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Nov. 12, 2020

068 - How to Compete with Giants with Jeroen Corthout

Just because they're bigger, doesn't mean you're out of luck. Jeroen and I discuss how it’s possible to compete with much larger companies by getting crystal clear on the problem you’re solving for your clients and staying focused.

Just because they're bigger, doesn't mean you're out of luck. Jeroen and I discuss how it’s possible to compete with much larger companies by getting crystal clear on the problem you’re solving for your clients and staying focused. 


- Find a problem you're passionate about. Don't fall in love with the solution.

- Try it, nail it, build it... in that order. Don't skips any steps.

- How do you go about building your product and your processes?

- How do you make sure you consistently keep building that value?

- How do you create a culture that encourages positive growth?



Jeroen is the founder of SalesFlare, a simple yet powerful CRM for small businesses selling B2B (Business To Business) & the Host of the Founder’s Coffee Podcast, where he interviews fellow software company founders.



21:31 Keep Focused on the Problem

27:15 They Care About Their Problem, Not Your Widget

31:17 Keeping Automation & Communications Human

33:22 What Should You Automate?

36:14 Knowing Who the People are Who Will Resonate with You

42:55 How to Keep Your Team Wanting to Grow & Contribute to the Business



Founder's Coffee - Every two weeks Jeroen has coffee with a different SAAS (Software As A Service) company founder. They discuss life, passions, learnings, … in an intimate talk, getting to know the person behind the company.








I think it's, it's easy to initially have some idea of what you want to build in terms of solution, but if you don't keep the problem very clear, then it's very hard to keep evolving there.

Hi everybody. Welcome to Four-Day Workweek Entrepreneur podcast. Today I'm excited to have on, I'm gonna try this, right, UNE Corta. I think that's close. He is the founder of Sales Flare, a CRM system that is taking on the Giants, and that's really the theme of our interview today, is how to compete with giants as a small business.

And from what I've seen that he's doing, I've seen some of his presentations, what he's up. And as a software owner, uh, so much of what he's doing is so wise as far as I can tell, and aligned with what I've seen works and where I've messed up. So I'm excited to have him share with you a little bit about his business and then a lot about what he's learned that can help you with your business.

So, welcome you. Thank you. It's, uh, it's indeed very close. It's, uh, in Dutch they say. So it's very close. We'll work with that. Awesome. Thank you. At least it's better than Steve or Joe or something. Not that those are bad names, but at least you know it's close. Yeah, yeah, that's good. What I wanted to first do is could you just tell people a little bit about your business, because I saw the presentation you did about.

How to get your clients to fall in love with you and how to grow, uh, a business as you're taking on giants and mm-hmm. . Maybe just tell people a little bit about your business, uh, why you created it and why you're so passionate about it and, and kind of why it's been so successful so far. Yeah. Um, in a nutshell, uh, previous to Sales Flare, um, I worked in a marketing consultancy, uh, that used Salesforce internally.

um, I'm sure most people know Salesforce. It's, it's, uh, the biggest CRM company in the world. Uh, for me, it was my very first crm, uh, that I used. So I took it, uh, quite seriously. Uh, people told me that, uh, it will help me organize my sales. Uh, so I really tried, uh, using it for, for sales, for op, but I just didn't completely manage to make it, uh, completely manage to make it work for.

Um, and I saw that it also didn't really help my, my sales colleagues, like our co he really loved it, uh, for doing his reporting. Uh, but as the salespeople, we didn't really get much further than entering our sales opportunities in there, uh, basically to report to him. Uh, it just didn't help us sell. Uh, so it didn't really make sense for us to use it for more than management reporting, which was kind of sad.

So I was, Things like Outlook and Wonder List. But I, I didn't do anything with an insight for a few years, uh, until I was working with my current co-founder in another software company and we had a ton of leads to follow up. We went to a big conference in Vegas, an IBM conference. We were in business intelligence at that point.

Um, and I knew that that's, Salesforce wasn't going to help us with that for, so we had a good look around. , we tested different CRMs and many of those were, were like more practical than Salesforce and, and better, uh, for sales follow up. But where they still failed time and time again, was with us. Uh, we didn't like manage to fill these systems out like we were expected to fill them out.

Um, we just. Didn't really have the discipline, uh, to be these perfect data input robots, you could say. Um, the, the software really expects you to be, which is weird and, and people are okay with that, that, that you are sort of a robot. But I don't think most salespeople are, uh, this kind of people that can, can fill out a system like Pristine, always perfectly disciplined.

So we figured that this. Not the way it probably should be. And we thought about the fact that actually all the data we were filling out ourselves, that it was already in other systems. So we were basically duplicating data for no reason. Like the fact that we emailed someone we were writing, like I emailed the person on that date and we discussed this or whatever.

Uh, that was already an email system. The people we were in contact with were in our email system, their, their phone number that we're copying from the email signature or the position or. that was also in our email system. And then meetings were in our calendar. Phone calls were in our phone. Uh, we had email tracking and web tracking that we, we could integrate.

And there was stuff in company databases that we were like combining with it. And there was stuff in social media. So we figured what if you build a system that sits on top of the data that already exists, um, that sort. Surfaces it for you makes that you can easily curate it, uh, in just a few clicks. And, and that's six years ago now.

That's when Salesforce was born. Uh, it's an intelligent c r m that is built on top of existing data that organizes that data automatically. So you don't need to fill out this serum manually. Um, and it's also to my, to my very first, A CRM that actively helps you with following up your customers by keeping track of everything.

It provides your overview with a pipeline, uh, and it even automatically reminds you when a certain customer needs follow up. But basically our biggest mission when we started Salesforce to help salespeople focus on their customers with a very easy and automated system so they can perfectly follow up, um, every customer without spending any time on robotic tasks.

And that's still. our biggest mission today. Okay, awesome. And yeah, and that's, you know, there's so many things you, you bring up and I, I've had a software company for 20 plus years. Not as much on the CRM side, but I work with people in sales coaching on that side and mm-hmm , you kinda run this challenge that your most detailed people who are willing to fill out these really detailed forms are often your worst salespeople.

And then your people, your best salespeople are constantly complaining that you're making them fill out stuff. and she, okay, great. I can get this really great data from people who aren't that effective. So that's not really helpful. And on this other side, I've got these people that are saying, wait, I'm doing it right.

I'm getting results. I'm getting what you want. Do you really want me to slow down? And you say, oh God, no. Please don't slow down. And it becomes very difficult. You know, it's interesting, there's a book you mentioned in your presentation, which I read, and I in fact even asked you. Mm-hmm. , when we first taught, if you had.

Uh, by 37 Signals. Uh, you know, the company that now that creates base camp, I think they called themselves Base Camp now, called Getting Real. And it was something for me as a software developer that helped me think, uh, more clearly and even more so, even just as an Entrepreneur. And they talked about a couple things that it sounds like you, you've done, which is one they talk about scratching your own itch, like dressing that thing.

Mm-hmm. , that's your pain point cuz you know it so well. And one of the other things they said, which I loved, which was, rather than making. 10 solutions or 10 parts, pieces of a software, let's say, that are all 10% good. Just make one a hundred percent good and then eventually add another. Would you share with that?

Cuz for me as a, as a software developer that's you're, you're narrating something that I'm very familiar with, and people would say, well, how do you compete with people? And first of all, I can't fully compete at their same game. I can't compete with a person that's, you know, a hundred times my size. But I can innovate and I can be different and I can hit something that they don't do.

And I think as entrepreneurs, whether you're a, a company of 50 to a hundred people or 500 people or just starting out, it's that whole thing of what can I do that nobody else can do that, that is unique. How did you all leverage that? Uh, and, and how are you able to know what those things were that you were supposed to?

Yeah, so, so the, the problem that I was outlining before is, is what we started with. So we, we, we completely focused on that. We built something first, that, that was sitting on top of your email inbox. And that would basically detect when you had new contacts, detect when your colleagues had new contacts, visualize that, make email timelines.

Uh, that was the very first product. What we found out is that it wasn't super useful, uh, by itself. Uh, it needed to become something that did more than that, that also integrated other types of data, uh, that had this nice pipeline to which you could track stuff that sent you reminders to follow up. You know, it, uh, we, we actually, we, we, uh, um, red, uh, getting real when we first got started, and we were very convinced that this was the way to go.

Uh, unfortunately we were, um, well, initially we thought we were playing in a sales platform, um, sphere, but in the end we were playing in a CRM sphere and, and there was so much more, um, expected from us, uh, to actually have something that we could sell that it took quite a while to, to get on par, uh, kind of with, with other systems.

Um, so as much as we started with, uh, thinking the, the getting real. We had to go much further with our product. Um, that being said, we always try to build it up in such a way that we focus only on building the core, uh, very much, um, ourselves, and then try to get pieces together. Um, just like, um, open source, uh, frameworks, uh, maybe an external, um, infrastructure for something, um, that.

Along the way, we started replacing some of these things, but just to get, uh, much quicker to, to dad's, uh, m mvp, not really more like, uh, instead of minimum viable product, that minimum sellable product or minimum lovable product, uh, that, uh, that was, uh, quite a challenge for us, I must say. But, but for most products, I would say that, Uh, the, the getting real thinking is, is very, very, uh, very good.

Uh, I, I definitely recommend that above. Um, Building a huge system and then finding out that nobody wants, uh, wants to buy it. Great. So one of the things that I'm wondering you if you could share about is how did you know then, so you said that you had this first part of a product and, and again, I encourage people to think, you know, as a somebody who's built software, It's always, of course, and, and you mentioned this when I, you and I were talking, it's about, it's, it's about the problem.

It's not about your solution. Nobody really cares about. Mm-hmm. your solution. As I tell people, my sales coaching, nobody cares about my sales coaching or my software. In my case, mine is a, a software to motivate people to sell more. Like you want the people to sell more. If I had Magic Brownies, you'd buy my magic brownies.

You don't really want software. You want mm-hmm. the outcome, how did you know it wasn't yet? A product, and I think I know the answer, but just even to explain to people as you're going development, because it can be discouraging, I think for people when they say, okay, well I thought this was it and I put it out there and you know, maybe people are telling you, oh, that sounds great.

Or your, your friends and your family. Yeah, that's great. But nobody's yet committing financially or how did you know? , it wasn't yet a business. And then what did you have to do? How did you go through that process to then say, okay, here are the pieces that we need to put in. Here are the functions here, whatever it is that we need to get to first.

And how did you prioritize that? Um, from a standpoint or from an offer standpoint? Yeah. Uh, very early on, so we, we had this vision of what, what we wanted to build. Uh, we saw a big issue and we thought, okay, that's where we want to go. Uh, but then we take, took a, a few steps back, um, at least after a few months.

Um, and I started doing customer interviews. Uh, so basically first, uh, went to my network, saw who was relevant, um, made a list of questions, started asking like, What do you sell? Who do you sell it to? What are your, uh, challenges? Uh, what are your challenges with software when it comes to selling? You know, like trying to understand the whole issue.

Um, I think we did 2040, uh, customer interviews. Uh, first start with our network and then every time we interviewed we also ask like, who else should we talk to? And then like that's, uh, expanding on the network. Um, the direct network at least. . Um, and that was a very good exercise to understand, uh, what the biggest frustrations were.

Um, we had a little bit of an issue there is that, um, we got so much advice, uh, not only from these customer interviews, but we're also an accelerator. And we had all these mentors and all, and everybody had their opinions. Um, and it was, um, a challenge for us. To like, bring it back to the essence. Like we understood everything.

Uh, but when you're building something, you can only focus on so much, uh, that you're gonna build first. Um, so we struggled for a couple of months with that. But then in the end, uh, return to what we had in mind, but with all, all the context, um, we started with the, the, the very, uh, essential features from our own perspective and our own and these customer interviews because in the beginning we didn't have users, um, not even people actively using it.

Uh, we didn't have customers for sure. . Um, so in the beginning it was based on, on, on, on this research and our own sort of vision. Uh, after a while as we started getting users on the platform, uh, we could then send out surveys like when we had, let's say 20 users or something, uh, and, and, and some people trying it and, and stuff.

Um, we didn't have like a whole lot of people to ask questions to, so we had to, um, Go very far in asking for feedback. Um, as things progressed, we don't really do, um, that much of that anymore. I mean, I still did some customer interviews, for instance, last December, uh, with, uh, with our 20 of our top 40 customers.

Um, we still do a survey now and then, but we don't have to go, um, as far with these things because we just get a massive amount of feedback. Rolling in every day, uh, which we, which we organize link back to the people who asked it, send it into our prioritization model and all that. Um, so that, that, that really changes from the very beginning.

You really need to beg for feedback. And after a while it's more about like, how do we keep this organized and how do we make sure that like, like the right things are, are being worked. From all the things that people are asking. Yeah, absolutely. I know as a developer you get or, and as a coach too, you get so many suggestions from people and it can be very difficult to understand which ones you should act upon.

And like you said, initially, you're just trying to beg people to give you feedback, and then after a while, if you're not careful, you'd say, well, oh wait, you know what? I don't wanna listen to the, to the, to the, the questions that are coming in. I'm gonna do a survey. It's like, no, the questions that are coming in, that is your feedback.

That's what they want. And that's probably, that was something that took me a while to learn. And it was a lesson I learned specifically in my software business, but I also learned it in my coaching business. Remember the first. I had went out and I did some demos and I'd sold this software and it's an annual subscription type software.

Mm-hmm. and I hadn't gotten a lot of questions. People seemed to be getting it, and so I assumed that if I had no questions coming in, that they got it. And, and I see I can always see you laughing. So then a year later when I go and see who's ready to renew and what, 50% of 'em were not ready to renew 'em.

Whoa. What happened? I genuinely, I thought everything was okay, cuz they didn't reach out to me. And then I had to realize that. At least, especially initially, I had to really go out of my way and make sure that line of communication was open and that they felt comfortable, uh, to be able to connect with me.

And I'm thinking of some of what you said important about just whether it's through LinkedIn, through Facebook, through just opening things in a way to say, no, I really do want to hear your feedback and I know. I've told people over the years, look, you're not doing me any favors. By not giving me feedback, you're actually hurting me, so please don't feel like you're being annoyed.

I'll always tell you, if you reach a point where you're annoyed, I'll tell you. But until then, you're helping me to realize because a lot of people will just quietly say nothing. Then they'll leave. and I think that's probably one of the biggest things. You know, sometimes you go into a a retail store and you can tell every once in a while you'll find somebody that's so attuned to your needs.

And you say you're the owner, aren't you? Oh yeah. I'm either the owner because there's this level of concern of how do you feel that's very different than an average employee. Tell me something, cuz this is the, this is the toughest part I know as somebody. Taken advice from a lot of mentors and you reach that point where you say, okay, I want to be humble because these people are smart in some way, or they're successful in some way, but I've gotta listen to my voice.

How did you and your, um, your partner, how did you all figure out, okay, these are the things you mentioned. Some of it was what you knew was important, but how did you make that distinction? Because thing, that's one of the toughest things, is this overwhelm cuz there's so many coaches, there's now even so much free content out there that you can have two people that are really successful.

Different things, and at least on the surface it sounds like they're contradictory, but very often it's that one person's at one stage or has a different perspective. How did you all make that decision, um, to decide, okay, no, we're going this way and these things might be great, but we're gonna put 'em aside from them.

How, how are you able to do that? Is this, is this about the product feedback or is it just gen general advice? Even just the business, the de, the decisions of the business, or specifically how to, like you mentioned at one point you thought it was mainly a sales system, and then it mm-hmm. , you realized it was more of a cr, like how do you make those decisions?

Because those are pretty big decisions. to be able to say, especially if you're marketing and definitely if you're developing code or, or building out coaching programs or products or anything. You mentioned the idea of making sure there's some interest before you go too deep into it. Yeah. How do you confirm that?

Um, I guess both in product and other decisions? Uh, there's, there's two things that are really important. Uh, one, uh, how does it align with what we're trying to do? How does it align with our vision? We have that in mind. We have something written down somewhere. We can go there and say, okay, so we're trying to do this.

How does this align? Uh, and second, uh, is what is the impact going to be in our business? And that's something we do with, with features or improvements or this kind of things as well, like, like, are more people going to sign up for trials? Are more people on the trials actively going to use it? Are more of these people that actively go are using it?

Are more of those going to subscribe and and so on? Are more people, uh, gonna keep using it? So we look at all these things and we're, we're, we're looking like, is this actually going to have an impact somewhere across, um, our, our funnel, let's say. . Um, and that is the case with all decisions. And then there's of course a, a, a question of, uh, how sure are we about how we're scoring it?

Uh, some things we just have to try. And then it depends sort of on the amount of work it is, if it's not too much work when you, we could just try it and see what happens. Uh, maybe something interesting happens that could be, you know, so cool. . All right. So one of the things I wanna go a little bit deeper into with you is this concept you and I talked about, about being passionate about the problem rather than the solution.

Mm-hmm. And I noticed some people that might sound a bit negative, but I, I'll again, relate simply to what I experienced is when I left a, a paying job and decided to start my own business, I thought I was going to be a coach. That was my first thing, a coach slash. And I was gonna help people grow their businesses and I was gonna help these small business owners motivate their team members to sell more.

So I was very, actually pretty clear about what I was gonna do, but I thought the intervention was going to be coaching and, and talking with people. And I did some of that. And then one of the people said, Hey, you know what? Our software is kind of weak. We don't really see when we make bonuses or if we make, if it makes a big deal or.

can you create something that would help us see the numbers? Cause we believe if we saw the numbers, we'd get excited about it. And so ironically, 20 years later, , over 80% of my income has come from something I didn't expect to create, and yet mm-hmm. , thank God, you know, somehow I was able to hear through this.

I guess part of it too is I just, it just wasn't working. I wasn't getting the clients, so I'd kinda reached that point of desperation, say, okay, well I'm doing these interviews, but people don't really want to change. Or maybe they do, maybe they don't, and that's doesn't hold across the board. But in my case, it was that the, the problem was the, the problem had not,

Mm-hmm. . But what I thought was a solution wasn't the solution. How has that helped you without necessarily being negative, but again, finding that problem you're passionate about and not falling in love in the solution. How do, how do you explain that to people who are perhaps new at something or maybe even trying to pivot or, or shift what they're doing?

Yeah. Uh, I think it's, It's, it's easy to initially have some idea of what you want to build in terms of solution, but if you don't keep the problem very clear, then it's very hard to keep evolving there. Um, so what we do is we, we see an issue, like people are not using their crm, it doesn't help to follow up customers, uh, and, and they don't fill it out, and in the end they're not closing deals and customers are disappointed.

So that's sort of the issue. Uh, but there is so much to do there. And if you would just think like, okay, uh, like, like six years ago, we think of a solution and then stop there. Uh, that would be a pity. And, and, and like, like as, as you were explaining, um, you thought coaching was, was the solution. You figured out software, uh, as a solution, but it might be that at some point your, your software sort of becomes obsolete.

uh, because there's other stuff and the problem sort of, uh, is still the same, but the solution shifts. Um, if you keep focused on the problem, then you can deal with that. If you are, um, like, like only into the solution, then you'll miss that and at some point you become irrelevant. Just focusing on a problem makes that you, um, you can actually find.

The right solution, , and that you can stay relevant with that solution. Evolve it like the, the problem that we're focusing on, for instance, is so big. Uh, our, our, our, our solution is not finished at all. Yes, it, it helps people, but there's so much more that we can do that, that to make sure that people, uh, actively use their CRM more.

Um, like that they can follow up better. That we're, we're thinking about all kinds of things we can automate in sales, uh, you know, enormous amount of stuff to do. And that's because the, the, the problem is fundamental and also quite. Big. Let's see. Awesome. Yeah. One of the things that you mentioned in one of the slides that I saw was you put out the cost of, I think it was 611 billion or something like that, of the cost of data not being used properly, cuz mm-hmm.

you think about it, any just basic sales funnel will, if you don't make your sales calls, well that, that's real simple. You're not gonna make sales. Yeah. All that's gonna happen is whatever was coming in the door, because of the marketing efforts of the company, which marketing being more of that generic company approach as opposed to the one-to-one sales.

So to a certain degree, you've really. Almost grounded or made inoperable your sales group if they can't get to that data or if they're not willing to use the data, or if they can't connect to it or if there's technology. Mm-hmm. , whatever it might be. One of the things that I, I'm wondering how you all do this, cause I know this is something that's always key to this, is how do you help the client see, to them what it's worth.

Cause I know most people, I mean, nobody really wants to spend money. Hopefully you wanna invest money. If you do a read a book or do a coaching program or buy a software, you're hoping that if you put in $10, that you're gonna get a hundred dollars back. Or if you put in an hour that it's gonna save you five hours.

Let's say it's a productivity book or whatever it might be. How do you help your clients see that even though your system is not yet? , it's still a big improvement and so it's worth it for them to stay in the game with you and that it's still an improvement. How do you deal with that? The progress versus perfection aspect of a business?

Yeah. When in software, people want perfection. They want it, you know, I wanted to have this, this, this, and it's like, well, hold on. What's the most important things? How do you all do that? Cuz you mentioned a. What it costs you in time if you mis, if you misestimate or if you, you know, are incorrect in your estimate.

You could spend as, you know, weeks, days, months, programming something and the client say, ah, I really didn't do anything for me. How do you all help the client see what it's cost them, and then help them understand that yes, what we're doing is making an impact for you? Yeah. Um, I must say on the numeric level, we don't really have anything there.

Uh, I think it, it differs very much per customer. Um, what I usually say is like, okay, so, so for instance, they're, they're choosing versus another crm, or they're considering going to another one, uh, because it has this next to it or something. It's a bigger system. And then I'm like, yes, okay. , what if your salespeople stop using the crm?

What is that gonna cost? How's the, how's the, how's the sales fault gonna go? The, the how? I mean, all, all the things that you're trying to do, like somebody is sick, somebody goes away, how are all these things gonna work? And then mostly people get, get the problem. Um, on the numeric level, I think I only had one customer telling me like, like that they, um, there, there are three people, uh, using the software, um, and their sales follow.

uh, it's so much better that they now earn a million more per year just, just by following up better. Um, and, and, and, and funny. Then also when, um, Corona came around, um, they were like one of the first ones to say like, okay, we need to save costs. Uh, we're gonna cancel our sales for Salesforce subscription.

And I'm like, wait a minute, you told me you are selling 1 million more per year, and you're, they're, they're spending three times 35 a month, so 105 per month, you're gonna take that, you know, decision. And they're like, ah, no. And they're, they're still on the software, so. Awesome. Yeah, and that's the thing.

And, and especially on, well, not just the software side, the coaching side and the intervention, I think about how things were market. 20 years ago, 30 years ago, and everything, because technology was so new, people were so wanting to show you, look, my widget has 25 functions. It can do this, this, this. It's this Swiss Army knife.

And if you look at, let's say, the way Yahoo search used to be set up versus when Google came out and had the one, you know, the white page with the box in the middle. Mm-hmm. and that simplicity. . And one of the things that I always try to remind my customers is, yeah, a great solution that's not implemented is worth zero.

And I think that implies to anything in complexity. When people say, wait, your you're sales coaching, how many, how many lessons do you have? I said, it's not how many lessons I have. You have five main conversations we need to have your team members be making or you making. And if you get those five, that's like 80 to 90% of the issue.

The other 50 videos I have or conversations mm-hmm. . are not worth more, are only worth, you know, a 10th of what that is. And so helping somebody realize what that core is, and certainly knowing that, because I think one of the things people forget when they get involved in sharing a solution with somebody, and you said this, so right.

I think as far as falling in love with your solution, I can think of how many times I've wanted to fall in love with the software that I have now that I'm like, okay, this is so great. But then now I do need some coaching with it. There's a balance of certain things. and you know, again, making sure that I state well what, why?

Why are they paying me? They're paying me because they wanna make sure that this thing that they don't have, that they get it or that this thing that they have, that they continue to get it or that it improves. And that's something for me, especially in a residual business model, I think about, um, this idea of just making sure that somebody continues to get that result.

And like you said, with the people who are thinking of cancel, people can become a little shortsighted. And you know, whether it's, well, how many sales calls did you make before and how many did you make? Now that's sort of a more indirect relationship, just using that as one variable. But of course, the money that, that's, that and impacting lives are for most people.

If you hit one of those two variables, uh, or mm-hmm. , probably both, you've pretty much hit everything that it comes down to and. I think that's the part that a lot of people lose sight of because, you know, it's so easy to get caught up in our own solutions and especially I love creating stuff and it's pretty, and my software's got colors you doing.

It's so beautiful, but nobody gives a damn if it doesn't do it, they need it to. Um, and so something that you mentioned that in your presentation you and I talked a little bit about it was before you scale something, having that sense of, okay, I'm gonna try this first. I'm gonna make sure I get it. and then I'm gonna build it.

And again, I I'm gonna take it or ask you to take it to a little bit of a generic conversation, not just software. Cause I think sometimes when people hear software people, they say, oh, it's, you're just talking software. Like, no, we're actually mm-hmm. applies to any sort of solution. How do you do that sense of trying something then nailing it and then building it, and how do you know when you've nailed it that you're ready to build it and then perhaps even scale it?

Yeah. Well that, that applies to so many levels. It applies, for instance, to. Um, not hiring before you understood a certain job. Like, uh, if, if you've, if you haven't done the marketing job yourself first, then you don't know what you're gonna need to hire for, what, what that specific person needs to do because there's so much in marketing.

Or if you haven't sold your product first, how can you hire a salesperson and train them to, to do it? So that's, that's certainly one level where it applies. Uh, you just. Do it yourself until you understand it, you're like, okay. Um, I mean, I'm, I'm sort of, I can do it, but somebody else might, might, might, might want to take it over.

And I can explain that, that that might be the, the moment where you go from, from nailing the thing to scaling it. But it, it often also it is, um, for instance, on an automation level, Like, there's so many things, uh, we used to do manually, like going through our list of customers, uh, seeing which ones are the, the ones that are using well, uh, making sure we're following up well, sending messages, like, Hey, how's it going?

And um, and then starting to figure like, hey, we're, we're always sending the same messages, like, and maybe this first message we can automate. Uh, and then from there, um, we'll, we'll pick up when people reply. That saves us an enormous amount of time. Most of our follow up is actually automated. It looks personal, but the first thing is automated, and then when people reply, we are there to pick up.

Um, let me think about other, um, okay. Jump in on that. Cause I think that's, yeah. Something that some people forget is, I think there's developed an etiquette to what people will allow you to automate and what they want. Mm-hmm. . So if, like, for example, if I have a webinar coming up, people expect that I'm not sending individual emails.

They'd almost wonder, wait, are you okay? But then when they respond to a certain thing, then they want that personal touch. Exactly. So I think people sometimes, I used to get caught up between like, I can't automate everything. And I think people have this nightmare-ish vision of the marketer that sends you an email every single day, uh, and, and is almost feels like it's too much, as opposed to, Hey, we're checking in.

You can automate the check. At least in my experience, the check anymore. Hey, how's everything going? and still have that be there, that that's better than not asking. Mm-hmm. . And then when they respond, then yes, you get, like you said, you, you can respond to 'em. So I think people can balance that. They almost feel like they either have to go all personal touch or technology, but I, I think there's places you can automate and you're not trying to automate the relationship.

It's like you're automating the scheduling or the opportunity for the relationship to grow. And then the person can either opt in or. Um, but I think that's an important thing because I know I struggled that, cause I was so wanted to have this high-touch business and struggled with how to make it high tech.

So, sorry, I just wanted to, I I just thought that was No, sounds like y'all are doing that. Yeah. Yeah. It, it's, uh, like you, you, you cannot automate things the way that will make you less human to the, to the other person. Uh, so you try to automate things. Uh, when you are doing it, you feel less human. Like, like you're, you're basically, you, you have a list and then you go and through them and send the same message over and over again.

If you find yourself doing that, then you probably better automate it. Uh, you can better leave that to the computers, let them do it at scale. Personalize with the first name. I don't know what, uh, all those kind of things. Um, but you, you still need to keep it to such a level that on the other, uh, Uh, the person feels like, okay, this might be automated, but it speaks to me.

Um, if if you sort of start forgetting that, then, then yeah, that hurts as well. And, and that's why also first need to do it manually. Uh, because when you're doing it manually, you can really, um, um, use your empathy in a much better way. When you automate something right away, it's very hard to do. , uh, you, you might, you might start thinking about, uh, people as numbers or units or something.

Um, it's very unpersonal while if you've, if you've done it many times personally with someone, uh, at some point you can, you can feel how it should be done. Uh, and then is, is a good moment to automate it. So that's also something that speaks to. Try it first and nail it then, and then scale it. Absolutely.

I've, I've even found in some of my things, I'll say, look, this is a mass email. I'll even say it sometimes. I'm sending this, but I'm asking for how I can serve you. And so if I'm asking them for something that is gonna benefit me. I find that I have to get a lot more personal and perhaps even more an individual email.

But if I'm offering something and saying, Hey, I'm not sure if all of y'all are interested, I'm automating this. But once you reply, so I think there's ways you can do it if that feels uncomfortable. Something that I liked that you mentioned in your presentation, I'm gonna kind of go a little bit, uh, at least in, in the order for presentation, um, yeah.

Was solving a problem for your people and people that you understand, people that you get, and being okay. Not only that you're not gonna help everybody in the world, but that you really maybe can't help everybody. Again, I think a lot of people feel, well, I, you know, wait, I want, I want to help. Everybody in my solution could help everybody, and it would be mean for me to say that I don't want to help certain people.

But at the same time, if we try to help everybody, different people perceive the world different ways. How do you know if somebody's your people? And again, this is not meant in a, in a many discriminatory way. This is meant in as just people who get you that when you connect, they're gonna say, yes, I totally get this.

As opposed to you having to learn somebody's culture or the way they view the world or their business culture. , how do you know who are your people, the people that are really gonna resonate with you and, and respond and that, that you should even listen to more as opposed to those that perhaps, uh, are not those?

Uh, I think it, it starts from, uh, looking at your own background, looking at your own network. Uh, for instance, I, uh, I have my background in, um, in healthcare. Uh, first of all in engineering, and then I went into a marketing agency. Um, I built a website since I was, um, 1516. So these are all things I sort of can identify with.

I also went to business school, so there's all different backgrounds, it's all different sort of networks. Um, so automatically you, your thinking comes from there. And you can, you can better understand these people. It's, it's easier, uh, in the beginning, uh, to find people that are right for your, um, solution.

People that have the problem that you're focusing on. That's very handy. It's much easier on the longer run to understand, uh, these people as well. Plus, you might also, uh, like talking to, uh, these people. , um, as opposed to, uh, some, some people that you enjoy talking less with, which, which is very important as well because you need to have that very, uh, sort of short and short, like as, I mean, like close, uh, and, and, and good communication, uh, with, with, with people, uh, so that you, you can actually improve your solution to the problem.

Um, More and more and more and make the, the, the experience you're, you're offering with your product or service, uh, as much as possible. Um, but I, I think it, it just to, to get back to what you asked it, it, it, uh, it starts with looking who, who you are, yourself. . Um, and I think a, a lot will, will come from there.

Yeah. Cause I hear a lot of people say, well, you know, if you're going into a new market, you study, you go into forums, you hear what do they say? How do they talk? What words do they use? A and I think there's some value to that, but if you already understand that and it's already just second nature to you, uh, that's one step less.

And you might later go there as somebody who's been in the insurance field for 35 years and an Entrepreneur for 20. There's so many things that are just easier to me, and I sometimes would joke with my wife, well, you know, the insurance industry keeps coming back and finding me, you know, as, as if I'm trying to run away and I'm not.

But it's so clear because even something as simple as, you know, the four day work week, which I'm working to now help entrepreneurs in all areas do, I can do that so much better for the people I've been working with for 15 years longer, that I know their insurance agency business so much tighter. And it doesn't mean I can't provide value to the second.

But ultimately, there's so many more ways I can do. and it's made it easier. And I think one of the things that, going back to, you know, what we talked about is kind of the theme of this is how do you compete with people that are mm-hmm. bigger? Mm-hmm. . Well, to me it's the whole quality versus quantity concept.

And if you really can provide a certain experience, if you can be engaged with them, the relationships, the connections, uh, so that you're continuing to build value, you're continuing to be able to grow, you know that those are so important. How do you all make sure. That you're building, that you're growing, that you're adding value, and creating a culture that's going to support that so that you're not just hoping that what happened yesterday is gonna happen tomorrow.

Yeah. Uh, part of that is staying very close to customers is a bit what you explained earlier. Um, I try to connect on LinkedIn with everyone that signs up to the software, try to have conversations with them. Uh, we are available on the chat always we're, we are active in communities. Trying to be very close to the customer is, is certainly one part there.

Uh, so because that's one of the, the essential things you're doing, especially in a software company. One is talking to customers, and the other thing is building and to, to the building part. Um, the way we, um, try to stay consistent there and try to, to keep building values, we've built habits for ourselves.

Um, so we, we, we define, for instance, that we make, uh, now we're at about two features per month where we're trying to. One, onboarding improvements, uh, one support approach, improvements, uh, and SEO article being visible at least two times outside our own audience. Like we have this list of things that we're trying to hit on a monthly basis, uh, so that we build some consistent, see in the, the value that we're building on all the levels that we have defined are important for us, uh, and that we, we don't forget any of these things.

So we have an overview and we're like, okay, are we on a monthly basis really like improving in all on all these points? That's awesome. That's something I know at times I've, I've tried to do and haven't done, and when I've done it, I, I've done so much better. I think of mm-hmm. Example, something as simple as either, you know, being on a podcast.

That is gonna be a big dealer being, you know, having a speech somewhere that's a big dealer, getting an opportunity that feels like bigger than normal for somebody. Well, if you only do one podcast interview per year. There's a lot of pressure on that one podcast interview. If you only add one feature per year, there's a lot of, you know, pressure on that.

Whereas if you're constantly doing it in, in a, in a flow, and this is probably one of the areas I do struggle with, but you know, when I do it, I can remember. Yeah. Because, and I guess there's that sense that sometimes every, you know, the next feature's gotta be the next best, greatest feature ever created.

Mm-hmm. , no, it doesn't. It's just. Kinda like showing somebody Yes. I'm still like, even the client, I'm still interested in you being a client. I'm still looking to develop free. I'm still in the game. I'm still engaged. Ironically, good marriage advice, uh, , but I'm still, you know, I'm still, you're still important to us.

I think that's something that when my clients see that, uh, makes a big impact. And then yes, once in a while there'll be some interview or some article or some something I have that then gets higher than average traffic or higher than average. But I wasn't desperately waiting on it. Uh, I was building those habits.

And so that's something I think if you can get your, the team members to do that, the people that work with you to do that, uh, that's huge. Tell me a little bit, if you don't mind, just about your team, how you grew your team, and how you've maintained that commitment for them to want to have a, a culture of growth and to want to keep Contribu.

um, that starts by, first of all, I think hiring the right people. Uh, you need to find these people that are interested in growing. Um, we've made mistakes there in the past, like hired the wrong people that are not interested in growing. But right now I think we have a team where everyone is really, uh, committed to this, like growing on a personal level and growing on a company.

Um, it has sort of different levels to it. Um, we have all kinds of things in place where we, for instance, it all starts with having a culture where everybody can say what's wrong, uh, with things, uh, very openly, uh, that we can discuss things. That's, that's where it all starts. But then you, uh, build in the habits, like I was saying earlier, that you consistently.

Build things. But then next to that, that's, that's sort of an, um, we're gonna improve all these things at the level, but then there's all these, um, things behind that that I also need to discuss. And for that we have, um, biweekly team meetings where we discuss all the things that went wrong in the last two weeks.

All the things that went well in the last two weeks for the things that went wrong. We defined so. That we discussed as a team. And for the things that went well, we, we tried to learn why and so that we can repeat it. Um, and then we also have, for the personal level, we have, uh, monthly one-on-ones. Uh, so every month we sit together and we see like, okay, um, how can we do better, um, as a team, but then discussing on a one-on-one basis, And as a, as a person, uh, and as a collaboration, how can all these things, uh, improve on a consistent basis?

Where is it not going so well and how can we solve that, that that's, there's, we also make space for these things, uh, which is important because if you don't, then you very easily get in the sort of flow of doing stuff and always doing, doing, doing, doing, doing. Um, but without really taking a moment to. To, to discuss where, what you need to do, what you need to improve, uh, and you, yeah, and, and you, you get off track.

You, you stop improving and you get stuck in a rut somewhere. Uh, you know, there's a lot of, uh, problems occurring when you don't do these sort of things. Awesome. It's funny, I, I noticed that one of the books you mentioned was The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that you've read. And as somebody's read that so many years ago, it's, you know, when you see something that works, um, I, I definitely think what you said is so true about hiring, and I was gonna ask you, but, but you already said it.

What is one of the determinants between whether somebody you think you'd like to hire or not? And I think you nailed down one that I don't think I've ever verbalized to people, but I've witnessed it, which is are they personally growing? I think in the sales coaching, there's people I coach and outside of their boss paying to be trained by me.

They don't read any books on sales, you're not gonna grow and you know, and then, or even just personal growth of any sort of personal growth, just that there, whether it's the flavor that you agree with or not, just that this is somebody that's a student that wants to learn, that wants to keep getting better.

Awesome, thank you. Question, where can people find a little bit more about your work? Um, the, the crm and then also a little just about what you do because from talking with you, I think you're gonna find, I could be wrong. I think you're gonna find more and more people end up wanting to also hear not just about your serum, but your message.

As somebody who's been doing software for 20 plus years, there's bits of wisdom you have that I think a lot of people are missing and they, and they translate. I'm gonna actually go back and update some of the stuff that I do. Um, but where can people learn about you and then how can they hear about Sales Flare and, and all the different ways they can connect with you?

Yeah. Okay. Uh, but Sales Flare, that's easy. It's sales and Flair is with F L A R. . Um, so there you can, uh, find out all about the software. You can sign up for a trial if you like, see the software, you know, all these kind of things. Then, uh, in terms of, uh, content that we create, that comes on blog sales, which you can also find the link, uh, from the main site.

Uh, there we publish articles, uh, on all kinds of topics related to sales. But also things in general for, for startups and agencies, which is sort of the, the target group we're focusing on, um, all kinds of, uh, things that we learned or that we want to share on how to improve things. Um, on the, on the founder level, uh, I get on some podcasts, so you can always listen to podcasts with me, but I try to actually, Get similar, uh, pieces of wisdom, uh, from fellow SaaS founders or software as a service founders, uh, on my podcast, which is called Founder Coffee.

Uh, and that's on founder coffee dot sales Um, because there's so many things that, um, founders don't really talk about. Often things are, are on a technical level or, and there's, there's all these underlying things. That somehow I never talked about it, and that's something I tried to expose in my podcast, so Oh, that's awesome how you do that.

That's I could, I could definitely see that because sometimes there's such the focus on the tool. And, uh, the rest of this stuff kind of matters. If people aren't interested in your service or your, or what is your building? It might not matter how great your, your software widget is. Exactly. Awesome. Cool.

Well, thank you so much. Uh, for those of y'all who are not in the software business, hopefully you're able to get. A lot out of this, in case you might or might not realize, I'm just gonna highlight it, 90% of what he said applies to software, business, coaching, business, sales, business, uh, whatever it might be.

Um, I really encourage you all to continue and in fact, no, find him on LinkedIn. I don't think he's gonna kick you out if you, if you connect with him on LinkedIn. No, but add, add a note please, because otherwise I, I think it's. I mean, I need to distinguish you from, from someone who's tried. Yes. You said you heard it on the greatest podcast on Earth, the four Day Workweek Entrepreneur podcast.

Exactly. And then, then, then he'll know. Um, but yes. So thank you so much for coming out. Thank you for sharing, uh, your wisdom with us, and I hope you all can reach out, see what he's adding, because again, it's always my job is to help you all figure out how you can help more people make more money in less time.

Do what you do best. And there's a lot of things he's mentioned. That I think can help you do that. So thank you all for listening. Hope you enjoy this episode and as look, always look forward to helping you create the life and the lifestyle you most desire so you can better enjoy your family, your friends, and your life.

Thank you.

Jeroen CorthoutProfile Photo

Jeroen Corthout


Jeroen is the founder of SalesFlare, a simple yet powerful CRM for small businesses selling B2B (Business To Business) & the Host of the Founder’s Coffee Podcast, where he interviews fellow software company founders.