The coronavirus pandemic has put to the test the resolve of governments around the world to support businesses, especially startups that are the backbone of most economies.

Some governments will probably fail to deliver on their promises, while others will emerge as role models for other nations in managing crises and remaining resilient despite headwinds.

In the view of Christiaan Jaarsma, Chief Growth Officer at Sales.Rocks, the Netherlands is one of those governments that can take pride in its performance during the COVID-19 situation.

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Christiaan, who also works as Product Owner for the Rotterdam-based data-driven sales and marketing enablement platform, believes that startup communities in Europe have a lot to learn from the Dutch ecosystem.

Sales.Rocks is a sales enablement tool that helps companies fill their sales pipeline. (Photo credit: Sales.Rocks)
Sales.Rocks is a sales enablement tool that helps companies fill their sales pipeline. (Photo credit: Sales.Rocks)


“The Dutch government has come up with bridging loans dedicated to start and scale-up organizations and innovative SMEs,” he told Via News in an email interview.  

Also, they are eligible to request subsidies, grants and loans to cover up to 90% of the salary burden, the CGO of Sales.Rocks said.

The Netherlands has indeed taken impressive measures to shield the business of struggling entrepreneurs.

These steps, according to the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, include a €4,000 reimbursement plan for entrepreneurs in certain affected sectors, benefits and loans for self-employed professionals, an extension of tax and loan payment and repayment deadlines, and relaxation of various measures for businesses.

Following is the text of the interview, in which Christiaan—who is passionate about “translating business wishes and client feedback directly into new functionalities”—shares his insights about different topics:

Q: Would you please tell us about your company?

Sales.Rocks was founded as a startup in late 2018 with the idea to help companies connect to the right business contacts without missing the target.

We have been working in several startups in the last 10 years, and one issue we always encountered was finding the relevant contact person, in our target companies and at the right moment.

We spent hours and hours of manual work, but, with the current technologies, we figured it must be possible to automate the whole process. So, this is where the idea for an all-in-one platform for sales automation came to life.

Sales.Rocks was founded as a startup in late 2018. (Photo credit: Sales.Rocks)
Sales.Rocks was founded as a startup in late 2018. (Photo credit: Sales.Rocks)

We have bootstrapped the platform entirely on our own and gathered a team of fast learners and strong leadership enthusiasts.

When you have the right people, that give their ideas and strive to get things done, there is no space for failure.

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We now count more than 100 international teams actively using the Sales.Rocks platform for their everyday sales activities. 

Q: How has the coronavirus affected your business, especially when it comes to your sales?

With the start of the lockdowns for companies and the remote work, it was almost impossible for sales teams to schedule face-to-face meetings with clients and have direct contact with them.

We’ve noticed increased requests for contact data in terms of direct email addresses and phone numbers.

With the focus changed and some drastic changes in some industries, clients started looking for different target groups and possible markets.

So the need for new comprehensive data emerged, and we started getting an even higher number of registrations on the platform.

Not surprisingly, a lot of them came for the freemium module. But after the first month, we also got new paid requests. 

We saw a lot of clients implementing online-based sales approaches and to fuel CRM or marketing automation systems, B2B leads are crucial, which for us meant sustaining a good sales quota. 

“We’ve noticed increased requests for contact data in terms of direct email addresses and phone numbers.”

Christiaan Jaarsma, Chief Growth Officer at Sales.Rocks

Q: What new measures have you been implementing to deal with the new situation? What changes have you introduced at your company? What is your strategy to exit this period?

According to the recommended health safety regulation, we implemented a mandatory work-from-home policy and made sure our teams had all the necessary equipment.

We already had a system in place for remote communication and meetings so we were well-prepared in that regard. 

In terms of an exit strategy, we have decided to extend our work-from-home policy until the crisis fully ends as the health and safety of our employees is our priority.

Q: As a startup, what did you learn from the coronavirus experience?

The most important thing is to adapt as best as possible and to retain a “business as usual” principle of work.

That presents a normal and reliant atmosphere for your teams and easies the current situation. Also checking up with your teams and employees regularly further strengthens the mentioned principle.

“The most important thing is to adapt as best as possible and to retain a ‘business as usual’ principle of work.”

Christiaan Jaarsma, Chief Growth Officer at Sales.Rocks

Q: What changes are you observing in your industry?

Due to the prolonged crisis, many small and medium businesses have suffered heavy losses and a number of them have ceased operating alltogether.

I believe larger companies can survive the crisis with the help of larger finance reserves and restructuring.

Overall, the high unemployment, drop-off in profits and market stagnation can trigger a second financial crisis, worse than the one in 2008.

Q: How do you see the future of your industry?

As most of the business-to-business sector already involves digital means of communication in dealing with clients, no noticeable impact has been observed.

However, the human factor in terms of lack of interest, job insecurity, and the overall uncertainty due to the crisis have quite heavily impacted projected sales earnings and hindered potential growth.

Q: How has been the response of the Dutch government to support startups during this period?

If we take a closer look at the start/scale-up companies specifically, the Dutch government has come up with bridging loans dedicated to start and scale-up organizations and innovative SMEs.

Besides, they are eligible, just like all other companies, to request subsidies, grants, and loans to cover up to 90% of the salary burden.

That being said, I believe the Dutch government is trying to support the economy as much as it could considering the rough times we are all in.

Q: In your view, what are the prospects for the startup community in Europe?

Several European countries including Switzerland, Portugal, Germany, and the UK—with France leading the way—have pledged to help startups with government-backed financial lifelines and reduced tax regulations.

Combined with the fact that over a third of European startups are vulnerable to the crisis, the European startup community has a chance to survive the crisis relatively intact.

“The European startup community has a chance to survive the crisis relatively intact.”

Christiaan Jaarsma, Chief Growth Officer at Sales.Rocks

Q: Is there anything that startup communities in Europe can learn from the Dutch startup ecosystem?

Yes, definitely! The Netherlands is known for its flourishing startup ecosystem. Up to the Covid-19 crisis, the growth in our startup sector has been steady for over a decade.

The Netherlands offers a very attractive fiscal climate for starters compared to other European countries and the digital infrastructure is top-notch, which has led to the creation of one of Europe’s strongest startup scenes. 

Another great feature of the Dutch startup ecosystem is that the local government—with the assistance of several EU programs—supports startups to build prototypes and launch innovative products/services by providing multiple grants and favorable credit lines.

This is one of the reasons why many incubators have found their way to the Netherlands, which makes alternative sources of funding also more accessible. I think a lot of our European neighbors could learn from the Dutch example.

Q: Is there any additional comment that you would like to make?

For any startups out there going through a challenging period due to the corona crisis, I believe there will be adjustments made and new ways of doing business online will be adopted. The ones that do adjust to it well will most definitely benefit from it in the future.

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