Every quarter we recognize exceptional ZEOs with our peer nominated “Z-Awesome Award.” These individuals are entrepreneurial, creative and truly embody the spirit of a ZEO. They see the bigger picture and want to make the company better and they’re doing it the right way; not by working harder and spinning wheels but thinking of the best way to do things.
This quarter, we recognized Sales Engineer Katherine Travis, who took on a large, complex sales opportunity and became the rock for everything Zuora. She relented in the face of massive technical hurdles and led the relationship with the customer on their journey to transform education. She deeply understood their business, engaged cross-functionally to bring in the right teams, aligned them towards a common goal until the deal was closed!
We wanted to know more, so we sat down with Katherine to hear about her journey to becoming a Sales Engineer at Zuora, what get’s her fired up about the Subscription Economy and how she keeps the customer at the center of everything we do.
Tell us a little bit about your journey to Zuora and why you decided to join?
After working at a large tech company for 5 years in Sales and Account Management roles, I wanted to move to a company where I could have a bigger impact. I also wanted the security of working for a company who’s market opportunity was huge and the solutions were business critical, able to withstand an economic downturn, or in our current case, a global pandemic.
But it wasn’t until I did my research on Zuora, that a lightbulb finally went off! I remember working with a high profile prospect who insisted on a tiered pricing solution. Despite my best efforts, it wasn’t something we could solve for the customer at the time: Traditional CRM and ERP systems can’t handle the complexities of recurring revenue models simply because they are not aware of time. If a customer wanted to add on something mid-term, a financial analyst would have to manage it via spreadsheet. It simply was not scalable at the time!
What is it about the Subscription Economy and Zuora’s solutions that gets you fired up?
Subscriptions are everywhere, especially this day and age and in quarantine. I meditate using Headspace, stay fit on my Peloton, listen to Podcasts using Spotify, stream my favorite shows on Netflix and if I need something for the house, I order it via Amazon Prime. It’s not just retail–every industry is currently being disrupted and we get to work with them all and be a part of their transformation. From a technology standpoint companies are moving from “on-premise” to SaaS architecture. Car companies are moving from automobile sales to mobility, print to digital and devices to connected services. They’re all reinventing themselves and shifting to a recurring model and there’s really do doubt why: Subscription Businesses grow 5-9x faster than traditional companies.
You started in Customer Success; how’d you make the transition to Sales Engineering?
I’ve been fortunate to benefit from amazing management that helped me identify different opportunities that I didn’t know existed and I was never put in a box based on my experience, only my skills and potential. I joined Zuora as Customer Success Manager before quickly transitioning into a Zuora Subject Matter Expert: a product expert who jumps to solve complex customer problems or provide best practices in a particular area. My manager was always pushing our team to grow by getting out of our comfort zone and so we held the “ZSE demo program competition.” I remember being so nervous having never demoed in my life so I reached out for all the resources and support I could find within Zuora. I listened to sample demos, I shadowed our Sales Engineer and eventually I delivered mine in front of a cross functional team of Zuora leaders and I WON! A few weeks later I was offered the SE role and I couldn’t pass it up.
What does putting the customer first mean in your world?
It comes down to two things: Listening to our customers and holding ourselves accountable as a team. No two customers are the same, everyone is unique, requiring their own complex solution. It’s our job to truly understand our customer’s business, their objective and challenges so that we can deliver a tailored solution so our customers can maximize their value. Sometimes this means challenging the customer or prospect on their approach. I want to feel good about the work we’re doing, win in the right way and share in our success.
Cross functional collaboration is key to your work, tell us about your team?
We utilize a pod structure and all support the same group of customers so we can keep the customer at the center of everything we do. Every opportunity closed, customer renewed, or new feature implemented is a team win. The Account Executive is accountable for the relationship, I’m here to determine the technical fit, I have a Customer Success Architect that helps with any integration questions and they also partner with the Client Success Manager post go live to maximize the value of our solutions. We also work with Client Managers and other resources within Services to ensure a smooth implementation. There is strength in numbers!
What advice would you give to people interested in a similar role?
As an SE, you will be at the heart of the customers’ problems and technologies. It requires being a good listener, staying intellectually curious and grit — deals don’t close themselves! If you have the ability to see beyond the features and functions to help the customer see the business value, this will be key to your success. I also recommend networking inside and outside your company to gain different perspectives and hear other stories of how they got into the role. People are willing to help if you just reach out in all directions.
Interested in building your career at Zuora? Check out our current job openings.