday, which is not all open.” But x.ai software says, “Friday’s all open. Any time on Friday I’ll schedule it. Why don’t I just tell them to meet him in the middle of the day on Friday,” which is just the worst because then my whole day is interrupted with one call just because the software saw an empty day. That’s where I feel like artificial intelligence is not quite there, but we’re all training it. Not me, I cancelled my x.ai membership.

Brandon: We’re participants in the process that will bear fruit one day. In my experience, like if someone else is using it, for me as a customer, it’s not a great experience because I feel like I’ve been passed off. I’m not that important. So you’re going to pass me off to a computer to do the scheduling. Then when I ask, I don’t know their computer because they have a real name, a person a question, of course they can’t answer the question, they can only schedule.

Andrew: It is kind of weird too there. I’m okay passing people off or being passed off. If it’s faster, I’m happy with it, but I get that in certain sales situations, that could be an issue. So you started adding the calendaring system. You started to say, “We’re adding too much.”

Brandon: We started to look at like, “Hey, could we build stuff that really takes advantage of machine learning and AI?” I think we were drinking too much of the Kool-aid like because other people were doing it, heck, we don’t want to get left behind, the sales space moves so fast. We want to deliver the cutting edge to our customers, I think to be fair, we did lose some focus. We spent some time and resources going down the rabbit hole. Then we backed out of that.

Andrew: What did you build when you were taking your eye off the ball?

Brandon: What we were building, some of it works fine and it’s not bulletproof is the ability to predict what conversations are going to turn into opportunities, when are the opportunities going to advance stages in the pipeline, when can we expect those to close based on the performance of that conversation but also in comparison with other conversations in that company. Then later, the idea would be, “Well, okay, Mixergy closes deals one way and Cirrus Insight closes another, but maybe there’s enough similarity that you can anonymize and aggregate them and learn how sales close across lots of organizations.

Andrew: I see. Yeah.

Brandon: That’s pretty cool. People are making some progress on that. But we’re a ways out from that data being useful. We tried some of those tools internally and we haven’t gotten a lot of value out of it.

Andrew: So the tech just isn’t developed enough to deal with that, but there is a customer — do you think there’s a customer need for that?

Brandon: Yeah. If someone could say like for example, we’ve learned just by running just analytics, it’s not AI, we put it in a spreadsheet and started running numbers, we know an optimal number of meetings. So we can say if I meet with Andrew once, maybe twice, that’s not optimal. If we meet three or four times, we’re golden. If we meet eight or nine times, that just means that one of us wanted to make a friend. We’re not selling anymore. We’re meeting for take of meeting, “Hey, let’s just meet again next week.” This is a customer that just wants to talk. Those are not deals that close well for us.

So, we can predict — it’s not 100%, but when I talk with our sales team, “How many times have you met with a customer?” Sometimes it feels good to say, “I must have met with them 20 times.” That’s not a deal that’s going to close probably. Statistically, you’re in bad shape.

Andrew: I see. That stuff you can build, the technology is there for. I’m curious about how you continued to talk to customers. Actually, before we get to how you continued to talk to customers to understand what they wanted, the other thing you said to our producer that struck me as something that’s helpful for our understanding of how your customers’ pain leads to a great product is you said, “We made some small mistakes where we didn’t ask the customers about their issues.”

One of the examples was this analytics thing. So I’m wondering when you did get it right by trying to understand how many meetings lead to a sale, did that come from talking to customers and seeing that they had a pain or a need or an issue or was that just an observation?

Brandon: Yeah. Some of it was through talking with them, but some of it was people coming back to us and really pushing back. I think overall, this I think is interesting for AI just as an industry — those of us in sales or really anybody, what we want value-wise from a computer is for a computer to tell us the facts because computers are much faster at defining the facts than we are. There’s like 100,000 rows in a spreadsheet and that will take me all day to look through it, the computer can look through it a few seconds and tell me four facts about the spreadsheet.

What tends not to work as well and where you need a lot of training to get good at and what makes salespeople rebel is when the computer provides an opinion on what was in the spreadsheet. So, they might say, “Ten of the deal sin the spreadsheet look like they might be in this stage.” Then the salesperson can do it. If the computer comes back and says, “I found ten deals and I went ahead and changed the stage for you.” That’s very bad. That makes people very upset.

Andrew: Oh, really?

Brandon: So we got that feedback from folks about, “When you build something, do not move my cheese. I know how to do sales.” So you want to not tell a sales person, “It’s time to follow up by phone.” You just want to say, “It’s been five days since you’ve followed up.” Then as a salesperson, you can say, “Yeah, because my customer is on vacation. Great. Thanks for telling me the facts.” You can’t get too mad at the computer about that.

But the computer says, “You should call them now,” you say, “I just did call them but I didn’t log the data to the database, so the computer doesn’t know that I just called them.” So that’s a data entry issue, but then you end up fighting with the computer.

Andrew: How do you know that bothers them?

Brandon: What’s that?

Andrew: How do you know that bothers people?

Brandon: They said so. They said, “Well, we were trying this other application and it told us what to do and the sales team ripped it out.” They got tired of hearing the opinion of the computer. When humans and computers argue, there’s always a winner and it’s always the human because we control whether or not the computer is plugged in. So people did not like applications that worked that way.

Andrew: What is it about the slow sale that got you so interested that you decided you were going to write a book about it?

Brandon: It was early on. I think it was the first year of doing sales. I was doing all the sales. I got really nervous when we decided to take a long weekend because I had not taken any time away from business at all and I had three deals that I felt like were strong and they were pretty big and I wanted them to close very much and needed them to close. I thought if I’m taking a long weekend, I don’t follow up like I usually do, just really hitting, “Am I ready? Is there any more I can do? I’m Johnny on the spot, at your service.” Then I thought, “What if they don’t close?” I was freaked out by that.

What happened was by taking some space away from the deals and not following up, which freaked me out that it’s just the way the long weekend played, that when I got back, the customers had come back on their own and said, “Okay, now we’re ready,” and I was like, “Wow, this was great. This worked.” All three of them closed. It wasn’t necessarily that all three of them needed to close to learn the lesson, but the fact that that happened, I try to slow down a little bit and not be 100% obsessive compulsive about every deal.

But I needed to like will them over the line all the time. Yes, should sales people hustle? Absolutely. This is not a book about, “Hey, don’t worry about it. Let the customer come to you.” That’s a quick way to put yourself out of business. But what I think it taught me as a salesperson and hopefully now as a sales manager is to follow up with the sales team but not to hound them. We also learned that from running some data.

For us at least, what we see in the opportunity is a flurry of activity early, customers starting at trial and they have a bunch of questions. Then it goes into a regular cadence and then there’s a flurry of activity towards the end of the trial where they ask questions about pricing and resolve any outstanding issues.

Then it goes quiet. That’s the part that freaked me out and still does a little bit, to be honest, when there’s no communication anymore. There’s no communication between the salesperson and the customer and you’re wondering, “Is the deal going to come through or not?” By the way, it’s pretty important to keep the lights on. So then I’d go to the salesperson and say, “Is this deal going to close? Why don’t you follow up with your customer again?” Then three hours later, “Why don’t you call them now?” It’s just going to annoy the customer anyway.

What we learned from looking at the numbers was we go into like a seven to ten-day quiet period. It’s getting comfortable with that quiet period. So at the end of that period is when the customer buys because they’ve had time to go through procurement, talk with people with the money, sign on the line and get the deal done. If they don’t sign in that time, then you kick it into overdrive again and say, “We don’t want this to die. I want to get back in touch with them right away.” I had to and we had to as a company get comfortable with that quiet time and letting the deal slow down so it could close instead of forcing it through.

Andrew: I get it. That would drive me nuts too. We did all this work, we’re so close.

Brandon: We’re so close.

Andrew: As a hustler, as a person who’s proactive, you want to go and do something. Are there questions that you’re trying to figure out? Is there an issue you want to talk to the customer and help them resolve? You’re saying, “At that point, we need to be patient because they’re going through their internal process.” Let me ask you one other questions from the book. What is the minimum viable sale? I know you guys have written about this on your blog also. I want to understand it.

Brandon: Yeah. I love the concept in the lean startup that talks about the MVP, the minimum viable product. I think that’s great, especially for someone like Ryan who has the talent to build one. He can focus on what’s the minimum viable product with the right features.

Coming from the sales side where I wasn’t the one building the product, what I try to think about is what’s the minimum viable sale? What can I go and sell today even before I have a product and get contracts out the door and get them signed back? What do I need to put in that contract as far as insurances, guarantees, delays, etc. What can I put in there that have enough value that someone would reasonable sign for it?

So, when I’ve talked at conferences filled with these super smart developers, I’m not really want of them, I’m the interloper, the business guy and so it’s like, “What can this guy teach us? He can’t teach us about JavaScript frameworks? What can he share with us?” What I share with them is because they’re building these killer products on the side, you’re unsure how to take them to market, try to sell it before you build it. Do the super uncomfortable part of going and getting in front of customers and selling them on the idea of what you’re about to build and if you can do that, you’ve got your minimum viable sale that will then fund the development of your minimum viable product. It’s a nice way to get to market.

Andrew: I really wish I was a Salesforce customer just so I can use your software. I’m looking at the app in the app store because I thought maybe that’s their weak spot and I can see what issues people have and look at the ratings. You guys have solid ratings in here. What I like is the email tracking. I want to know where people are, not just the individual email tracking that you guys do and you can show me how many times an individual email was open by a client, but it’s the aggregate data that I think is helpful. I like aggregate data as someone who does sales.

Brandon: Yeah. It’s really interesting to look at our system and say, “Wait a second, how come your sales rep sent out an email that outperformed everybody else’s by 40%?” That’s a huge delta. What did you say? What was your subject line that got more people to open it? Or better yet, after they opened it, to actually reply or to actually click on the call to action. You can game a lot of stuff — this is important. We talk about vanity metrics. I sent an email and I got 50% open rate. That’s killer.

Andrew: Right.

Brandon: Yeah, because I put in the subject line like, “Emergency with Your Credit Card.” That’s not a good email. That’s bad email etiquette and it’s not going to lead good brand reputation. Beyond getting email opens like did the email that you sent advance? Did you get the person to engage in conversation? Did it kick off a process? So, we look at that aggregate data. Then the next step in the evolution is you send that first email to a customer that’s personalized and then you want to follow up with that, so you just use that step two is a phone call with a call script ready to go.

Step three, I’m going to connect on LinkedIn and send a nice message and step four and five, I’m going to send two follow up emails. But anytime if I connect with the customer, we’re going to stop that sequence so we can now carry on with the one to one conversation. That’s the product we have out now which we call Flight Plans, which is basically create a cohort of customers, put them on a flight, let it take off and now we’ve automated some of the follow up.

Andrew: I’ve seen services do that. I interviewed an entrepreneur who has a service that does that and it kind of plugs in to software that only his team uses. What they do is send out a sequence of emails and like you said, as soon as the client responds, the automation responds and a human being comes in and deals with the message. I’ve seen that.

Brandon: Yeah. There are services that do that. There are a lot of pieces of software that do it. We’ve gotten a lot of requests for it from our customer base. I think our angle on it is a number of the service and a number of the pieces of the software are here’s a new home screen where you can set up sequences of touches with customers.

What we’re saying is stay in the inbox and you can do it through Cirrus Insight from there. So right from Gmail or from Outlook, that person that you just met, you drop them into that flight plan, that way you know you’ll always remember to follow up. We have customers using it to send personalized automated emails kind of on a semi-automatic basis. But we also have customers using it just to remember those follow up. They’ll set up step one, follow up in three days, step two, connect on LinkedIn.

Andrew: Just so they get reminders to follow up with the person?

Brandon: Yeah. It’s all defined reminders so that there’s no question about, “Should I call this person again on Thursday?” “Yes, that’s how our sales playbook works. We know that. We should follow up on Thursday.”

Andrew: Well, I’m looking at the Inc 5000 list. You guys were number 41 in 2006. You’ve since about doubled your revenue. What’s the best part of having built this company that’s on such a fast growth path and doing so well?

Brandon: It’s been really exciting. It’s a shot in the arm for the team. So when we applied for Inc 5000 last year. We thought, “It would be great to be on the list.” It surprised all of us that we were number 41. That was pretty neat, overall very high ranking in Irvine, California, where Ryan is and we were number one in Tennessee because I’m based in Knoxville. So the sales marketing operations team is based here in Knoxville.

It was really exciting for us. We’ve got the plaque up next to the ping pong table, which is where everyone gathers. It’s also encouragement. It’s like we’ve had a good story so far. We serve a lot of customers. They like the application. What can we do next to push the envelope, but push it in a way that makes sense so we don’t lose focus, right?

Andrew: Yeah.

Brandon: That’s going to be the key.

Andrew: All right. Well, the website, of course, is — I’m making sure I said it better be right. It’s CirrusInsight.com. And of course, the two websites for my sponsors are HostGator.com/Mixergy and Toptal.com/Mixergy. I’m grateful to them for sponsoring and to you, Brandon, for coming here and telling your story.

Brandon: Thanks for having me. It’s been great to talk you, Andrew.

Andrew: Cool. Bye, everyone.


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