In this podcast episode, we interview Jeroen Corthout, Co-Founder of Salesflare, a CRM platform.

Jeroen shares his journey to setting up Salesflare, and how the platform can help make sales teams lives easier by automatically entering data that previously would have been manual. He also explains how he thinks CRMs should be benefiting salespeople, what the future of CRM’s look like, and why lead scoring is a vital tactic that all B2B marketers should consider.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Jeroen Corthout – Salesflare

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Jeroen Corthout

Mike: Thanks for listening to marketing b2b Tech, the podcast from Napier, where you can find out what really works in b2b marketing today. Welcome to marketing b2b technology, the podcast from Napier. Today, I’m joined by your own at Jeroen Corthout, who is the co founder and CEO of a CRM company Salesflare. Welcome to the podcast Jeroen.

Jeroen: Thank you happy to be here.

Mike: Great. So I think the first thing to ask is really, how have you managed to end up developing a CRM system? What led you to this role?

Jeroen: Sounds crazy, right? Who would want to I mean, there’s still people every day creating new CRMs, which I think means one thing, and that’s that the current CRMs are not really doing their job. That’s also the reason why we started, we tried many different systems. And none of them worked for us. So we actually we had a software company, it was a business intelligence, and we had a bunch of leads. And what we needed was basically, a system to organise that follow up in a good way. And, in principle, that’s what most sales CRMs are built for. And in a way, they’re I mean, the software is built for that. But there’s also always one bottleneck where we tripped up with every single system. And that was our own discipline. And that was because there was a mismatch between the amount of discipline and dedication we had to get to data input, and the amount of discipline and data and dedication. The system was asking us in terms of data and but and a common thing with with almost every CRM, I think it’s it comes from a time where I mean, there was a day when you will have these sheets, and you will diligently fill them out. But the material drawer and whatever, that it became all digital, and people just took the paper stuff digital, but never really rethought. What, what else could it do. And we’re in a place where we’re basically people are still like, like robots or monkeys, filling out their serum all the time with data from different places.

While if you look in the consumer world, the apps you’re using every day, they organise the data for you, you’re not curating data in these apps. And if you are, it’s an app, you’re probably going to give up on at some point. Same thing with CRMs. And we saw that, and we saw that actually, a lot of the data we were inputting in our CRM was already somewhere. So if you would go into CRM and say, We just email that person that was actually already in our email system. When we would copy phone number and, and name and email from email signatures and emails, that’s already in there as well, when we would say we had a meeting with them that was in our calendar already, when we call with them that was in our phone already. Then there was like tracking stuff we had set up that we would have liked Oh, visit to the site, put it in, that was in there already. So we saw lots of different sort of disparate data sources, with all information that should be in the CRM. And if you would have it in there, it would really help us do our Salesforce, but it wasn’t there. So at some point, we set out to build that system. And we started with the email integration, but that we built all the other ones as well. And we built a system that really starts from that existing data and makes it really easy for you to curate, based on that, what is already there. And basically, you just need to indicate uncertainty that company knows everything about it already knows who you know, there, it knows the timeline knows their, their, their details they shared with you, and all this kind of things. And that it makes it really easy for you to do the sales follow up based on that. So that’s, that’s why we why we built this company.

Mike: That’s fascinating. So I think most people with their CRMs you know, the biggest problem is getting the sales team to actually enter the data. And your solution rather than trying to beat the sales team up was to actually get the data entered automatically

Jeroen: That’s correct. When I was doing customer interviews in the in the beginning, I would interview people like around how do you sell? What sort of process do you have? What kind of software do you use? How does that work? What doesn’t work? And people would always say like, oh, no, the CRM is fine. I mean, it’s just, it’s just you know what the problem is, salespeople are lazy. If we would just if we just beat them with a stick, but figuratively If we take away their bonus, or we just forced them, otherwise, we fired them or whatever that works. And it’s not really the software, they said, that’s not really the issue. It’s really the salespeople. And then I would always try to convince them like, no, no, I think the software could be better. And they’re like, No, I think I really think it’s not the software. And so we have to keep persisting and keep believing that the software could be better.

Mike: And I’m interested, I mean, because you’re actually from from a healthcare background rather than from from being in a development background. So what made you you know, so determined to fix CRM that you actually decided to build a product and sell it?

Jeroen: Yeah, so my healthcare background i i studied electronical engineering, which then in MIT, a master’s in Biomedical Engineering, it was it was already very focused on on data processing. So my master’s thesis, for instance, was taking the heart signal. And based on the heart signal, seeing whether somebody has sleep apnea or not, it’s typically based, done based on 12 signals, and I would only take one signal on and do the classification. I don’t want it to be marketing and pharma companies. And then, actually, from there shifted into a consulting role, where we would help pharma companies digitise and CRM was always a big part there. In every project, like we would do marketing projects, or sales projects, but there was always a central CRM in which will track the data. And I always saw that salespeople, even though, they gave, like the situation in these five companies, they came from Siebel, a very old sort of ugly CRM from Oracle. And they would be migrated onto Salesforce, which was like a dream to them almost. Even though it seemed like a dream, the dream never really came true in the end, because even though they switch to the new system, they usage remains abysmal. Which, which I found really weird. Plus, in the in the company I was working, we were also using Salesforce internally. I really tried to use it myself for practical purposes, but I never really succeeded. And I always wondered why, I mean, this was the software that was supposed to change my life and organise my sales. But instead, it seemed more like a reporting tool towards my manager, in which he could put make nice reports and find all the data, it wasn’t really a tool for me. And that’s frustration sort of built up over the years. And but it was only really, when we needed something badly for our own software company, which I was working on. That’s when we decided to, to start fixing it basically.

Mike: Fascinating. So I mean, it was a case where you build a software company, you found a need, and then you almost morphed into this new CRM company. I mean, I’m interested from from the point of view of CRMs, you mentioned that a lot of people see a lot of salespeople see CRMs, as being, you know, really primarily used to get data to report to managers. I mean, what do you see as the benefits that CRM should be delivering to salespeople?

Jeroen: I think the, it depends on the sort of sales you’re doing. But if it’s b2b sales, it’s helping with managing that customer relationship, like the name says, which means, in very simple terms, helping to follow up leads, if I ask our customers, so what is the main thing Salesforce helps you with is following up leads. It’s not more complicated than that. So in a lot of companies, a lot of revenue is lost by just doing improper follow up. We just forget about a certainly though you forget what you discussed, or you just not following up at the right time, or you know, in all these cases, the sales process comes to a halt where it where it shouldn’t have come to a halt. And salespeople really want to fix that. Now, the thing is, with most CRMs, if they want to fix that, they need to do a whole lot of work to keep the system up to date. And there are easier ways. So what you’ll find in many companies is they have a CRM in which they need to put stuff because management says so. And they’ll put some stuff in there. But they built a system for themselves next to it, which will actually help them organise that form. So maybe they have their tasks in Outlook, or they have some sort of task management application. Maybe they have a notebook in which they keep stuff. Maybe they have an Excel sheet even next to the CRM, all of these things happen. And that’s, that’s just a pity. And the thing is, you need to make it as easy as possible for the salespeople to follow up their leads better. And if that can happen in this CRM, then that is a major plus for everyone else as well, not just for the salespeople, because from that moment, you will have the complete view on which customers are talking to about what, which days opportunities are, what the data is about these people, things about, I don’t know, maybe products they buy, or all these kind of things, it’s it is great for reporting for their sales manager. It’s also great as a sort of channel of collaboration with the marketing team. Because you can look at the same data and be like, Okay, these are the customers the sales team is working with, and the marketing team is targeting leads maybe the same as maybe other ones. In such a way. All of these things are really easy normally to track for the marketing team, they can put a database there and and if you send an email to a to a list or so it’s it’s pretty easy to do to record that. But if it if it’s not completed with that data that comes from the sales team, you’re missing out on on a whole lot to have that complete view. And you might you might even be doing stupid things like for instance, sending promotions to a customer who is just about to sign a contract or so. Which is obviously something you want to avoid.

Mike: Absolutely, I think I think a lot of marketing people have inadvertently done that. And so it sounds to me like you’re making CRM very simple. I mean, you’re really saying it’s all about just basic tracking of interactions, not about detailed call reports or anything. And then it’s really about what the next step is, is that is that is that what you’re saying? Is that your view, it’s all about driving that next step

Jeroen: It’s definitely about that’s, that’s what I usually say this, there’s there’s two important things, when you’re to sell well, it’s understanding where every person is in the process and keeping all the information around that. So you can organise things at scale. That is what distinguishes the good salesperson from the great salesperson, because the good salesperson that that person will be able to empathise with every customer one on one in a really good way. But what makes it great is be able to scale that across 10s or hundreds of leads, that is really hard. And it really requires organisation. And the next step is really the essential part there. That’s the key thing you want to focus on. To drive the sales, the sales process forward to guide the customer from having a problem to actually solving the problem together with you.

Mike: Perfect. Okay, one other area that I think you know, particularly listeners of this podcast, which is primarily about marketing will be interested in is the interface between marketing and sales. And it’s always a big challenge, handing off leads. So I mean, I guess to start with, you know, what do you see as being the best practices for marketing, generating and qualifying leads? And then how should they hand them off to the sales team.

Jeroen: To be honest, that happens differently in every company. Also, at different stages, often, in some companies, they just basically call every marketing leads that comes in, like somebody downloaded a white paper called, in some companies, there’s a lead scoring going on, which is definitely a gentler way of doing it. But then again, it also depends on the deal size you’re dealing with. If it’s a very large deal size, then it’s might pay off to also call the ones that just download the white paper. Because then you can really put in that effort. And you have more chance to find the, the gems in there, so to say. Because there are not many, and you need to need to find them. Right. So I don’t think there’s one general rule but I’d say if possible, to try to implement some sort of the scoring on two sides, like first, how interesting is that customer to us? Like are they in the right? Sector, geography, revenue size or whatever. You don’t need to bother people who are not obviously not a good customer for you. And secondly, how interested are they in you? Did they just do a very simple thing? That doesn’t mean anything? Or do they really express interest? What’s the level there? And then if you combine these two into one score, you have a good idea of what the probability is there that you have a good marketing qualified leads.

Mike: That’s fascinating. I love the the two stages, they you know, how good a fit they are, and then how interested they are in you that that I think is, you know, really good indication about, you know, likelihood to buy and then likelihood to buy now in terms of level of engagement. So that’s, that’s fantastic. So with Salesforce CRM, I mean, how do you integrate with marketing platforms? Do you do you have direct integrations? What’s the best practice in terms of linking your marketing database with your sales? CRM?

Jeroen: Yeah, there’s different possibilities there. With some systems. We have native integrations with some systems, we have integrations through tools like Zapier, which are really like if something happens here, then put it in there. integrations are a native integrations can also be built that way. And there’s also synchronisation platforms, like for instance, a sync Penguin or so that can really keep keep two databases next to each other up to date with with real life to a sync, instead of being the sort of if this happens, and this isn’t doing any other system, if that doesn’t necessarily also sing the two ways if you know what I mean. So there’s there’s different options there. It it also depends a bit on the use case and the sort of process you want to automate. If it’s a thing like if this happens in the marketing system, they become a marketing qualified lead above a certain score with them as a lead in CRM, they probably only needs sort of Zapier type integration, the push push the thing from one to the other, if it’s really about keeping the full information up to date, and you need some sort of sort of sinking system.

Mike: Cool. Now, I mean, we’ve got a fairway into this interview, we’ve managed to avoid mentioning Salesforce. So I think, you know that this is something we need to talk about. I mean, clearly, what we see particular amongst enterprise customers is Salesforce is just absolutely dominating the market. And you’ve chosen to take on this, this huge competitor. So where do you think Salesforce, you know, falls down? Where is it weak, and why would sales won’t be successful with

Jeroen: Salesforce is is is weak, where it’s strong, I would say where it’s where it’s really strong is with enterprise customers. And that’s, it’s in the sort of, they’ve built almost a developer platform, where you can define the whole thing. And that’s is their main strength and the whole consulting ecosystem they have around that, if you’re a huge company, and you want something exactly the way you want it, then Salesforce is a good way to go. The whole way they sell also is very enterprising, with a contract to you by maybe multi year and all this kind of things. Once you go to small businesses, they try to make that work as well. But somehow it’s it’s not really built for small businesses. So they what they’ve done is they take the, the enterprise software, and then make an essential package of them, like just just take that thing and then remove all the other features basically, and then try to sell that to small businesses, but that’s not really the way it works. Because the software because it’s so customizable, that means you need to make certain trade offs, like for instance, everything is is very generic in the interface. It’s it’s not necessarily built the way it’s optimised for me to use in every place because I mean, it could be it could be changed so that’s that’s that’s where in as a as a product manager or developer you need to I can I say you get out customise things very deeply because it’s so customizable. And then also the whole way they sell and stuff is not super adapted to small businesses. So we often actually small businesses, it’s more in a medium sized segment that we often compete with Salesforce. And then they say well, Salesforce, it’s big it’s it’s it’s expensive, and salespeople don’t like to work with it and all these kind of things. And then of the smaller companies we compete with some other systems which are big innovation If like HubSpot or so that’s a it’s a whole other thing. I’d say Salesforce is not super present in the small business segments.

Mike: And that’s actually interesting. You brought up HubSpot. And I think one of the things we see is in the smaller sector, a lot of the marketing automation tools are trying to offer CRM as part of their software suite. I mean, do you see that as being a bigger challenge for you in the smaller medium sized market? And Salesforce?

Jeroen: Yeah, yeah. Because that’s definitely a bigger challenge for us. Because there’s a tendency for businesses to just think like, we need a CRM, and it’s like a checkbox, which is you need to just check it off without thinking what you’re actually trying to achieve with that. So just need CRM and then you think like, oh, God, would be nice if it’s integrated with other stuff. And then you see this thing, and it’s like, oh, it’s all in one. And then businesses go for that without thinking much. It might not, then in the end, be really used by our sales team, which then invalidates the whole point. But it’s, it’s a harder thing to see. Well, if you look at Salesforce, it’s very quickly apparent that is not going to work. With HubSpot. It’s like gonna work. Will it not work? It’s yeah, so not not as clear as a difference.

Mike: Interesting. So I mean, I’m sure you’re gonna say it’s much easier to deploy sales for flair than it is to deploy Salesforce. But I’m interested to know, I mean, how easy is it to deploy, you talk about automatically pulling in data from multiple sources? Is that complicated to set up? Does that take a lot of time?

Jeroen: No, you just go on our site, you click Try three. And then it says, What do you want to connect with? And then you say, Google, okay, you click another time to authenticate Google, it connects. You get in the software, it gives you a walkthrough, it shows your sales letter works. In the meantime, it is already synchronising everything, by the time you get into the software, everything is there and you can just start working. You can also quickly connect your calendar the same way. You can instal the the sidebar for your Gmail or Outlook very simply, maybe one of the more complicated things is taking the website tracking and putting in the site depends how technical you are whether you need to go through a developer it or so. But it’s all very easy. We’re actually the number one easiest to use CRM on G, the world’s world’s leading b2b software review site.

Mike: Now, you actually skipped over something there that I thought was very interesting. You said, When you connect your email this the CRM starts auto populating. So you’re actually creating contacts from email interactions. Is that right?

Jeroen: Yeah, so there’s a sort of a big personal database you have as a user, which is with all the people you’ve ever emailed, or had meetings with. And if you create a company, it will automatically suggests like, oh, we see in your contact database, we see these people at the company, do you want to add them, they already have all the information collected on them. So you can do this? Well click what when you do that, and you assign it to companies, then they become part of your company, contact database, because then it’s clear that they are relevant to the company. So that’s in a very easy way, you can build up a shared address book

Mike: that presumably saves a lot of typing data in for the sales team.

Jeroen: It does save a lot of time. It’s actually almost all the time, you would you wouldn’t need Yeah, that’s awesome.

Mike: So I mean, looking forward CRMs, in a way, as you say, have been quite similar. for quite a period of time they initially tried to replicate this paper based system. What do you see is the future for CRM? Where do you think it’s going?

Jeroen: I think it’s it’s it’s it’s all becoming way more of a pragmatics, it used to be more of a database, let’s say it’s becoming more of a platform that is actually used to do something nowadays. So in in the area we’re in all the CRMs are going to become sales platforms in the end, some serums are going to become marketing platforms or marketing platforms will have CRMs that the CRMs will actually have a purpose they will go beyond being a database. So for instance, in our system the the timeline is very central, like that the the interactions which makes sense because the interactions define a relationship. The phone number of a person does not define your relationship. Put them that’s nice information to have, if you want to call them but but then you in the system, you can also immediately call a person or email or, you know, it’s a it’s it’s more of a communication system than a than a database and, and a way of organising everything around where the database is there, but it’s a secondary next to the next to the, the sort of the interactions you’re having.

Mike: Interesting. So, I mean, really more and more focused around driving that, that if you like, customer journey and moving people through on to a next step towards a purchase.

Jeroen: Yeah. And that’s actually now like, we are expanding beyond that. Now. Also, in the CRM space, you’ll see all CRMs starting to absorb if it’s a Sales Service absorbing sales tools. Like back in the day, we had a, we had an email tracking tool as part of the CRM, we had a way to, for instance, send email sequences, there was software for that it’s part of the CRM, there was what else scattered reminder tools, you can instal in your Gmail inbox, or it’s part of the CRM and and that just expands because it just becomes a sales platform. So all of these functionalities all make sense in there. Plus, when they’re together, and they share the same data. They’re all the more powerful, so

Mike: perfect. I mean, I really appreciate your time you’re in talking about this. I wonder, is there anything you feel we’ve missed? Or you’d like to highlight about sales flow that we haven’t covered yet?

Jeroen: No, no, if you want to find out more about Salesflare, you could just go to flares, Fl, fl, ar e, and you can try the software and on the site as well.

Mike: And a free trial as well. You just plug it in, enter your email details and it starts it starts.

Jeroen: The next day your emails, it starts. You start off at seven days. But that’s it’s a it’s it goes up to 30 days, if you set it up, you get extra days on a trial. We’ve seen that people who set up the software better, it’s good for them, it’s good for us because they’re actually more successful with the software which for us means that they stay longer. So we we motivate people to set it up completely by giving them days while something up. That makes sense. So if you for instance, in like invite another user get an extra four days on the software, if you instal the email sidebar, you get an extra day and like that, you got 30 days.

Mike: I love that using interaction to extend the trial is great, because, you know, it clearly gets people much more engaged in the tool, but it also rewards them for for actually really giving the tool a good evaluation rather than just, you know, something that’s a bit cursory. Yeah, brilliant. Yeah. And lastly, I mean, if somebody is listening to this, and they’re interested in like to get hold of you your own, what would be the best way to for them to contact you and ask a question.

Jeroen: A best place probably LinkedIn, you can just, there’s only one person with my exact name. So if you find it somewhere here, type it into LinkedIn or copy it, and you can send me a connection request, please do add a personal message. So I know what it’s about. If there’s no personal message, I will have to assume spam, like most things I get on LinkedIn. But if you add one, I also did connect with you and we can chat.

Mike: Awesome, that’s great. Thank you very much for that. Well, I really appreciate it. It’s been really interesting talking to you and seeing, you know how you’re taking a slightly different view on CRM, and what that offers sales team. So I really appreciate your time. Thanks, Erin.

Jeroen: Thank you. This was fun for me as well.

Mike: Awesome. Thanks for being on the podcast. Thanks so much for listening to marketing b2b Tech. We hope you enjoyed the episode. And if you did, please make sure you subscribe on iTunes, or on your favourite podcast application. If you’d like to know more, please visit our website at Napier b2b dot com or contact me directly on LinkedIn.