Jeroen Corthout Interview
Andrew Warner: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. Um, I’ve known the software. We’re about to talk about for years. What always gets me is yeah, it’s beautiful. Software really is amazingly created, but without that I pronounce your name right.
Okay. I wasn’t too far off. He’s a creator of sales flair. They’re an elegant, automated CRM for small businesses that are selling to businesses. It’s really just well organized and well designed. The thing that gets me is. We’re dealing in a world with Salesforce dude, my three year old, literally he knows the Salesforce tower here in San Francisco because you can’t drive anywhere without seeing it, right.
That sales force tower was built because most people have a lot of money. Microsoft is in the space of creating these contact relationship management apps, the tons of other apps that I’m not going to call out their names. Cause then you’re going to feel uncomfortable and say, why is Andrew talking about my competitors?
But you know, they’re out there. The thing that gets me is. How could this guy survive? How could he build the business with so much competition? And then what makes his software different that people are signing up for it? That’s what this interview is about. And for anyone out there who sees a product who says, I want to create something thing that’s better and feels intimidated.
I want this interview to come through for you. And we can talk about this. Uh, The success story here with sales flair. Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first is called well, it’s not click funnels so much. It’s their podcast that you should be listening to after this interview is over and show you how to get traffic.
It’s called traffic secrets. And the second, if you’re hiring developers, go to top talent. Ready? How many times I have to keep telling you top Cal, but I’ll talk about those later first. You don’t want good to have you here.
Jeroen Corthout: Nice to be here.
Andrew Warner: I told you before, we’re going to start it, that I was going to ask you a revenue.
And you said you were going to tell us why
Jeroen Corthout: I was going to pass.
Andrew Warner: you’re not going to tell us.
Jeroen Corthout: I always prefer people to, um, think , we’re bigger than we are. Um, I think we’ve, we’ve built a brand and a nice product and people are just going to be disappointed when they hear or.
Andrew Warner: Alright. Tell me about that time when you were working at your previous company, where the French team and the Dutch team were, what were they doing?
Jeroen Corthout: So, yeah. Uh, previous to, um, Salesforce, I was working at a cross health, um, which is a marketing consultancy and agency for pharma companies. Um, lots of big companies, you know, uh, so we’re approaching them from different countries. we were at a sales meeting.
We had two of those every year and we would go through the pipeline on our approach and kind of stuff. Um, and at some point French MD first. He said, like we’re talking to discuss there about that. And then the Dutch team was like, really well, you are actually doing the same thing, but over there.
And then the other one was like, but it’s not in Salesforce and then the CIO is say like, what’s not as Salesforce doesn’t exist. ,, and he would always, joke.
Um, Like, why does it call Salesforce? Because you have to force salespeople to fill it out. He would very much do that with us. Um, always, uh, make these rules about stuff we have to do or cool to for how many calls we have to, uh, to put in so that we put in that exact amount of calls, uh, that never really worked.
Um, and it also never really worked for me as a practical sales tool. the first thing that struck me was you have opportunities and you have leads.
And I tried to have someone explain, uh, how a lead during them to an opportunity. And there was nobody that could give me like a uniform answer, so I was always very confused about that part and for instance, I was using Wunderlist for my tasks. Salesforce was just like a super complex thing that would only remind me within Salesforce while Wunderlist was this nice and clean things that I could feel, and I would scratch it off and it would feel good.
And it would get notifications everywhere. And it was, I was so confused about how can this be, that this huge company has such a bad experience when it comes to, uh, I mean, something that I find core to what they do.
Andrew Warner: You know, when Lyft came out with their Lyft pool or Lyft line, whatever it is, where multiple people can get an, a ride together. I said, let’s try it. I’m living in San Fran. It’s just go to see people, let’s see people. And so I get in a car and somehow we get into a conversation where the guy tells me that he’s a salesperson at Salesforce.
I said, Oh, good. Okay. I see how you manage your Salesforce. And he showed me the app full of pride, beaming explaining all the different aspects of it. I get how everything was there, but I also have to say everything was there. It was just way too overwhelming. There’s no app that I enjoy using. That’s that crazy?
Overwhelming. And so I get it. And you said, look, First of all, we’re being forced to use it because it’s not easy. And we shouldn’t be forced to do manual typing work for the company too. If somebody misses an opportunity or misses typing something in, you have a situation like you guys had where two different departments were talking to the same company and neither one of them knew about.
And he said, there’s gotta be a better way. At what point did you take leap from saying there should be a better way than this too? I think we could do it.
Jeroen Corthout: Mmm, the very moment that this happens, like we were, we were working, um, Fast forward. We’re working on a business intelligence software company. We have a lot of leads trying to follow them up. Um, and it was sort of a big thing. Uh, but when that it was something we felt, but then when the actual trigger happened was when we, um, did our first newsletter for that company we did in MailChimp.
And I showed my cofounder like, look, you can see when these people open the email, when they click on the email, all this kind of stuff. And he was all stupefied by this. He was like, really that’s possible. And how does that work? I’m like, it’s this little pixel. And then there’s in between link and stuff.
He was like, Oh, that’s amazing. And you know, You can track emails. We could also pull in emails, so you don’t have to track them in the CRM anymore. And the same is probably possible with the calendar and we can do something that’s false. So we could build the system that tracks the whole, um, conversation you’re having with a company just automatically every single touch point will be mapped out for you as a sales person,
Andrew Warner: sorry to interrupt. You’re saying MailChimp did this in an automated way. And if they’re doing this little bit of automation, it’s not like that the reader has to tell the company that sent out the message. I read your email. It’s just automatically tracked and you can automatically do follow ups on it. , you said, I think we could do the same thing for CRM, right?
Jeroen Corthout: For sales and that’s actually one of the reasons we chose the name sales flair is that we said there’s so much marketing automation and data collection and all that why don’t we do that for sales? Um, and our, our very initial idea was to make, instead of a marketing automation platform to make a sales automation platform, a sales platform,
Andrew Warner: What did What did you imagine you were going to automate.
Jeroen Corthout: All the, all the stupid data didn’t put you out to do, uh, we would automate for you. So as a salesperson, you would hate working with Salesforce. No problem. Next to Salesforce, we would put this magical sales platform that would take care of all the sales stuff for you. And it’s with integrated Salesforce and seeing sync everything back.
That was our initial idea.
Andrew Warner: That you were just going to be the automation layer on top of Salesforce, almost removing the force you to put data into Salesforce. Got it. Okay. And so the first step you took was what, apparently you got together in an old bank building.
Jeroen Corthout: Um, basically. I think the ring with, uh, with our software, uh, tinkering with how we would, um, make this. But the first thing we said, when we, when we had this idea and it started growing on us and we started having, like, sitting together about attempted a beer. And, um, we were like, if we want to do this seriously, we need to raise money because otherwise we will , never, get a detached from our jobs.
We will never have the time to spend, , on this. Um, so we were looking around and we found this thing called chemo 15. Um, that was a program that back in the day, chemo ventures had, uh, chemo 15 doesn’t exist anymore. but they they’re offering was very enticing to us because in 15 days, uh, we would know whether they would give us $150,000 or euros.
I think, uh, for 15% of our company, it was
Andrew Warner: Yeah, they’re they’re plan from what I could see here in an old, a tech dot E you article was chemo ventures was going to invest $150,000 for 15% stake in a company. And they would close the deal in 15 days. And they were planning on doing this for 50 startups within a year. And you saw that and you said, I think we could be a part of this.
And you went through their website and you said, what do we need to do in order to make this work right?
Jeroen Corthout: Yeah, they advertise that they wanted to have a, I don’t remember how they phrase it, leading companies, um, that, that operated according to the, the philosophy set out in getting real by 37
Andrew Warner: That’s what they wanted. They said here’s the getting real philosophy. Please follow that.
And had you read that book that’s by the creators of base camp,
Jeroen Corthout: I had not before now.
yeah, we immediately downloaded it. I started reading it, leaving stylish reading. , It’s uh, we went through that and we thought that all makes so much sense.
Um, and what they advocated was not to immediately start building the whole thing, but to start small. Um, so the things we planned was one, I was going to make a presentation, an investor deck that we were going to send to chemo, uh, which would have all the proper investor deck slides and he was making, uh, a prototype, something we could show them to show. Um, what we had in minds, and then we could show other people too, to show what we were working on. Something that didn’t do anything at all. So imagine a lots of HTML where you could do some clicks and that was it.
Andrew Warner: Alright, so you created it, you started to show it to people. What was the feedback you got?
Jeroen Corthout: Uh, some very positive feedback, like, Oh my God, I saw a need that, um, other companies we went to, uh, were very much like, but is it going to do that? I don’t know whether, you know, a lot of, uh, Belgium people. Um, but we tend to be very, uh, conservative about things and very skeptical.
Uh, so we got a lot of these skeptical questions, uh, in many different directions, uh, which often sort of threw us off . , it was not, uh, an easy start in that sense.
Andrew Warner: just interviewed Jason free the creator of base camp, the author of that book. And as part of my process of getting to know him, I went back and I read the transcripts of interviews that I’ve had with him over the last decade.
He’s one of people who I’ve interviewed the most. And I think you’re not you weren’t doing this book, right. He believed in just create something simple, but. Create it fully and launch it. It’s the lean startup, Eric Reese, who has the different approach, which is start small, get feedback, keep improving Jason freed, who would have been horrified.
I think if you took your first version of your, of your slides and ask people for feedback, because I think he would have been, he would have been able to anticipate the kind of overwhelm that you felt that too many people want too many things, and it’s not your project anymore. And. I could see now why he he’d be so opposed to that.
Jeroen Corthout: That is very possible. I, I really have to read the book again, getting real. I also did an interview with him a few weeks ago for my podcast. Um, and, but I didn’t read getting real. I was more into things like rework and stuff. Um, I have no idea. It could be that your rights.
Andrew Warner: he does believe in that book is still so good. I feel like it’s one of the most underestimated books in tech because it’s an older book. Um, and a lot of the ideas in there are now obvious, but he said, Start simple, build simple, remove features, make decisions for your customers, have an opinion, hold back some big features and don’t worry.
It’s going to be okay. Because then when you launch those big features, you’re going to have a thing to take out to the media and say, this big feature is now added. And so instead of adding it all at once and having it all go, go to waste weight goals, smaller do well. . Alright, I got to tell you about a company called top towel.
Have you heard about top towel?
Jeroen Corthout: I’ve heard about it many times on
Andrew Warner: Um, one of my other lists is a guy named Denrick. He said, I don’t have a big budget. I do need to have a developer, but what he wanted was not full time developer, but a developer that he can just kind of call on and ask for help whenever you needed it. And so he went to top down whenever he never, now he needs a project done quickly and his team doesn’t have the time to do it.
He calls up the person at top. Cal says, we’re ready to hire you. Here’s the screen. Project that we need you to do. And he says that person can develop for them a project that would take days for his team to do in about a day and a half. So instead of a week or two, you’re now down to a day or two for a creation of it.
Anyone out there who’s listening to me who needs have ha developers. You can hire full time, part time, whole teams of developers at once. All from top talent. That’s top is on top of your head tallies in talent, T O P T a L. And if you go to dot com slash Mixergy. They’ll give you 80 hours of developer credit in addition to a no risk trial period.
When you pay for your first 80 hours, go take a look at the detailed on the site. That’s top talent.com/mixer. GTOP T a l.com/m I N E R G Y. So with all the features that people were throwing at you, what did you end up creating?
Jeroen Corthout: Oh, well, uh, at that moment we were into creating yet, but, uh, it’s, it’s sort of true as an, into an identity crisis. Uh, also because we joined the, um, an accelerator, uh, and in that accelerator, we had a lot of mentor sessions. I think we got about 80 people telling us what they wanted. And on top of that, I was doing customer interviews.
Uh, so it started shifting what we wanted to build. And it’s only after I think. A few months, at least that we said, okay, now we need to hold back. Think back about what we were actually thinking to create and then go and go with that. we only started developing about four or five months in, um, that’s when we started actually developing the product.
Andrew Warner: And that’s when you said, what do we want when you went back to you and your needs and your experiences.
And so what did the first version look like based on that?
Jeroen Corthout: uh, the very first version, um, it was basically, um, an outlook plugin and a mobile app. Which was about the same thing. And it’s, what’s a, it only had the email integration. So it basically make a timeline of all the emails you’re exchanging with a certain person.
And it worked like this. If you went to an email and outlook, it would show you all the emails you would have exchanged, uh, earlier with that person. Uh, and people were like, how is this useful? Like, I have an email here and I see more emails there, but what do I do with it? Uh, and that’s because we, there was the minimum viable product.
Let’s say it was a bit too minimum viable at that.
Andrew Warner: Okay. So what did you do next?
Jeroen Corthout: Uh, next we started thinking this make more sense? Um, so we switched, uh, what was shown next to the email. We started showing information about the car that it detected in the email. And for that we started building out of this sort of system. Um, in which it would say, this is a context and that context has that email address.
So then it must be working at that company. So we pull up information about that company ads next to the email, um, like the logo, the name, the size of the company, the website, all that kind of stuff. You suggested a contact, you could create it in one click, add the contact in one click, and then you would have the timeline where the emails, um, and that’s already started making way more sense, because then it started behaving more and more like what you’d expect from a serum is that you have, uh, customers, uh, and a timeline and contacts and their details and all kind of,
Andrew Warner: Where’d you get all that data about the company.
Jeroen Corthout: uh, we started, uh, pulling in mainly data from, from full context for the companies. Uh, and we still do that today. So
if you get a Salesforce subscription through there at BI yeah. If you start a sales flare subscription, you get basically full contact data included.
Andrew Warner: Oh, I didn’t realize that. Um, yeah, full context is really nice because all they do is enrich, uh, address book data. So I can plug in my iPhone, uh, address book and suddenly. There’d be photos of the people who are in my address book there’s links to the LinkedIn profiles, their Twitter accounts, their get hub, and a little bit of extra data.
And so you were able to do that for each person in a person’s email, but still we’re not getting to the Salesforce integration, which seemed like your original idea.
Jeroen Corthout: That’s something we would build afterwards. Um, but while we were having all these discussions with bigger companies, uh, it became more and more clear that they were opposed to the idea of having data in two places. They were like, okay, so you can have that on a sales platform. I ain’t gonna have data in a CRM and we don’t like that because we don’t think the sync is gonna work well.
Uh, we want everything in Salesforce.
Andrew Warner: Not the original idea. You were going to take all the information from their email, put it into Salesforce, all the information from everywhere and connected into Salesforce automatically.
Jeroen Corthout: We saw it as two systems. So a sales platform and a CRM sinked up, uh, at that point there were other companies in the market like brisk, Daltile ampoules Jakobson if you’ve ever heard of them. Um, they were building an interface, an interface on top of Salesforce. Uh, but we saw that as a, uh, way too complicated and, uh, Journey that would not end up well, and I think a year later or something brisk also
Andrew Warner: Why, why doesn’t that make sense? It does feel like Salesforce is so complicated as simplification layer on top of it
Jeroen Corthout: um, the problem you end up with there is, um, one of, um, mismatched expectations. Um, A Salesforce environment is, is fully custom. You can change anything there. So the integration with it is already sort of difficult because things might be different everywhere. But what people expect from their Salesforce environment is also that they just get consultants and they customize it.
If you’re going to build a product. Basically a sidebar on top of Salesforce, people started having the same expectations and that’s where, uh, brisk.io, uh, got into problems because they started customizing their products for everyone, the single big client that they had, and it started becoming a mess.
Andrew Warner: All right. So I’m with you. And at some point you say we’re going to create our own CRM, our own like competitor sales force, but a lot simpler. How’d you do
Jeroen Corthout: Yeah, we basically we’re, on a death track with all these midsize companies that we’re talking to about Salesforce. They had an issue, but they didn’t believe in the way we saw the solution. Um, and then we talked to, um, a lot of companies around us. We were in a startup incubator and they’re all like, what?
You built a school. I want that. And we were like, Hmm. Okay. That is possible, but then we’re not going to be a sales platform, then we’re actually going to be a CRM. And then we have some more work to add lots of CRM features, but it might be a better Avenue because we can actually build a better thing that what’s on the markets.
Um, back then, um, there was very stark difference. Uh, between us and competing products because the competing product, um, HubSpot and BYB drive mostly five drive, actually in the beginning. They were, uh, like not just a little bit manual, there were super manual. Uh, nowadays they have built in some integrations, uh, to automate some of the data inputs.
Uh, there’s still not, um, platforms that really, uh, build on top of existing data,
Andrew Warner: What they do now is you still manually put in the data, but they will connect say to your email. And if you’ve had an email conversation with someone else in your team has had an email conversation with the contact, they’ll pull it into their CRM. Okay, how long did it take you to create your first version of sales flare?
The way it is now is a standalone CRM that people can go into and add their, their leads and use to close sales.
Jeroen Corthout: Uh, that’s a very hard question because there has been so many versions, obviously our very first version that we could show to people three, four months. Uh, the very first version that someone else with use, not only me would be like seven, eight months or something. And, uh, the first version that somebody actually wants to pay for, it took about a year
Andrew Warner: Oh, wow.
And this was Livan who was creating it?
Jeroen Corthout: It was leaving to get her with allegory. We actually, um, when we got in this startup accelerator, we have 25 K and we figured, Oh my God, that’s a lot of money. We can hire someone. So we did that and he’s still with us actually, after all these years of
Andrew Warner: So chemo ventures with their chemo 15, you didn’t end up working with them and giving them 15%. Why not?
Jeroen Corthout: we sent them all these things and they came back pretty quickly saying that we were a bit too early stage, which I, uh, I understand now.
Andrew Warner: All you had was PowerPoint, but,
uh, they did tell you what you needed to get done and using them as an outside motivator, got you to get going and start creating. What’s the accelerator that did take you in then.
Jeroen Corthout: Uh, we actually got an in, in two, one was more of an incubator was started at KBC it’s by a very big bank in Belgium, and we also got in an actual accelerator, which was called, uh, back then, uh, total net ID labs.
It was organized by, um, one of the biggest telecom operators in Belgium. Um, and in that program we got some money and we got a lot of workshops and mentorship and all those kind of things.
Andrew Warner: So you built the first version you were using it yourself. How, and I guess you were paying yourself a little bit of a salary as you were waiting for that full year to finish when you got your first customer, right?
Jeroen Corthout: Yeah. After a while in the beginning, we didn’t pay ourselves a salary, but after a while, uh, our bank account started going down and down and we had to pay ourselves some,
Andrew Warner: And you were living off of your, your savings.
What type of a saver are you? I think most people are not savers at all.
Jeroen Corthout: Um, it’s hard to say because I’ve, uh, I’ve been now, um, working on Salesforce for a long while being myself little and saving a little, uh, and, uh, being off a nice apartment here. Um, so I honestly have no idea myself when I was still working at across health. I would, I was, I was building up money quite well, but no, I always stay around the same level.
Andrew Warner: , I thought I was a big saver, but I don’t think I am. Now. If I look back in retrospect, COVID has made me a much better saver. I’ll give you an example. We went camping this past weekend. I took three hot water bottles. One of them had coffee, one had tea and they just had plain hot water.
So I could add whatever I want for the drive. In the past, I would have pulled over four times to get coffee or to get something on the way over to this campground. That was about three hours away, that’s just now a natural for me.
I never understood when people did that because who cares? Just a couple of bucks, but now I’m noticing it’s a couple of bucks here and there. It definitely adds up and it’s a lot of time wasted,
Jeroen Corthout: I know what you mean, especially with Colbert. I think it was very easy to not spend on restaurants and trips and all those kinds of things. And I personally definitely felt that in my bank accounts,
Andrew Warner: Me too, fewer restaurants. You know, I remember the founder of a WP beginner. He’s bought a bunch of real estate. He’s really well. Uh, well off now, when I first interviewed him, I think he was just a kid getting started with his blog. Now he’s got all kinds of software and the blog, but when we had lunch, he told me Andrew, yeah, I’m buying buildings, but I refuse to buy Netflix.
And what do you mean. I probably, I don’t think I’m talking out of school here, but he says, I don’t think he should spend money on Netflix. Go, you don’t want it. My gardener told me that he had Netflix. I said, okay, goes, I said, can I just be on your Netflix account? Gardner said, sure. Why not? I get lots of profiles.
So he’s on like his Gardner’s profile, something like that. It’s not as gardener. It might be as housekeeper or something . And at the time it seemed so small who cares? It’s just a couple of bucks. I’m telling you. I see through COBIT it adds up.
If it’s not, it’s not helping my business or helping my kids get smarter.
What’s the point. I got enough entertainment in my life. I got enough stuff. All right. Let me take a moment. Talk about, since I’ve been talking a lot, I might as well tell everybody about my second sponsor. It is a company called click funnels. And if you’re out there listening to me, whereabouts to talk about how to get traffic, how it is at Salesforce, a sales flair to, well, did you do that?
Intentionally Salesforce sales flare, like that?
Jeroen Corthout: I cannot comment because their lawyers will come after me.
Andrew Warner: They really would. It probably my guess is it was, it was an accident. It wasn’t intentional. And then it just kind of sounded nice and now you get the benefit of it, but you’re right to be afraid.
Jeroen Corthout: Yeah, we have brand protection. So the U S PTO thinks it’s a, it’s a distinguishable enough. Um, I must say the way we came in, it was, um, as I said, we were looking to build a sales tool, so we’re very clear on sales. And now I was looking for dot-coms. And sales flair sounded interesting. It sounded good.
And the idea we, we, uh, we had like the very philosophical description was we were going to throw a flare in the black box of sales,
Andrew Warner: yeah, the flare of light to make it easier for people to see be the guy who’s helping navigate them. In my mind, it was sales flair as in like all the little flare, which is. I forget, what is it? An office space or something where flare is the stuff that you have on your shirt at a restaurant on your jacket to let, to just make it more interesting.
I thought it was like that. It’s like all the little details that make the contact record more meaningful. All right. At a different vision for it. You know what, before we get into the, into the ClickFunnels spot, where I tell people to go and sign up for traffic secrets, their podcasts, let’s talk about your first customer and then I’ll get into it.
How did you get your first customer?
Jeroen Corthout: Uh, our first customer was a Dutch company. Uh, they contacted us in the summer of 2015 and they had read about us in marketing facts with the nail. We had gone to some little conference and it was a journalist and marketing facts with an L. And he was like, Oh, it’s really interesting what you’re doing.
So he wrote an article about us. And this guy had read it and he came to us and he said, I read that’s you are building a sear on the sort of lifts by itself. And that’s really something I have an issue with because, um, we have Microsoft dynamics here at the company. Um, and it really does not work for my salespeople.
They don’t fill it out. No data comes in it. And as I understood it, that your system actually automate stats, it’s gonna make it work. Um, and he was a typical Dutch guy going straight at the solution, being very simple about it. Then he said, if you could make this work, um, we’ll sign up. And he just went for it’s a company with zero track records.
You said this, this and this I’ll pay you. And then we were very thankful to, to have these first guys, because that’s started to get the ball rolling.
Andrew Warner: he found you because of that article on you,
Jeroen Corthout: Yeah,
Andrew Warner: it, he wasn’t the person who was writing the article. Oh, got it. So basically somebody who exactly fit the profile that you were looking for, someone who wanted to get data in without the work of putting it in. Alright. So come back to my first sponsor.
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Of course, he’s there on Instagram. He’s got photos of his kids doing trampoline. He’s got photos of him and his wife when they were first getting married. He’s got photos of sales, presentations, all kinds of stuff. Going over to ClickFunnels again, even though I’ve been on ClickFunnels forever, I go to YouTube.
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Jeroen Corthout: I do I listen
Andrew Warner: you do what you do. Thank you. What do you look for in, in,
Jeroen Corthout: Um, good guests, interesting interviews. It’s mostly the interesting interviews. I mean, getting good guests is not difficult, actually pulling out a great story is more difficult than I think you do this
Andrew Warner: Yeah for me, I realized that, um, as a podcast listener, what I’m kind of looking for is almost company through my day. Does that make sense?
So, um, we don’t have a cleaning person now. And so if I’m organizing something in the house, I don’t want to just do it by myself. I’ll hit, I’ll hit play and I’ll listen to a podcast. If I cycled into our interview right here. I don’t want to just cycle. I want to listen to a podcast. My problem is that all the podcasts ended up going back to Trump and politics, which at some point just weighs me down and I, I got it.
I know the message. So for the first time I listened to music on the way into work today, I just couldn’t find one podcast that got away from the negativity. I found one on WIWORK it’s a multi-part podcast on we work. I thought they’d examine what didn’t go. Well, we work and what did go well, let’s learn from their success.
Right? They did something, right. I’m not saying that. I’m not saying they’re a great company. I’m saying they did something, right. The whole podcast is. Look at how they’re manipulating their people, look at how they’re not handling the vomit in the phone booths. Right? Look at how they forgot to pay for a bathroom.
I get it. Quit bringing me down. I feel like we’re going through tell me if you think this right. I feel like we’re going through a period right now. Where things are bad. Economically things are bad health wise where things are bad. And so the thing to do now is to create complaining podcasts, complaining articles, complaining, tweets, complaining, like be the person who reflects back to the world, the anguish and frustration that they have.
And they’re going to like you. But that might be great for getting people to pay attention. It’s horrible thing to put out in the world. I, I just can’t
Jeroen Corthout: definitely. Yeah. I personally have never listened to the complaining podcasts. I don’t see my son doing that complaining articles or sometimes stumble upon them, uh, sometimes like yesterday. Um, Some article pointed me to the fact that there is a Facebook group in Belgium called I am kind of translated no against one and a half meter.
So I thought, Oh, I’m going to go have a look what that means. I guess it’s six feet in, in, in the us. Um, and it was horrible. Jesus, the stuff I saw there, I cannot see it’s just. And there are people, uh, put all put up all these, uh, for instance, uh, MTV tax thing is coming up a lot recently. So they have these things like aluminum in this is wrong.
Aluminum in vaccines is right. And then they say, can this be right
Andrew Warner: Uh, right. If we want allow aluminum in these other products, why are we allowing it in our body? Yeah. You know what? We are really at a point where I could even see it in the tech press. There’s no optimism. There’s no hope. There’s no, here’s the amazing thing that’s being built. It’s just this sense of helplessness that Amazon is going to take over everything.
And I don’t don’t don’t don’t get me wrong. I do see problems here. We definitely have companies that are way too big. We definitely have competition that’s way harder than it used to be, but, um, It’s not helpful. It’s not, I’m not. I get it. I understand it. I got the policy. I think I know how I can vote. I know how I’m going to vote.
Great. Now what do I do tomorrow? I do today. When I come into the office, fire me up with some optimism, give me some opportunities. Show me what’s there. All right. Speaking of you got your first customer. Give me some optimism. How’d you get the next batch of customers. What worked for you?
Jeroen Corthout: Um, yeah, we have a lot of content about is online, but the very initial ones were, uh, all network. Um,
all of it’s me personally, reaching out to people. Um, mostly people I haven’t even know. Um, that’s in the beginning. The only thing that really, really works because we were a small company, we had nothing.
So what do you do? And, and actually I did a survey last year in a, in a big group of SAS companies. And everybody had that answer. Like it was the big, how do you get from zero to a hundred customers network? You just talk to a lot of
Andrew Warner: You’re saying the very first a hundred customers was not from you getting more blog posts, which worked for you for getting the first customer, but emailing people, contacting them saying, do you want to try my software?
Jeroen Corthout: Yeah, well,
actually we didn’t start blogging, uh, until. Um, beginning of 2017 or end of 2016, I always kept blogging away for me. Blogging was, um, it’s cool. I mean, we’re writing stuff, but it’s not going to bring us customers now. So I, I never touched it. We didn’t have a blog at all, uh, for two and a half years or something.
Andrew Warner: So give me an example of a friend or contact that you reached out to and converted.
Jeroen Corthout: Uh, there were some in the startup incubator that we were, um, in, we would often show people what we were working on and they would be like, uh, this looks great. Uh, how far is this? And can we try it? And actually, uh, my whole process would be, um, taking people by the hands, like. Over Skype or zoom or whatever, uh, showing them a demo and they would be like, Oh, that looks great.
Then like, Oh, should we install this for you? Um, our email integration was not as seamless as it was today. And you have to fill out a lot of details and all. So I think you might’ve hand there and showed him the products, get them all the way through. Really fully guidance. There was no sense of what it is today that you just click connect your email and starts running for you.
When everything starts working, it was all manual.
Andrew Warner: You don’t re-haul from superhuman. Did that with me. We’re talking about after you had tons of customers, he insisted on personally showing me and setting me up with, with superhuman and because I use an iPad as my main computer. He just kept taking notes and he said, Andrew, let’s be honest, tiaras or problems with iPad.
We actually don’t prioritize it. I get it. I feel like at some point you’re going to see full on Chrome and other apps on this so I can understand why I didn’t, but it just kept taking notes on what was working, kept telling me what he knew was going to fire me up and I could see how it helped me make the product better, but it also helped me have a much better superhuman experience.
So you kept doing that. One-on-one. Wasn’t it frustrating, wasn’t it? Isn’t it a downer to see somebody try to use your software and not have it work or they’d be, they bring their skepticism. I find the best customers often are the most skeptical
Jeroen Corthout: Yeah, it’s it’s it’s uh, it’s both an upper and a downer. I’d say. You’re getting someone on your software Aigner, and second you’re there for every embarrassing moment that indeed you get to ride down neatly, bring it back to the developers, start prioritizing. And that’s actually why you should do it.
It’s tough to see everything that goes wrong, because it’s only like that, that you can fix it. Uh, and, and if you just take a product, launch it online, put some Hotjar in there too, to follow what they were doing. You will not get the same feedback. You will not understand all the pains people are going through in the process of getting on your product
Andrew Warner: What’d you do to deal with the overwhelm and to keep your yourself feeling. Awesome.
Jeroen Corthout: Um, hopefully, well, we track issues in GitHub. Um, we started building a system there, uh, overtime on how to prioritize things there. Uh, how to keep positive. Yeah, I guess that’s a. The overall thing with being an entrepreneur it’s, uh, every day just need to go on. Like I said, getting, getting people on the product itself was already a, I mean, felt good.
Of course there were issues, but yes. And if there would be excited about it and, and really use it, there would be like, yes, we’re building something that is like worth it. People are using it. People are liking it moral for all these big other things you have out
Andrew Warner: Yeah, let’s talk about then Salesforce and all the other companies out there that are in the CRM space, full contact has their own CRM, even as they’re supporting you. Right.
Jeroen Corthout: Uh, full contact has a as a, as a sort of context manager, which they’re currently divesting. Um, but yes, there’s about 650 CRMs out there. I think
Andrew Warner: Yeah. So how do you compete in the world with that many CRMs?
Jeroen Corthout: it is very difficult. Uh, what we compete on is mostly, um, what you just mentioned with superhuman, um, is to be closer to customers, understand them better. Um, and apart from that, just doing things better than otters woods. Like if you write content marketing, there’s no copywriter writing up something.
They wrote, they read another blog or something. Uh, it’s actually us trying to create something valuable.
Andrew Warner: So you’re saying the way you compete with them is by being more personal, more hands on,
Jeroen Corthout: Yes.
Andrew Warner: So just first name at sales, flair.com for anyone who wants to reach out to you. And do you still do customer demos?
Jeroen Corthout: I still do customer demos. Um, I try to be slightly selective of course with my time, because I only have so much time in a day. So usually I pick out the slightly bigger ones. But what I do also is I, I, uh, connect, uh, with every single person who gets on our software on LinkedIn. Uh, and if they, uh, the first step obviously goes automated, I’m not there looking for everyone on LinkedIn.
Uh, but then when they, when they accepted, I started conversation and I tried to understand what they’re looking for, how it’s going, how the first impressions are
to keep that connection. So we have in the, in the software, we have Intercom, I would Intercon we do all the usual, uh, support and the email followup and all that.
But next to that, I’m also connecting with people on, on LinkedIn.
Andrew Warner: Wow, because I guess your customers are business people. So they’re using LinkedIn chat a lot.
I get so overwhelmed by LinkedIn chat because so many people add me that I just can’t handle all the automated messages in there, but I do see that people are actually using it. They’re sending me personal messages, but in addition to it, I also definitely see these automated messages in here.
I can, I can tell them I’m
Jeroen Corthout: well, the LinkedIn connection request is something you just scroll through and be like, Oh, this person, actually, I know.
Andrew Warner: I do them all. I just say yes to every single one of them. Yeah, well, yeah, now it’s, now it’s a little bit of a problem, but I feel like, um, it helps, they’re basically giving me their contact information, so I might as well take it from there. And that way, if I ever need to reach them for something, I could get them.
Jeroen Corthout: You don’t get the contact information anymore. So you cannot even export the email addresses of your LinkedIn contacts anymore.
Andrew Warner: Yeah. And plus, you know, what we use as service that get the head reach that gives us email addresses. So if we ever need an email, we just do that. Yeah. So maybe I should just go in and start deleting anyone who, I don’t know. I did that on Twitter. It was incredibly helpful. There was some iPhone app that unfollowed everybody.
Once I did that and started to just more intentionally follow people, it became a lot more useful in there.
Oh, so that’s what you do. We, so everyone who’s on LinkedIn is somebody who you, um, to
Jeroen Corthout: Not necessarily, uh, me going out of bounds, uh, uh, can be automated. Uh, people reaching out to me. I will only accept people that, uh, that I want to collect. I get, I mean, a try, you have founder on your profile on LinkedIn. If you do that, you just get overwhelmed with so many connection requests of either people who want to build software for you.
Uh, people who want to write content for you, uh, people who want to, whatever,
Andrew Warner: For me it’s uh, it’s people, it looks like. It’s like this guy, Dylan mentor wants to be a guest on my podcast, I guess, or maybe no. He wants to show me that he did a podcast with somebody who I did podcasts with. I guess it’s a weird when somebody is trying to get a single listen by messaging by messaging me.
Um, Oh, here’s another one Kimberly line. It looks as though we have a lot of commonality in our professional lives and connections, and I thought it would be great to have you as part of my LinkedIn. Yeah. Thanks, Kim. I’m not sure what to do with them. That’s why to me, LinkedIn is just,
it’s LinkedIn seems like a waste.
Why do you use LinkedIn instead of just emailing people or texting them or something?
Jeroen Corthout: Because LinkedIn, uh, there are two reasons. One, uh, you can chat with them and chat so much better than email. You can have an actual conversation. While email is very low, uh, goes back and forth, takes a while. There’s a big distance. Uh, secondly, I also, uh, a lot of stuff from LinkedIn. Uh, so these people also get to see these things.
So it helps also build a connection with the customer that is, uh, more personal and more, uh, um, then it would be like me sending them an email, which they would assume is automated.
Andrew Warner: All right. What else? Let’s close it out with one more thing that you do to get customers what’s worked.
Jeroen Corthout: Uh, what has worked mostly for us is writing, uh, content next to the whole word of mouth. Um, the latest approach we take there is we, we write about a topic in a better way than, uh, then we can find another blogs, uh, really targeted ads, the search intent. But also making it interesting as such a way that we can share it on social media.
Andrew Warner: I saw, talked about that. They say, look at what’s, who’s sending traffic to your competitors, or what pages on your competitor sites are doing well, if you can do better than them do that.
Jeroen Corthout: similar thing to a trucks. Yeah.
Andrew Warner: okay. What software do you use for that? Oh, you do. Alright. And if I’m going to look at similar web to see where you get your traffic.
Oh, man, you’re not buying ads, right? No, just all contact. Organic search is really big for you. Oh, I see. A 3.2, 2% comes from paid search ads. The rest is all organic. All right. For anyone who wants to go check it out? The website is sales flair.com. I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen.
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