Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 218: Q & A with Nicolas Vandenberghe @NicolasVDB


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If you’re not already subscribed to Sales Pipeline Radio, or listening live every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific you can find the transcription and recording here on the blog every Monday morning.  The show is less than 30 minutes, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities. You can subscribe right at Sales Pipeline Radio and/or listen to full recordings of past shows everywhere you listen to podcasts! Spotify,  iTunesBlubrry, Google Play, iHeartRADIO, or Stitcher

This week’s episode is entitled “Best Practices for Managing the B2B Prospect Experience” and our guest is Nicolas Vandenberghe, the Co-Founder & CEO of Chili Piper.

Don’t miss this one.  We pack a lot of great information into a short amount of time!  Listen in now and/or read the transcript below:

Paul:  Hey, welcome back everybody. It’s time to grab your board and swim out into that sea of ideas because it’s time for Sales Pipeline, with the man who’s already got his surfing gear on, Matt Heinz.

Matt:  I’m ready to go Paul. We have this small window of summer here in the Seattle, and we are in the thick of it. It is high 70’s, low 80’s. Later this weekend, it’s going to get close to 90 and they’re already talking about us. So this is where people, in other parts of the country, just sort of say like, you’ve got your beach drizzle down there Paul. Up here we are wimps about weather. If we get a half inch of snow in the winter, the city shuts down. If it gets to be 90 degrees here and given, this isn’t 90 with humidity. This is 90, just hot. People freak out. It’s the top of the news. You’ll have the weatherman starting off the local news telling you don’t go outside. Oh boy. Take water with you everywhere. We kind of are wimps about weather here.

Paul:  That’s the opposite of where I grew up in the Midwest and I was born in Minnesota. Grew up in Michigan. Especially Minnesota, summer is so short. You don’t care when it’s there. You just have to get it. You can’t waste one day of it because it’s only going to last three days the whole summer. So you better get the heck out there and do whatever you’re going to do. So they’re not wimps at all about or in winter when it snows, they keep going. But here I’m with you. Yeah.

Matt:  Yeah, no, it’s, I don’t know. I’m thankful that it is sunny. I’m thankful that it is warm. I’m thankful that I kicked out into the backyard. As long as the blowup pool has water and no spiders, we’re good to go for another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. Thanks everyone for joining us on another episode. If you are joining us live on the Funnel Media Radio Network, thank you for making us part of your work from home, work from the office by yourself day. We’re kind of in that weird transition period, Paul, where everyone’s doing different things. If you’re listening to us on the podcast, thank you very much for joining us. If you are new to Sales Pipeline Radio, we every week are covering some of the best and brightest ideas and minds and thinkers in the B2B sales and marketing space. And you can find every one of our episodes past and present, almost 300 episodes now, Paul, up at

Always featuring some great guests. Today is absolutely no different. Very excited to have with us, the CEO of Chili Piper. And I really hope I’m going to get this name. Nicolas Vandenberghe. Did I do that right? Did I miss a syllable? How we doing?

Nicolas:  Pretty good. Pretty good. You’re doing well. Thank you.

Matt:  Well, thank you very much. I know you’re a busy guy. Thank you for joining us. I feel like despite the pandemic and some of the headwinds we’ve seen in 2020, we are in a golden age of sales tools and sales technology. And I think what you guys are doing with sort of calendar and inbox management is pretty special. So talk a little bit about what Chili Piper is and who your customers are and what you guys do.

Nicolas:  Sure. We are a sales tech company. We help sales people do their job. More broadly, revenue teams do their job. Our leading product is solving a simple problem. When people come to a website and want to engage with the company, they ask to submit a form. So they’ll see the form and submit that form. And until we came up with a product, they will get a thank you page. So, it will be thank you. Somebody is going to call you. And we found that sometimes nobody would call them. They would never hear from people. So we solved that problem. We have a solution that in real time upon form submission, find the rep, that you talk to that person. Dial the rep, dial the person, put them in touch, or return the calendar of the rep and make sure they can book a time. That’s our whole product, Chili Piper. And around that, we build a suite of products to help follow up schedule, follow up meetings, and everything around making a scheduling super easy and well integrated into this process.

Matt:  Talk a little bit about the benefits this has, not just for the sales team in terms of getting appointments scheduled. I think too often, when we talk about sales technology, we talk about … Rightly we talk about creating efficiency and value for sales teams, but it strikes me that as a user of these tools from both a buyer and a seller standpoint. As a buyer, it makes things a lot easier for me to feel like I’m controlled, in control of the buying process. How important has that been for you in the development of Chili Piper. as well as the evolution of the suite of products you guys offer?

Nicolas:  I’ll tell you a story that happened to me at some stage in our sales team with service time, we upgraded our subscription to LinkedIn. And so I thought, “Okay, I’ll just go and buy the whatever next version, premium LinkedIn navigator. I should buy.” And I found that I couldn’t just buy it with my credit card. I had to talk to a salesperson. So I use the form to talk to a sales person and upon on form submission, nothing happened. And a few days later I was surprised that still nothing had happened, no e-mails, no phone calls. So in this case I was motivated. I reached out again and it turned out that somebody had called me. Somebody had called me the next day. It was a 4-8 number because LinkedIn is in the Bay area. I don’t have contact for 4-8 number so I didn’t pick up the phone.

I don’t check my voicemail. There’s too many. So if I hadn’t been so motivated, they would have lost that deal. And from my perspective, it felt surprising that a company at the stature of a LinkedIn would not follow up on their call request. So it was a very poor experience. And the amazing thing is that nowadays it’s no exception. They have very little competition, but for most of the companies there is competition. And so buyers, if you don’t call them back, they’ll say, “Okay, that company’s not worth doing business with. I’ll just go to their competitor. But if the competitor buys you back, then that’s what you’re going to go with. I think somewhere all decisions happen much faster than they used to. And, from a buyer standpoint, you’re going to go with the company that gives you a … That is more responsive, that you will learn to trust from the very early days.

So it has a huge impact. I was actually, when we started building this product, I sampled a bunch of companies and said, “So what, how do you do your process?” And they say, “Well, we have a sales development rep call upon the form submission.” So I talked to these sales development reps and I said, “So how’s it going for you?” They say, “It’s going great. I’m converting at 40%.” So I say, “What do you mean by that?” He means out of a 100 forms that were submitted. 40 of them got the meeting. And I’m thinking, “You mean to tell me that 60 people actually submitted a form never heard from you or something. And in the end, didn’t get a meeting.”

And that seems to be the norm in the B2B industry, at least that companies lose 60% of their hard earned pipeline and accept it that way. So that’s the price they pay for providing a bad buyer experience is that the buyers just move on and they just lose that potential revenue. So it’s actually quite amazing that the industry has just gone on for so long with this broken process.

Matt:  And this creates a problem for sellers as well as for the marketing organization, right? Where if you’re not following up quickly, it’s possible that your prospect is moving on to someone else that did. If you’re a marketing team and you’re not getting that connection with the prospect, then all of a sudden a well-meaning and potentially high potential marketing program is going to see less results as well. Who do you see really clamoring to solve this problem? If anybody right now is this, I mean, this is a tool that supports sales, but are marketers getting involved in helping us support this from a sales enablement standpoint as well?

Nicolas:  That’s a very interesting question because our intuition when we build that tool, was the same as what you hinted is that sales would really want it because they are the people tasked to follow up with the leads. And if we can have them follow up faster, they will do it. It turned out to be the opposite. It turned out that it’s marketing who is in the driving seat in procuring our solution. It seems that sales is used to their process and they are happy continuing with their own sweet way where marketing is now more and more measured on pipeline, as opposed to just leads, right? So it’s no longer a sufficient for marketing to say, “Hey, I give you a 100 leads this week.” It’s these leads where they qualify, where the pipeline. So as marketing is now measured on pipeline, they have an interest in making sure that the leads that have submitted the form actually booked and talked to and ideally they’re processed. So we finding it’s mostly marketers who come to us and say, “Hey, help me fix our process and recover these lost pipeline.”

Matt:  Talk a little bit about the places where this is useful. Because I think a lot of people are used to having some automated scheduling tools in various formats. A lot of times it’s being done in an e-mail back. And so you’re eliminating sort of this back and forth and e-mail of, “Well, what’s your schedule like?”

“No, I can’t do that.” And so in terms of scheduling something with a strong prospect in e-mail, that’s one thing, but this has extensions beyond that. What are some other places like events, live events and other places where this can really streamline the connection process?

Nicolas:  Yeah. Events is another great example. Obviously, nowadays there aren’t many events, but same thing apply when companies were sponsoring trade shows, they would send 10, 20, 30 people at Dreamforce say, and then they’d come back, they would have scan badges. And when you scan badge, then you have to do all sorts of steps to e-mail these people whom we scan, trying to reengage with them. So once we told them and say, “Hey, don’t do that. Don’t scan badges. Book the meeting on the spot.” And they said, “Well, we can’t do that because we have to decide who to route and who to give it to and how to qualify.” And that’s what we did in our software. The ability to qualify and route in real time. So we have a solution where if you go to one of our customers booth that say, Dreamforce. You will immediately be able to book a meeting right on this spot and receive the invite on your iPhone while you’re talking to the person.

All the aspects that are throughout the life cycle of a relationship. You find that meetings are crucial. And the ability to book a meeting super easily in just one click is makes a difference. So most of our customers start with their inbound process like I mentioned on the website. That we help them book the net new logos, but then typically they deploy us so further customer success team, customer support team. All of them want to be able to book meetings faster. And so if somebody let’s say you’re sending a renewal in LSA, “Hey, we should talk about your renewal,” to last time next week, say. There may be more than one person in the meeting. You want to make that process super easy. You don’t want to have to extend five e-mails to make that meeting happen.

So what we find is that typically we start with marketing and then every other department ends up with Chili Piper and with a better way to book meetings. It’s actually something that will become completely standard, I think, in the coming year, so that you no longer extend e-mails, you just use Chili Piper or something equivalent to propose some times and have the software do all the tedious work for you.

Matt:  Hey, we got to take a quick break, pay some bills. We’ll be back with more with our guests today. CEO of Chili Piper, Nicolas Vandenberghe. We’re going to be talking more about making sales teams more efficient, talking about lessons from a lifetime of entrepreneurship and more. We’ll be right back. Sales Pipeline Radio.

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Matt:  Yeah, just staring out the window wistfully. As much as I love Sales Pipeline Radio, looking forward to getting out there in the sunshine today. Recording here from the temporary Heinz marketing headquarters in Kirkland, Washington, and yes, Paul.

I mean we don’t do this as a video. So I’m still in my workout clothes with my flip flops on. And so one of the benefits of working from home. You just do what you got to do, especially in the summer just to get a little comfortable. But, no we just got a few more minutes with our guests today here, CEO of Chili Piper. Calendar and inbox tools for high performing revenue teams, Nicolas Vandenberghe.

Actually, I want to take a step back and change gears a little bit. You are a longtime multi-time entrepreneur. You have founded and run many, many companies. And I know we get a lot of people listening to this call that are at startups, that are founders themselves, that are considering going down that road themselves. We’d love to get some advice from you on what you’ve experienced, the good, the bad, the ugly. And sort of for people that are going down that road, they may not have the at bats you’ve had, what kind of advice you’d give them.

Nicolas:  Indeed. I don’t know about many, many but yes, it’s my fourth company. And then some exits. There’s a great quote from Paul Rahm, who says only thing that kills startup is not doing, making something that users want. And the biggest mistake that entrepreneurs make is not trying long enough. So fundamentally, at the end of the day, this is the other quote by Andreesen. Mark Andreesen, Andreesen Harvey who said product market fit is what matters. At the end of the day, you start a company, you’ve got to focus on the product and do something that really brings value and gets you users. And it rarely happens in one iteration. You know, there’s this myth that maybe it happened with Slack, where they put it online and there was in one day, 10,000 people and the next day, 20,000 people. In real life, it doesn’t happen that way.

It takes a long time to iterate and find this product market fit or find a product that people really love. And that is the key to every company. Every successful company is to be willing to spend the time and the attention, and listen to feedback until you get that product to really work. The rest, once you have a product that works, there’s always a way to bring it to market and you can listen to your podcast and run all the great techniques to bring it to market. And you can run that, but the foundation is to get the product working. And I think what often people don’t do is spend enough cycles on it. So iterate it enough. You always want to keep improving it.

Matt:  Does that get harder as the business gets bigger, as it grows, as you add more people? I mean, I feel like I had someone tell me once who had worked at Microsoft and then he had run a couple of startups successfully said, “Sometimes the difference between the big companies and small companies is small companies, as they grow are forced to look externally, to focus on those customers.” As you’ve said, as companies get bigger, sort of sometimes naturally they just start focusing internally. They focus on politics, they get a product and they start iterating a product based on their ideas versus a customer ideas. Is that something that you see startups making the mistake around and how do you stay customer-focused as you grow the team and sort of generate momentum in the business?

Nicolas:  You’re exactly right. That’s the reason why there are opportunities for a product like us to be successful. It’s because the big company that gets involved in this complex decision process and they get lost. The question often gets from potential investors say, “So we sell tech.” I say, “Well, how do you know that Salesforce is not going to come and copy you?” And then … Immediately, if you look at the pace at which Salesforce move, you’ll see that that’s not a concern. The advantage of the service is that we able to move fast and exactly what you said, be externally focused, get feedback from customers, and not to get lost in internal politics. So the second part of your question is how can these big companies avoid that? And actually there’s one company that’s very successful at innovating, keep bringing new solution in multiple spaces and that company is Amazon.

So if you can imagine they started selling books. Now they are the leading IT company in the world with AWS. They have all sort of initiative. And the way they do it is that they treat their business as a portfolio and of businesses and give them a lot of autonomy. So somebody at Amazon who wants to get funding for a project actually has to apply to this funding as if he was pitching a VC, like looking for funding as a VC. And so they’ve been able to recreate this startup environment with inside of Amazon and the results are spectacular how fast they innovate and bring new products. So there is a way to do it. It’s just, I would think something that big companies would have to implement very early on in their lifecycle.

Matt:  Just a couple more minutes here with our guest CEO of Chili Piper, Nicolas Vandenberghe. And as you look at the sales technology space, there’s a lot of companies. There’s a lot of unicorns, there’s companies that are, and I just saw earlier this week, I think Gong got a significant new investment and they’re valued now at over two billion dollars. I mean, there’s some big, big money being thrown around. Big, big valuations. Do you think we’ll see more consolidation in this space? Do you think we’ll continue to see growth and innovation in new areas? What do you see over the next sort of one to two years in sales technology?

Nicolas:  The latter. The growth and numeration. There are a lot of problems that need to be solved in the sales and marketing processes. There’s a lot of ideas and there’s a ton of difference now versus 10 years ago. And that is just, everything is cloud based and integration can be done very easily. There is process called OS, where an application asks another application to have access to the other application’s data, right? So that’s how you connect. That’s how we connect with Salesforce, for example. And that OS process is just two clicks away. So if you set up operations somewhere and you need multiple tools to do different things, it’s super easy to make them work together because of these new process OS in the cloud.

So as a result, every solution gets somebody, some startup focused on them, and this startup is going to come up with a better solution. So Gong is a better solution for call intelligence, right? You’ll get the reporting and then we are better solution to book meetings that will later lead to that call. And there’s another solution. And you can very easily put all these things together. So as a result, there’s a lot of innovation that I see with. I think we’ll see more and more. The consolidation, if it happens, will be much later.

Matt:  You know, this has been a different year than I think we all thought it was going to be. It’s been impressive to watch sort of Chili Piper’s continue to growth. And I think probably, maybe even a heightened level of need at a time when a lot of sales channels have changed and been cut off. And so we’re looking for ways to create greater efficiency between buyers and sellers. As you look back at this year so far. I think we’ve been asking this question of a lot of our guests sort of at the end of our interview here is, what’s one thing that since March, since we’ve all kind of been in lockdown that you miss, that you can’t wait to go back to doing or experiencing? What’s maybe one thing that you don’t miss, that you’re not going to go back to, that you’re not going to make part of your new normal?

Nicolas:  You mean in general or in the business?

Matt:  In general for you.

Nicolas:  Okay. All right. So I should preface the fact that Chili Piper is a distributed company. So we have people in 40 cities and 15 countries. We started in 2016. We didn’t think that the virus would hit, but it turns out we were prepared. So we’re very used to that operating model where you work from a decent place and we’ll collaborate online. So from a business end point that we missing nothing. We is business as usual. From a personal standpoint, what I miss the most is restaurants. I love going to restaurants. You sit down, you hang out with people and the fact that you have to order the food, or now they’ve opened a few restaurants, outdoors, and things like that. I think it’s a part of life. And maybe it’s my French origin that are very tied to food, but I do miss these nice summer evenings, and you can just have a nice drink and you don’t need to wear a mask and you can just hang out with people in beautiful restaurants, enjoying food. That’s what I miss the most.

Matt:  Well, we will get back there eventually. We’ve got to run now, but I want to thank our guest again, CEO of Chili Piper, Nicolas Vandenberghe. If you want to listen to this again, if you want to learn more about, and share this with your team to learn more about sales, technology and innovations between sellers and buyers, you can check out this episode on demand in a couple of days up at But between now and then we’re done. On behalf of my great producer, Paul. This is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.

And with that, we wrap up another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio right here on the Funnel Radio Channel for at work listeners like you.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Matt Heinz
Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways.Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.


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