Rarely does it happen when a CRM becomes a salesperson’s friend as opposed to another project they have to do. This is how revolutionary Salesflare has become, a CRM system that automatically fills itself out so salespeople don’t have to waste time manually putting information in. On today’s show, Jeroen Corthout, the Cofounder of Salesflare, joins John Livesay to talk about how you can sell with flair and the importance of building stories that take your clients on the complete journey. Don’t miss this episode to hear firsthand how you can start applying these same principles of storytelling to win new clients for your business.
Listen To The Episode Here:
Selling With Flair! With Jeroen Corthout
Our guest is Jeroen Corthout, who is the Cofounder and CEO of Salesflare, which is an intelligent CRM that’s built for businesses selling to businesses. It’s popular with agencies and SaaS companies. Salesflare itself was started when his Cofounder wanted to manage the leads for their software company in an easier way. They didn’t like keeping track of them manually and they built Salesflare which pulls customer data together automatically. One of their awards is the Most Popular CRM on Product Hunt for its ease of use. Welcome to the show.
Thank you. Glad to be here.
I always want to ask people their own story of origin before we get into your company’s story of origin. Take us back to childhood days or college days, wherever you want, to start your own story of how did you get interested in software in general?
From childhood, I always like to build stuff. I would do anything, like camps in the woods or build a catapult or all kinds of stuff. I keep build something to see it there and you’re happy with what you’ve created. At some point, I discovered the joy of building websites. That was when I was 14 or 15. That started with the simple GeoCities websites. I don’t know whether you know that. There are websites where you didn’t have to do much. You put some elements there and you built this silly website. It started evolving into building full websites back then with HTML and Flash, there was a lot of Flash going on back then.
I liked that because you could build anything you wanted. Flash disappeared in the meantime. From there, I figured I was going to start my own a web design agency. When I went to the university, I first had a look at Computer Engineering. I did not like what I saw, it looks nerdy and far from reality. I went a different way and went through Electrotechnical Engineering and from there to get it with Business Management. I went into Biomedical Engineering, which was then a totally different thing. It felt more impactful and it felt also like I was learning more but I wanted to start an engineering job. I felt like I want to do something more with customers. I missed that aspect much. I didn’t want to be purely building things.
I wanted to build things for people not being disassociated with the customers. I went to business school. From there, I figured that the best way forward to get some experience is become a product manager in a pharma company. I did that. That was not the right idea. I quickly learned this is a limited role and not at all building your own company or something. When I thought about starting a web agency again, but then for pharma companies, I talked to this guy and he said, “You can join us. We do multichannel for pharma companies.” Everything from websites over CRM, sales, marketing and all that. I did that for four years, did a whole lot of work with Salesforce, for pharma companies internally at the company That’s why I started learning about CRMs and the joy of working with Salesforce. From there, I still figured I want to start my own company. I had a bunch of projects, of which now Salesflare is the first viable one that became a company, all the other ones stopped somewhere.
It’s interesting that you missed the connection and interaction with people as opposed to building things. That’s a part of your personality that’s both engineering-oriented and right brain people-oriented, allows you to have a lot of skills to in fact, run and launch a company. It takes not the tech skill or not just people marketing skills to be successful, you need to have people on your team who complements you where you may not be strong, but also to have that big picture overview which it sounds like you’ve been able to create.
Let’s dig into what made you decide to start Salesflare because I think it’s interesting to hear that typically, you’re first working with pharma companies, helping them with all those different things to make their sales more effective. Yet, Salesforce is something that almost everyone who’s ever had a sales job has used at one point or another. You’re discovering that there’s something not being met because Salesforce couldn’t be customized to pharma or was there something you needed for your own needs that made you want to start this?
It didn’t start from the pharma background. It was more us using Salesforce internally at the consultancy/agency I was working at. That’s also why we have many agencies on the software. A big part of my experience comes from there. We would use it internally. It was my first real CRM. I never understood well how I was supposed to use it as a practical tool. I tried, but I failed. A lot of the things seems like they weren’t built for end users. Certainly, they were built for customization. They were built for organizations to be able to build whatever they like. Let’s say you’re a big enterprise and you want software to adapt to your company completely, then an enterprise CRM like Salesforce is a great choice. When you’re a small company and the company itself is also more interested in something practical, something that’s going to help you sell more, Salesforce is not a great choice. It’s inward-oriented and not so much outward-oriented. It’s organization and not so much end user. I hit a lot of these limits.
What do you mean by agencies? Are we talking ad agencies or PR agencies or consulting agencies?
All of those. We are mostly of marketing agencies, which is partly ad agencies, partly all the types oImagine a CRM that fills itself out! Are leads falling between the cracks? Click To Tweet
I used to work in advertising, called on a lot of ad agencies to get them to run their clients’ campaign with the media I was selling. Ad agencies are constantly pitching to win new business. They need something to keep track of their leads, when proposals come in, and all of that kind of thing. Let’s make this concrete for the readers and you graciously offered to do this with me so people can get a real-life example of what you’re doing and how you’re pitching, as an example. You go into an agency. How are you keeping track of your leads? Are you using Salesforce or nothing? What’s your biggest pain point? How do you open up a sales call to get an agency even to consider taking a meeting with you?
I generally asked what they’re using. I ask how that’s going like if it’s all going to expectations. Are people filling it out to the extent that they are expecting them to fill it out and using this ram to the extent that they’re expecting them to use it? Almost invariably, you will hit a pain point there because nobody fills out a CRM to the extent that they’re supposed to and nobody uses it to the extent that they’re supposed to. That gives me the opportunity to show them that we built a system that fills out itself largely so it’s based on existing data. It’s based on your emails, calendar, phone, social media company database, and it offers the information to you so you can curate it rather than you having to manually input things into a CRM, which then has two big benefits.
One, salespeople are going to use the CRM and make more sales in it because that’s what the CRM can help them with that it’s not dependent on their manual input. Second, for sales managers, that’s often where the story starts, makes it easy for them to create transparency and accountability with their first sales hires or with their existing sales team. Many of our sales conversations start when people hired their first salesperson or first few sales people or when their sales team has outgrown the sheets that they made or something or outgrown the system that they were using. The sales team or the sales manager mostly wants to get a better grasp on what’s happening and it’s not appearing in the CRM. That’s usually where the story starts.
If we’re going to make this applicable to everyone reading, the first thing you need to do is ask questions to find the pain point. Oftentimes, people will ask you, “What’s your secret sauce?” You need to have an answer ready to go whether you’re pitching an investor or pitching a potential new client. What you did well I thought was turned it into a benefit right away. I like that you said the story starts there because what I do with clients is turn these case studies into case stories. If we were to talk about getting someone’s attention even to take a meeting, sometimes it’s frustrating.
A good pitch is clear, concise and compelling. If we were to take what you said and make it slightly more concise so that people instantly get it as opposed to having to wait for the payoffs, they might be a little more intrigued sooner than later. What you could say would be something along the lines of, “I’ve been in your shoes. I worked for an agency, we have a lot of clients like you and then what they’re struggling with.” If you introduce the word struggling, that automatically is typically followed by a pain point so that people lean in and because their whole goal is to get people to see themselves in your story.
“Another agency like you were struggling, because their sales team was not filling out the information. They resented having to do it. They felt like it was a waste of time and we ourselves experienced that. We created Salesflare which instead of having to input something manually, it gives you information and saves you time. Imagine instead of resenting doing something, it was almost as if you had another assistant giving you tips and suggestions so that leads didn’t get lost and things were more organized, which made you more productive so you could make more sales call. Instead of wasting time filling out a CRM so the management can try to understand what you’re doing and what the problems are, you had a CRM that didn’t waste any of your time, but in fact, saved you time.”
I like how you started with it, “I’ve been in your shoes.” You say that I would come to the lean-in.
The fact that I asked you your story of origin gives you credibility. Let’s take an example of turning a case study into a case story. Let’s say that opening new concept there pulls people in because the whole goal of a pitch, even an elevator pitch or the opening pitch, is to intrigue people enough to say, “That’s interesting you’re on. Tell me more.” When you told me that this thing fills itself out, my next question is, is it using artificial intelligence to do that?
Not really. It’s more algorithms.
It doesn’t matter how it’s doing it, but it’s intrigued me enough to ask a question which continues the conversation. It’s not your pitching. Let’s take a client that’s used you. There are four parts to a great story. The first part is the exposition. Do you have a client in mind that hired you a year ago or so? When did they hire you?
Many years ago.
Can you say the name of the client?Perfection is not the goal, but being consistently good is the goal. Click To Tweet
I’d rather not share because what I’m going to share afterwards is a lot more personal.
A marketing company or an ad agency type? Describe what they do. What kind of company?
It’s rather complex to explain what they do.
Are they an agency?
It’s a software development company.
That’s all we need to know because we want to be describing theoretically, you’re calling on another software development company. The case story that’s exactly like this, what I was saying is business. Many years ago, a software development company based in where? Give us a country.
Southeast Asia, I’ll say. Otherwise, it’s too easy to identify.
That’s the opening of your story. That’s the exposition like a journalist, who, what, where, when. What they were struggling with was? Now, fill-in what their pain points are.
They were having a lot of leads dropping through the cracks. They were not organizing this well enough. They didn’t have it visually in front of them, first of all. Secondly, they didn’t know well what was last discussed with each customer. They didn’t know exactly when to fall, but whom, which meant that they were losing quite some money.
Is there anything that you do that Salesforce doesn’t do around those pain points?
Automatically keep track of what’s been discussed. Our software also nudges you to follow-up the right times based on when you were last in contact and emails that go unanswered and stuff like that.
They’ve started using it. What was the solution? Ideally the solutions are the opposite of the problem. After they used Salesflare for 2 or 3 months, they went from leads falling between the cracks to not one lead being lost. Instead of missing follow-ups, they were nudged a day before and because they were following up more accurately, then describe what happens to their business. Their sales go up as a percentage.Your everyday business conversations are, in fact, a manageable business issue. Click To Tweet
They shared with me that their sales went up by $1 million US a year.
Our morale is good I think. I don’t know what the morale look like.
Remember, good stories have an emotional hook. It’s not all wonders. People are more competent, they’re sleeping, the management’s happier. Morale is up because the sales reps feel like the management’s not mad at them for losing leads. That’s the secret sauce to storytelling. Any potential new client hearing this case story, instead of a case study that’s boring with stats only, is going, “That’s what we want. Not only do we want more sales, but we want our team to instead of fighting with management and getting yelled at for losing leads and not following up to feel happy working here.” They stay.
The whole thing from start to finish would sound like this, “Many years ago, a marketing software company in Southeast Asia was struggling because their leads were falling between the cracks.” They couldn’t visually get a quick snapshot of what was happening. They forgot when they were supposed to follow-up with people. All of that was causing a lot of tension in the company. Sales managers were constantly hounding the reps, “What about this? What about that? Why haven’t you followed up?” Once they started using Salesflare, all of those problems short time. Leads were no longer falling between the cracks. They weren’t having to waste a lot of time to enter the leads because we automatically did that for them and that’s our secret sauce. A year later, sales are up a million dollars. More importantly, everyone’s happier. There’s no more blame game going on because everyone’s feeling more productive, efficient and the team is running smoothly. “Does that sound like the journey you’d like to go on with us?”
For the readers, if you need some help turning these case studies and stories. Certainly, if you need a CRM that’s going to automatically do it, then the two of us could be a resource for you to not only have better pitches, but also to use a tool that being something you resent to something that you are happy, that’s helping you. When that happens, you’re more productive, and more importantly, you’re feeling proud of the work you’re producing because nobody purposely lets leads fall between the cracks, they’re overwhelmed, they need help. It’s not their fault.
Sales where instead of being a burden becomes like a Sherpa helping somebody climb Mount Everest. That’s what we wanted to talk about was how to use story telling a real-life example so that you’re on can now use this for his sales team who’s going out to pitch because, like myself, I have to sell myself to get companies to hire me as a sales speaker. We all have to sell ourselves all the time. the better we describe stories of why we got hired and what is life like after they hired me to speak or hired him to use Salesflare, and they see themselves in the story, then you’re no longer pushing. That’s the magic of storytelling is that you and your team now can describe a story like that and say, “Does that sound like the journey you’d like to go on with Salesflare?” Instead of like, “Do you want to buy?” It’s a different way to sell.
It sounds compelling when you said it like that.
Any last thoughts you want to share with us about your own journey growing Salesflare or your goals for the future or any tips you have?
The advice I’d like to give to the readers is to be able to build these stories and journeys that you want to take people on. It’s important to talk to your own customers that you already have to understand their stories and journeys and to do some customer interviews with them. You can select the best customers you’re having. Invite them to have a call and then to understand the full journey, “This is thing I like to follow,” the jobs to be done methodology, but then the version by Bob Moesta from The ReWired Group. They have an interview about the four forces and that’s a play on any buying decision and it helps to uncover those. It goes from there’s inertia, like what kept people on the old solution. There’s the push of the old solution towards the new one, because there’s something wrong with your solution.
There’s the pool of the new solution, like the brighter world and there’s also an anxiety to go to the new solution. When you’re with your questions uncovering these four things, it’s come to interesting conclusions. Plus, it’s good to take this story as long as possible. When I do these interviews, I don’t ask what they were using before Salesflare, but I also asked what they were using before that and understand what the company was like, who was in charge of these decisions, why they were using these systems, how that worked, things like that. You can clearly visualize the whole journey instead of taking this small snapshot out of it they would normally be taking. That informed a lot of our thinking about why people choose Salesflare over other systems, what they compare with which is invaluable information when you’re building these stories, building up your marketing anything towards customers.
If you want to create a story, make sure you’re creating a story that takes your customers on the full journey, not just part of the journey. Thanks for being on the show. We can find you on LinkedIn and your company Salesflare.com.
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