Inside Evernote’s Sales

While there is no silver bullet for success in sales, there are tried and tested sales strategies so you won’t have to reinvent the wheel. Secret Sauce to Sales by Freshsales features top sales leaders across industries and gives you inside access to their sales methodologies. In this edition, we interact with Norman Happ from Evernote. 

Evernote, the note-taking app, just celebrated its 10th anniversary and refreshed its brand. With a billion dollar valuation in 2012, here are some highlights of the cross-platform organizer’s success so far:

  • 225 million users across 124 countries
  • 12,000 businesses use Evernote Business for collaboration
  • 50,000-80,000 users sign up everyday
  • Over 9 billion notes created in 25 different languages (and counting)

Norman Happ is the Senior Vice President of Sales, Customer Success, & Partnerships at Evernote. A technologist, entrepreneur, and sales leader of 12 years for Intuit and H&R Block, Norman joined Evernote two years ago and is seeing 200% year-over-year growth.  

Let’s talk about Evernote as a corporate tool. How does the shift happen from an independent customer using it?

With nearly a quarter of a billion users worldwide, two-thirds of them use Evernote within the workplace. We get frequent feedback from these users on how they want to use the product more effectively within the office for their daily tasks.

Subsequently, we build feature sets that help teams collaborate better. This enables Evernote to go from being an individual knowledge platform to one that teams can leverage.

With such a large volume of customers using it in the workplace, we have the advantage of connecting with other users within an organization.

So instead of a group of people in an organization using the product independently, we help those individuals connect with their colleagues so they can benefit better from leveraging the tool together. That’s the core goal of our sales team.

Who would you say is the ideal buyer for Evernote?  

It’s not easy to pinpoint because purchase decisions are made from all functions in an organization — which is great, as well as challenging for us. If it were always a particular department, like IT, then it would be that much easier for us to provide a value proposition that really speaks to an IT buyer.

We find companies large and small using Evernote in many different ways.

From creative organizations within a company to sales teams to finance teams to even C-level executives using it to organize their board meetings, we see it all.

Our primary target has always been to help smaller companies and teams use the power and flexibility of Evernote.  Many of our SMB customers run significant parts of their company on Evernote from reporting, to document management, and recruiting.  More broadly than SMB, we have widespread use within Fortune 500 organizations with the majority of the use either with small teams or individuals.  

Tell us about the sales process in place at Evernote. Does it lean more towards inbound or outbound efforts?

We identify different use cases from individuals using the product and use that as an opportunity to showcase how they can do it more effectively with their team. Our overall sales motion is a combination of both self-service and assisted sales.

We get in touch with our customers during the normal course of work and gradually introduce other ways of leveraging the power of the product.

When it comes to a lot of the enterprise accounts we work with, they tend to start out as existing individual users within the company and wish to expand to their broader team for the productivity and collaboration gains the product delivers.

Optimize sales process

What happens when a business signs up for Evernote? What course does the sales end take?

A lot happens — firstly, we ensure we have a good understanding of the company by their size and geography as soon as they sign up. Then we find out if we’d be able to serve them better through outreach or by simply letting them take the lead.

More importantly, we try to make sure we’re ready to help them either reactively or proactively throughout their evaluation and sales journey.

A lot of times, sales has the reputation of just trying to close a deal. To us, customer success and sales are one and the same.

We try to be there for the customer as they are learning to use the product in a variety of ways. Oftentimes, the value of the product and the benefits it brings to the table make Evernote a champion — it’s not a hard sell as you might see in some other traditional software.

How do you sell Evernote when pitted against the competition?

As is expected, our customers often describe their use of Google Docs, or Dropbox, or even Microsoft OneNote while considering Evernote. Each one of those touch upon capabilities within Evernote. Yet none of those encompass the full extent of what Evernote provides.

We actually did a survey with our users and asked them how they would replace Evernote if it ceased to exist. The results? They said it would take five to six different applications to replace Evernote.

While these companies might be considered competitors, we play well with them too.

We were recently named “Best User Experience” by Microsoft at their Office 365 App Awards for our Microsoft Teams experience. Even though we compete with OneNote, we invest heavily in the Microsoft ecosystem and help that user population succeed.

We live in a world where information increases at a level that is becoming overwhelming. Notifications constantly pop-up from email, Slack, social media, etc. and are interrupting our workflows and thought processes.

Oddly enough, these toolsets are often described as aiding in how we take in this information, but what we’ve realized is these tools are actually doing the exact opposite.

What Evernote does is to help people manage through all of this “stuff” and deduce it down to what is relevant and time worthy. We specialize in helping people get through the clutter to what’s really important to them.

Likewise, the world is inundated with information. Although there is no dearth of a toolset to manage that problem, the same toolset is actually turning out to be more of a hindrance.

It’s not saving them time, and switching between multiple tools that they are using simultaneously is costing them more time and energy. Evernote specializes in helping people sort through all that clutter of information and cuts down on the portion of their day spent on just trying to find relevant information.

What’s the one common sales objection you come across?

When referring to people and teams who use Evernote for work, the most common objection might be from an IT professional as they better understand the existing widespread use.  They appreciate the power it brings, yet may be hesitant to bring another tool into their platform.

Usually, the people who we get the opportunity to work with are incredible advocates of Evernote. These users want to spread their success to their colleagues and harness the collective information set of their broader organization.

How vital is product advocacy for Evernote’s sales?

Product advocacy is the lynchpin as we enable teams across every function of an organization.

Most of our sales do not go through an IT director as we rely on finance, marketing, sales, and many other functions’ advocacy to win accounts.

For 10 years now, Evernote has grown from a note-taking app to becoming an organizer now. What would you cite as the top reasons behind Evernote’s sales growth?

It begins with the existing product familiarity and worldwide fanaticism. Nearly every account beings with a power user or advocate.

The next reason would be Evernote’s ubiquitousness — its ability to work across any device, irrespective of online or offline. Our customers appreciate that the most and it’s been a huge advantage for us.

And then it’s Evernote’s lack of form. The product is so fluid that it is being used in numerous ways we never even thought about. Every time we talk to a customer, it’s always a nice surprise to them using it in creative ways.

For instance, it could be for a recruiting process, or reporting, or pharmaceutical research, or even for legal archiving. It allows users to do their work however they want to as opposed to being forced to conform to a tool’s model.

Another advantage would be the integrations and our ability to work well with other tools.  Many tools that we encounter are potent in a standalone fashion. But we believe that the end user has a broader toolset and we want to be effective in collaborating with that toolset.

With Evernote spread across the United States, Japan, China, India, and Switzerland, how is the sales team structured?

We want to support our customers through both our internal teams along with our vibrant community of Evernote Certified Consultants.  Within our core markets, we have sales executives who can engage our customers to guide them to success.

What do you look for in a new hire for the sales team?

I appreciate innovators and individuals with tenacity. Regardless of the role, I consider these attributes important because everything that we do is never the final product. It requires continual iteration. I look for someone who can help us constantly define better ways to serve the customer.

As a foundational requirement, I look for somebody who is tenacious and can get to the bottom of things.

Be it an internal issue or simply helping the customer get the right fit of the solution.

The next thing I look for is integrity — somebody who can operate independently with the customer without me having to worry about them.

Is there a motto or principle that your team follows?

Never stop innovating. Always figure out a better process or a better way to help customers.

What do you think is the biggest misguided sales practice in the industry now?

Sometimes, people innovate on processes or come up with a better idea but they don’t become best practices. As an industry, we are not quick enough to cascade that information and turn that innovation into a best practice. Great innovations often remain in silos.

What are some of your favorite productivity hacks?

I only do 25 and 50-minute meetings. Quick meetings mean everyone is focused and we get more done in less time.

I also don’t prefer laptops in meetings — it causes distractions and makes meetings unnecessarily long.

Another hack is my use of Evernote. I have a Sunday list on Evernote that has all that I need to do for that particular week. So every Sunday night, I carry out the tasks specified in my Evernote Sunday note.

Evernote Productivity Boost

Top three metrics you follow.

  1. New account acquisition.
  2. Customer NPS
  3. Existing Account Revenue Growth.

What are your recommended sales reads?

The Customer-Driven Company: Moving from Talk to Action by Richard C. Whiteley.

“At the end of the day if you’re not serving customers and not doing the right thing for customers, you may win the sale today with the product but you will lose it tomorrow or whenever they need to renew.”

I also suggest another older book by Dale Carnegie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

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Secret Sauce to Sales by Freshsales features sales leaders across industries and gives you inside access to their sales methodologies. Drop us a line in the comments or shoot an email to with your suggestions.