About Timo Rein

Co-Founder and CEO of Pipedrive

Aug 20th degraded search functionality (FIXED)

UPDATE #2: As of 1:39 PM PDT (8:39 PM GMT) mailbox beta has completed syncing and mail should be back to real-time delivery again.

UPDATE: As of 1:12 PM PDT (8:12 PM GMT) the impacted shard’s elastic index has been successfully rebuilt and search should be functioning again. Search speed/performance may be slightly degraded for some users while our replicas are synced but will speed up throughout the day as these tasks are completed automatically. Mailbox beta users should begin seeing mail again though there may be a slight delay as a large batch of messages needs to be processed now.

As of 10:05 AM PDT (5:05 PM GMT) we are aware of degraded search functionality for some select customers. We are very sorry for the impact this may have on your use of Pipedrive today. This morning it appears one of our elasticsearch shards failed and the automatic recovery did not function properly. We are investigating why to mitigate this in the future and we have manually restarted the service – it is running again but rebuilding the index will take several hours today.

In the meantime users that were connected to this shard may continue to experience degraded search functionality. Closed beta testers in our Gmail Mailbox Beta are also affected as mail may be delayed today. We recommended defaulting back to your normal inbox for the remainder of the day if you are a beta tester of Pipedrive mailbox.

Fortunately, for those of you that need to make use of search today we do have a proposed workaround while the index is rebuilding. You can actually use Pipedrive Filters as a form of advanced search, and this is a best practice we often recommend for people trying to search deeper than the search bar allows them to normally.

To take advantage of this all you need to do is create a Filter that you can then edit later each time you want to search for something different. An example screenshot is provided below:

Using filters for advanced search

Using filters for advanced search

Below is our support center documentation on Filters as well, in case you wanted to brush up on the power of searching cross-item records easily.

http://support.pipedrive.com/customer/portal/articles/1076914

This blog post will be updated again later today when the index is successfully rebuilt and all functionality is restored.

 

3 pillars to becoming a sales superstar

A great deal of research has gone into what makes a good salesperson. A notable instance told by Brian Tracy in his Advanced Selling Strategies is the difference between the average salespeople and the rockstar sales guys in most large sales forces. How much do you think that the top 20% of salespeople were selling when compared to others? Twice as much? Five times? Ten?

The right answer is that they sold sixteen times more than the rest.

Were these people geniuses? Were they extremely charismatic? To tell you the truth then no they weren’t. If you just looked at them, you couldn’t tell the difference between them and the worst performers. Yet it turned out that these people had three things in common. They had all laid a strong foundation with the three pillars of sales success - clarity, will and ability.

So here are the questions that lay the bedrock of becoming a sales superstar.

3 Pillars of Sales Success_black

Have you set the right kind of goals?

You as a salesman can’t influence your results – I mean you can say you want 50 deals by the end of the month, but at the end of the day you don’t, strictly said, control the purchases your potential clients make.

What you can do is set yourself activity goals. This means setting yourself a number of approaches, calls and meetings you want to make every day or week. Knowing fully well that to a large extent sales is a numbers game, you can drive your productivity and not let your confidence drop – the more conversations you put into one end of the pipeline, the more closed deals will come out from the other. While the less successful may want good results as much as the more successful ones, the success will find the ones who are already out there putting in action.

Sure, you’ll reach the optimum at one point. What’s important though is the journey there – you will learn a great deal about hard and smart work whilst striving towards that optimum. Once you reach that, you’ll start learning about the balance between hard and smart work. The difference between average and rockstar salespeople is, however, that the best put in the hours to learn what smart work is and the average don’t. So keep on pushing until you hit your optimum and be clear about your goals to achieve that first pillar of sales success.

When we first started building Pipedrive, we realized that knowing the amount of “No’s” you need to get before you reach a “Yes” can give you a psychological edge – suddenly you’re no longer fazed by rejection. So we went on a small detour and created the NO Calculator.

Have you got a good “why”?

What drives you as a salesman? For many it’s the paycheck they receive at the end of the month. For some it’s somewhat deeper, like providing for their loved ones. I’ve found that finding a deep-rooted answer for the ‘why’ helps you keep on going. But then there’s courage that in the sales context means the desire of putting yourself out there – the willingness to fail over and over again in order to succeed. You’re always going to get declining answers, but the trait that all good salesman share is the courage to make that fearful step again, again and again, knowing full well that there are going to be plenty of “no’s” on their way to a “yes”. Reason and courage in a unison form the second pillar of sales success - will.

Have you mastered the basics?

There’s no shortcut to sales success. The best salespeople simply have their basics honed to perfection – they know which leads to qualify, they have a response to nearly every client reaction and they know every closing tactic in the book. This is something every salesman can achieve – it’s just a matter of putting the time in to learn and practice. Discipline, the second facet to ability, essentially means organizing your work. By setting time aside for prospecting every day, by making sure you follow up the right leads at the right time, that’s how you never miss an opportunity again. The best salespeople know when to follow up on their leads and move them along their sales pipeline. So there you go – skill and discipline – that’s ability, the third and final pillar to sales success.

Can you change your ways?

One of the three will not be enough. You might have great skills and clear goals, but if you lack drive, you won’t make it. You might have great aspirations and a bucketful of will, but if you don’t persevere and have a routine, you’re not going to cut it.’

The same goes for the status quo. Whatever brought you success today, you’re going to need to adjust tomorrow to adapt to the changed surroundings. Sales, like everything else, is multidimensional and you have to deal with every single facet.

Now go close.

Empty your pipeline regularly to keep deals flowing

Pipeline pig brushAlthough emptying your sales pipeline sounds counter-intuitive, it’s necessary for most of us. When I say empty your pipeline, what I’m really talking about is being choosey about who you keep in and when it’s time to clean house a little.

Bigger isn’t always better

There’s such a thing as too big.  When it comes to your sales pipeline, you must be careful about not letting it get overstuffed with prospects.

Think of it this way. If your goal is to have 20 deals in your pipeline at any given time, and it turns out you’ve got 50, this seems like a good thing, doesn’t it? After all, with so many deals in the various stages of your pipeline, you’re ahead of the game.

The reality is that this may not always be the case. Too many deals spread your available resources too thin. When you’re over productive in this way, you tend not to pay the proper amount of attention to all the deals in the pipeline and some can grow cold and stale.

We know, it happened to us

In my pre-Pipedrive days we once hired a salesman who had really distinguished himself before signing on with us. Strangely, it didn’t take very long before we realized he was having some challenges. In one month, he began with 10 really great leads but by the end of the month, most of them hadn’t moved on along the pipeline.

It took us a while before we both had come to the conclusion that the good old “we’re still thinking about it and we should have a definite decision in a couple of weeks” canned response wasn’t good enough. For one, we had heard it too many times.

When our new star changed his close tactics and asked all prospects if they were ready to place an order that month, we found out that only 1 was actually going to make a purchase. It was clear that while the volume of conversations he was putting into the pipeline was reasonable, the velocity of those deals was abysmal. His pipeline which had seemed healthy had actually been “clogged”.

He quickly learned his lesson and became one of the best closers on the sales team.

How to tell when to flush the pipeline

There are some indicators that a prospect who’s currently in your pipeline is not worth immediate and continuous attention. Here are three examples, but you’ll probably be able to come up with a few more on your own:

  • Ask yourself - would a customer laugh at the idea of being in your pipeline? If they don’t take you seriously, don’t take them seriously.
  • Ask your prospects if it’s possible if they will actually make a decision this month. If the answer is no, it’s time to move on.
  • When someone says that they would like your product or service, but not this month / quarter / year, it may not seem like a lost cause, but it is. You must consider them for flushing because there’s nothing you can do to close them within the constraints of your sales cycle, or even the near future.

How to keep your pipeline squeaky clean

Exactly how you flush them is up to you, but here are a few suggestions to help you formulate a definite plan.

  1. Go through all of the contacts in your sales pipeline once per week, or every two weeks. If you find a prospect that’s been sitting in the pipe and clogging it up for longer than your typical sales cycle, and doesn’t show any sign of moving to the next stage any time soon, flush them.
  2. Don’t get rid of them entirely. Put these flushed prospects into a future pipeline or a future callback list. If you’re using sales management software such as Pipedrive, schedule a follow up call or email.
  3. Stay focused on deals that have a strong chance of closing during your established sales cycle.
  4. If you’re a Pipedrive customer, start using our deal rotting feature.

Flushing prospects out of your sales pipeline will feel a bit strange. It’s hard to put aside a potential customer, even a lukewarm one. But the whole thrust of this course is to keep your focus on the strong candidates and to keep them moving along the stages of your pipeline. Proper focus, good work habits and continuous effort create a steady flow of revenue through your pipeline.

PS. If you liked this post, check out Sales Pipeline Academy. We’ve distilled our sales management experience into 11 actionable emails over 25 days. It’s not bedtime reading, and there is some homework involved, but the feedback has been great, so do check it out.

Illustration courtesy: patent for Method of making a pipeline pig brush and brush assembly.

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Pipedrive is ready

NB! This was posted on April 1st.

I have a rather important announcement to make. This morning we released a relatively small feature that many customers had been vocally requesting (now when your rep marks a deal as “lost” a 250 word essay to explain their failure is mandatory). After the release we started planning the next development cycle and realised this had been not only the last outstanding feature request, but also the last item on our roadmap. Furthermore, our developers had managed to fix all outstanding bugs last week.

After some hours of heated discussion our product team declared Pipedrive to be fully complete. There is nothing we can add or improve. We’ve built the world’s first piece of software that doesn’t require, or even doesn’t accommodate, further enhancements.

To be honest, the decision to declare the product ready wasn’t quite unanimous. Our product lead suggested two more improvements to our mobile apps, but these could not be taken seriously, coming from someone who also wished his iPhone 5S had a bigger screen, an NFC chip and a replaceable battery.

The news has been warmly welcomed by our customers. In the words of Nikhil Shah, co-founder of music platform Mixcloud“As a company with a strong product led culture, we’re constantly iterating and improving our platform, and it seems like there’s always a million things to do! This is why I’m astounded with Pipedrive’s recent efforts. They’ve somehow managed to get to product completion, and we’re very happy users. It’s great to know that we are working with a final product and have no surprises to expect.”

completepipedrive-3

Operating the world’s first fully complete software product is not all good news. We’ve had to make the tough decision to let go all staff apart from a part-time accountant. I myself have just accepted a managerial role at Salesforce and others don’t seem to have too difficult of a time finding new jobs either. This is the true benefit of having a great team.

Over the years we’ve raised more than 3.5 million dollars and we’ve decided to pay out the unused funds as dividends to company co-founders. In the words of Jason M. Lemkin, one of our investors: “We always knew there was something special about Pipedrive, apart from the funny accents of founders. More people in the VC world should embrace the view that finalizing a product is a much better exit strategy than an IPO. For one thing, there’s a lot less paperwork.”

When we pre-announced the news to our investors a couple of reasonable questions came up, which we’re re-publishing here with their permission.

Q: Can you really be confident that there is nothing the team can do to improve Pipedrive?

Me: Just look at it.

Q: Have you considered that customer preferences and available technologies change and the product may need improvements in the future?

Me: It is likely that 3-5 years down the line a small sub-set of customers would like a new feature for our Products module. Several of our developers have expressed interest in adding that on their spare time.

Guess that’s it. This is the last post on this blog. None of us expected to reach product completion in less than 4 years, but we all feel very privileged for having been part of this journey. Thank you for your support, and enjoy using the world’s first complete software product!

We’re switching to simple seat-based pricing from the new year

Pipedrive has been of a rare breed of sales software companies with plan-based pricing. While this has worked ok, many customers felt they were paying for seats they didn’t need and others worried about the significant increase in price if the maximum number of people within their plan was reached.

We’re thus switching to seat-based pricing from January 1st 2014 – a straightforward $9 (or €7) per seat per month. This price level reflects our belief that sales software should be affordable for all organizations.

There are good economical benefits for all parties involved. For one thing, it’s simpler – you’ll only pay for what you use and you’ll have more flexibility adding or removing people to your account without worrying about the cost. And from our point of view, this helps us monetize our customer base in a more fair way and reflect this in our investments into our product as well as support functions.

Please note that if you’re happy with the number of people available with your current plan, and don’t plan to add or remove people any time soon, you don’t need to switch to seat-based pricing. Your Pipedrive account will continue to work without interruption and your monthly charge will remain the same.

If you currently have a free trial account with us, and you like the plan-based pricing better, we advise to enter your payment details before Dec 31st 2013. And if you have any comments or questions, please get in touch.

Become a better closer with our new shiny Timeline View

timeline-view

We believe that the biggest benefit of Pipedrive is that it helps you focus. We hope you’ll agree it gives you an overview of ongoing deals and helps to pick the ones that need your attention today. And today we’re introducing another useful dimension to keep you focused – time period.

In sales, it’s bloody difficult to look ahead all the time

There’s a challenge in sales that almost everyone has faced to a larger or smaller extent. We spend most of the time trying to close deals that seem most likely to close. We’re handling calls, meetings, objections and the outrageous things competitors promise. And so we sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture: who should I be talking to hit my monthly quota, and what can wait until later. The result can be painful: missed goals for yourself or the team, and smaller pay checks.

Another issue that many sales people face is clinging on to the Really Big Deals at the expense of business-as-usual. Sure, closing a big one would make a big impact on the bottom line of the company and your bonus, but often the attention the big deals receive is at the expense of smaller, but much more probable deals. Only a few things are (professionally speaking) worse than realizing your Big Deal is lost or postponed to the next quarter, and that none of the smaller deals is ready to close either.

Thirdly, there’s the fact that sales people are “reset” at the end of each month (or quarter) – closed deals contribute to your salary, and the new month promises a $0 paycheck. Back when I was active in sales, this zero always affected my emotional state, turning me into a very different sales person at the beginning of each month. Not looking ahead can cripple your emotional state at the beginning of each month or quarter.

All in all, there are two important dates for every salesman. One is today – to do list, emails that come, calls you make and receive. And the other is the last day the month or quarter. (Same is true in life in a way). Being focused on today’s activities or the big picture only is a good start, this is more than most people can be bothered. But you really want to keep an eye on both because this is how you can achieve exceptionally good results. And now you can do this with Pipedrive.

The timeline view is like a crystal ball that lets you look into the future (and see what action to take)

Timeline view arranges all open deals by expected close date. It shows the sales you’ve already made this month, and all the open sales which you may be able to close this month. This sales forecasting gives you a very good idea of the likely sales result at the end of the month or quarter. If you’re not happy with the results so far, find a suitable open deal you can close next, or work on adding more open deals to your pipeline and enjoy a stronger next period.

The effect of using timeline view makes every salesperson a bit more like a sales manager. If you use both our pipeline view and the new timeline view, you can anticipate and answer almost any question a manager would have, and more importantly, you’d have the data to back your answers.

Managers can use timeline view as their main view in case they want to spare themselves from digging in too deep into individual or combined pipelines. Timeline view is perfect for leading regular meetings with the team and discussing when certain deals will close, what needs to be done to close them, or to close them faster, and identifying forecasts that are too optimistic.

This means you’ll always have a great idea what the sales results will be. This also means you can correct course before it’s too late. All in all, it helps to make sure your commission is what you’re planning it to be.

See Timeline View in action:

When to use Pipeline view and when to use Timeline view

The Pipeline View most of you know well is great for tracking daily activities and more “tactical” planning. The new Timeline View is great looking ahead a couple of times a week to cover your “strategic” planning. Then again, it’s built in a way that if you like one more than the other, you can have either as your main working view.

In Pipeline View, a drag and drop of a deal helps you advance it to the next stage of your pipeline, in Timeline View a drag and drop moves the close date of a deal to next month or quarter.

What do I need to do to use the Timeline View?

* Start using the “expected close” date field

* Customize. Each business is different. It may be that you can invoice your customers only after you’ve delivered or implemented your service or product. In other words, you may want to see your won deals arranged by ‘delivery’ or ‘implementation’ date. Feel free, Pipedrive enables you to change the date field the deals are arranged by.

In addition, some of you like to track your results and operate in quarters, and some in months – you can choose your preference. Similarly, it’s a matter of taste to place either won or open deals on top.​

New investors, new fuel for growth

Today we’re announcing a new $2.4M seed round. It is co-led by Rembrandt Venture Partners and Storm Ventures, with participation from TMT Investments (who also participated in our last round) and a group of angel investors, namely Taavet Hinrikus (co-founder of Transferwise), Ott Kaukver (VP Engineering of Twilio), Rain Rannu (co-founder of Fortumo and Mobi Solutions) and Tytus Michalski (Managing Director of Fresco Capital Advisors).

This is important for us in two ways. Having a financial buffer obviously helps us make our team stronger faster. We’re currently looking for a Head of Marketing for our Palo Alto office and several engineers, designers and product leads for our Tallinn office. You’re very welcome to apply or send to a smart friend!

But as if not more importantly we’re very pleased to have new advisors and mentors. For example, Ott Kaukver has brought us his experience in building and scaling a tech team and Jason M. Lemkin of Storm Ventures (Co-Founder and past CEO of EchoSign) has been the best sparring partner imaginable on the business side of things.

You can read the rest of the news on TechCrunch or WSJ.

What to do when someone steals your startup idea

more_fake_brands_01The short answer is: get back to work and try not to worry about it too much. Swearing also helps, but is not critical.

Let me start the longer answer with some background information. Last summer we found out that a company in a large country we serve had blatantly copied our ideas about pipeline management software, our UX, design and large parts of our front-end code.

What comes to copying ideas it’s the sincerest form of flattery, as the old saying goes. But the opportunists had also copied our design pixel-for-pixel. Here’s an example of their little “spot the difference” game:

Copycat screenshot

In addition to design they were also using our code. The Easter egg we had planted (have you found it yet?) was fully functional, they hadn’t even bothered removing the Pipedrive logo that appears in some views. And all of this was done by people that initially approached to become a partner, then snatched up our local domain and then fell silent. We felt like we had been burgled.

Lawyer advises: send a “cease and desist”  letter, and elevate to lawsuit if necessary

We explained the situation to our lawyer whose advice was the following:

“Generally what happens in this situation is that either the company or its counsel sends a “cease and desist” letter to the other company telling them to stop copying look and feel.  Sometimes, these get elevated to lawsuits. (I’m thinking about Zynga – Vostu ).

Sometimes ends up being a bad public relations problem in the blogs. (I’m thinking about Curebit – 37Signals.)

You can’t really stop someone from copying – I think your response is to send a letter, and elevate to lawsuit if necessary.”

We got the copycat to make some retreats, and more importantly no real damage was done

We didn’t want to invest too much time into this, so we used a rather pragmatic approach to sending a “cease and desist” message. We got in touch via one of our investors, who is well connected in the country in question. He wrote a public Facebook post, pointing out the visual similarities and lines in their code that proved theft. The case got a few mentions in local blogs (which actually increased our signups – every cloud has a silver lining).

Although the accused denied any copying, they removed said lines of code and stopped our local domain redirect to their service. They also removed The Team section from their site.

Looking back, signups from that country have not slowed down, and the only tangible loss is our relevant domain.

What you can do to protect yourself against copycats

  • Get domains and protect your trademark in key markets as early as possible. As a startup you can’t protect yourself against everything because time and money is tight. But make sure you’re covered in key markets.
  • Plant watermarks in your software and/or encrypt it, so if there’s a need to pursue legal action, you can prove theft
  • If possible, look into patenting key components of your software – this offers more protection than copyright. More on that here.
  • Last but not least –  have a clear vision about how you want to change the world and don’t be dependent on any single feature. If your vision is any good there will be copycats. But if your vision is bigger than a feature (think cutting edge tech, API, partners, support, etc.), copycats won’t be your biggest worry.

Photo lovingly borrowed from this post, lots of more creative copying work to see there.

PS. If you’d like to see the sales software that inspired this copycat, you’re welcome to check out Pipedrive (it’s free for 30 days).

Sorry for the downtime this past week!

During the past 7 days Pipedrive has been inaccessible for a set of our users on multiple occasions and almost all users experienced the app as slow and unresponsive at times.

We understand the frustration this has caused, and we are very sorry for this!

Before I go into more detail I’d like to point out this is very unlikely to happen again. We’ve learned a lot about the weaknesses of our (now previous) setup, we’ve fixed the issues and put in place additional reliability measures.

Let me explain the reasons behind the outages in more detail. This may be too technical for some, but I’d like to openly share what went wrong and the fixes we’ve put in place.

Our first recent incident took place on January 17th at 6 PM GMT (10 AM Pacific Time). It was caused by an overload of one of our logging facilities, which in turn brought down our application servers one by one. This was caused by a design flaw in our architecture. We fixed this immediately but it took a while before all users could access the service as normal.

During the next following days, two things happened without any connection to the previous outage. First, one of our database servers experienced a physical malfunction. Second, another database server suffered from a storage facility overload. No data was lost in the process as we have multiple sets of backups — but again, the service was unavailable for a set of customers for approximately 30 minutes.

Yesterday around 10 PM GMT (2 PM PT) we discovered a bottleneck in our message broker cluster which caused all the application servers to queue up on accessing the message brokers. Thus no application servers were ready to do what they should have – serve requests. We immediately updated the configuration of the message broker cluster, to prevent this error from happening again.

Finally, today at around 9:15 AM GMT (1:15 AM PT) one of our database servers suffered from a storage facility overload one more (and final) time.

We’ve fixed the immediate issues and in the coming weeks we’ll be migrating our entire database stack to next-generation platform which has proven to be more reliable against negative effects from third party services as well as hardware malfunctions. In fact, we have been building our next-generation database stack for some time already, and it is soon reaching production-ready quality.

Onwards, then. And once again – sorry for these hiccups!

How you can move data between Mailchimp and Pipedrive

Quite a few of you have asked about integration with MailChimp, and we’ve just released a little something that makes it easier to send email campaigns to your Pipedrive contacts.

You can send a Mailchimp campaign to all your contacts but it’s more likely you’ll want to reach a smaller segment such as ‘people that have bought previously’ or ‘customers with custom field “interested in app development services” based in California’. You can use our filters feature to create a segment that’s relevant for the mailing (I’ve blogged about using filters here and here).

Once you’ve set the filters scroll to the bottom of the page and you’ll see a MailChimp button next to the exporting options. Enter your MailChimp API key (that you can get from Account > API Keys & Authorized Apps) in the window that pops open and you’ll see all existing email lists you can add your segment to. Pick the list you want to add the Pipedrive contacts to, and then handle setting the campaign up in MailChimp as usual.

Please note that currently there is no way to create a new email list from within Pipedrive, so if you want to reach a certain type of customers for the first time, you’ll need to create a new empty list in MailChimp first.

How to pull new email subscribers to Pipedrive

Another thing we are often asked is pulling MailChimp subscribers to Pipedrive as new leads. This is something you can do with the help of Zapier. Their platform lets you create connections between the different software you use, including Pipedrive and MailChimp. It’s free to use if the number of tasks needed is small, and subscriptions start at $15 per month.

Start by entering API keys of both services, and follow the steps to specify what fields to import from MailChimp, what are the corresponding fields in Pipedrive and what pipeline stage to add the new deals to. And voila! when someone subscribes to your email list, they’ll appear in Pipedrive automagically in just moments.

Please note that as of publishing post there’s a small issue with setting the value for deals imported via Zapier, which we are investigating.

Using email marketing alongside direct sales is really powerful, and I hope these connections make it easier to do it.