Mary Carter, Team Lead Manager at GoCardless, on How Cloud Sales and Marketing Teams Can Forge Powerful Partnerships with Sales Engineers

In this episode of Selling in the Cloud, our guest is Mary Carter, Team Lead Manager at GoCardless. Mary has led software implementations for the Fortune 500, startups, and large organizations alike to improve their internal processes and increase productivity. 

She joins our CEO Michael Pollack and VP of Marketing Sarah E. Brown for a discussion on how today's cloud sales and marketing teams can work better with sales engineers to improve the customer experience.

Show Notes

"As long as there's open communication across departments, there's no way you cannot succeed with having a sales engineering team. It's very important for us to be talking to each other and kind of growing each other." 

"I really think of a [sales engineer] as being the trusted advisor for customers; their advocate. Not just the traditional salesperson that's trying to close the deal, but someone to provide the honest, real feedback in terms of, will this software work for me?"

"[GoCardless] has over two hundred and fifty different partners. And that's essentially how we do our marketing. That's how we target our market, because if you have a subscription business, if you have recurring revenue, you're going to want to use direct debit."

"[Sales engineers] are essentially the first line of defense, handling lots of different topics for that initial customer interaction. And so [sales and marketing] can leverage us for product roadmap discussion. They can leverage us for a deep dive into the API or integrations. They can leverage us for support queries: How do I get access? And of course, the why – why did we build this feature? Why are we selling to you today? And what's been most successful in my career is when the teamwork is facilitated."

Full Transcript

Michael Pollack [00:00:09] Hello, everyone, and welcome to Selling in the Cloud, a podcast about the business of cloud sales and marketing brought to you by Intricately, the authoritative source of digital product adoption, usage, and spend data for cloud sales and marketing teams. I'm Michael Pollack and I'm here with Sarah E. Brown. And we are your co-hosts.

Sarah E. Brown [00:00:39] Michael, great to be here with you on the show today.

Michael Pollack [00:00:41] Sarah, as usual, it's awesome to be here with you

Sarah E. Brown [00:00:44] In this episode, we're speaking with Mary Carter, Principal Pre-Sales Engineer at GoCardless. We're looking forward to diving into the topic of sales engineering with Mary. Shall we get to it?

Michael Pollack [00:00:53] Absolutely. Mary, welcome to the show.

Mary Carter [00:00:55] I'm happy to be here. Thanks for the invite.

Sarah E. Brown [00:00:57] Give us a brief introduction, if you would, please, and share who you are and maybe some of your background for how you got to be where you are today at GoCardless, as well as tell us a bit about GoCardless and what you're working on.

Mary Carter [00:01:09] Sure, I'll be happy to. So my name is Mary Carter and I'm in the business of helping companies spend less time worrying about peanuts and more time with their customers. I'm a principal pre-sales engineer at GoCardless for North America. So I've been at GoCardless for a little over a year and a half now, and I'm on a mission to successfully launch the business in the US market. So our headquarters are out of London, and what we are, we are the world's first global direct debit platform that everyone needs to know about. So we specialize in recurring payments. Setting a date to make payments in the US, that's called ACH, in other parts of the world, it's called something different. There are different roles, different security requirements, regulations... and GoCardless has put that all on one API. We started off in 2011 as a Y Combinator and were backed by investors like Salesforce Ventures, SL, then Capital and Google Ventures. To answer your other question, how did I get here? I take the approach of trying as many different things and see what I don't like to narrow down what I do like. It's kind of how I live my life. And so I started off my career as a consultant, technical consultant back home in Indianapolis, and I made the move to Silicon Valley back in 2014. And over the course of my time here, I found myself wearing different hats at different startups, anywhere from implementation consultant to technical training to support. And it was only until I discovered the pre-sale solutions engineering role that I was like, wow, this is a combination of all of those jobs in one and I'm on a sales team, so that's pretty cool. I get to talk to people and build relationships quickly and become advisors. So that's a little bit about how convenient and what I'm doing.

Michael Pollack [00:03:07] I love that intro. And as a fellow Big Ten grad, University of Wisconsin, and also someone from the Midwest, I can empathize and have similarities to a lot of that story. So I appreciate that. I'm curious to ask you a little bit, obviously, and maybe we'll deviate from kind of our standard talk track here, because, again, for a lot of our audience, we're talking a lot about marketing and sales. And obviously we're going to get to that today. But I'd just love to follow up on something you said talking about payment systems and the rails, which I think is a pretty fascinating thing that everybody interacts with. But most people don't think about when you talk about ACH, which is the thing that pretty much any time anyone ever swipes a debit card, you use. I'm curious, can you just like for our audience, talk about the enormous impact of that and one thing that our audience may not be aware of, can you maybe if you know, can you comment on how much cheaper it is to process transactions there versus credit cards and the battle that happens when you swipe a card or one of those checkout things and you have a choice between debit and credit?

Mary Carter [00:04:06] Yeah, I'd love to. You know, terminology is a thing, so let's take it from there. ACH stands for "automatic clearing house." And it's the governing body is called Nacha, that's specific here to the United States. I had no idea how much of a disservice I was doing to businesses when I chose to swipe my credit card. It is incredibly more expensive for businesses to accept credit cards and to handle those transactions than, let's say, ACH or direct debit payment, using your account number, your routing number, your fiscal bank account to facilitate a payment. We're about a third of the cost of credit cards. In fact, if you've seen the news, you'll see that credit card costs are going up to the current state of affairs and maybe fraudulent activities or this is just not being able to pay. And so that's where GoCardless is going to be a good fit – not to entirely replace credit cards, that particular payment method, but to be adjacent, to sit next to that payment method on someone's check out page. Point of sale is something that I've learned that is not necessarily the best fit as it is today. Point of sale being actually going to a physical store location. I'm going to swipe my card. I can't necessarily give out my account number, routing number at the cashiers. Like that's not going to be something available today. But where we will fit, is in the future, the near future is how we're handling open banking. And so that's a whole new topic that I can run with. But just a quick snippet. Banks all over the world, there's legislations that are forcing them to open up their API to the party platforms such as ourselves. And those APIs are going to allow us to do two different things. They're going to allow us to look into that bank account, to do things like check balance and also enforce authorization. So is this payer who they say they are? We're going to make them log into their banking app using their username and password to, let's say Chase, be applied. That's how we're going to stop fraudsters in the game. That's one way legislation's helping out businesses. The second way is through taking instantaneous credit. And so that's something that we will be able to take advantage of in different regions of the world, let's say, and the UK leveraging. That's what that will do is it will give the confidence that merchants need to, let's say ship first order or to top off someone's account and so tenderly in the open banking with GoCardless, this will basically give merchants the same functionality that they get with credit cards today, but. On the back end, we've moved it together with direct debit, and so they still get to take advantage of those cost savings with the less expensive method.

Michael Pollack [00:06:55] So maybe just to be really crisp for our audience, the way to maybe make sure everybody understands what we're talking about here is imagine you're on a website and you buy a thing that costs one hundred bucks when it comes to the payment screen if you use a credit card. Let's imagine one point five percent of that goes right to the credit card company. Right. If maybe you use PayPal, one percent of that goes there. And then if you go with Goardless or one of these solutions, that's a direct debit, maybe 50 cents goes there. Right? Which one point five percent. One percent, half a percent. I'm imagining I don't have the percents. Right, but what we're talking about is that right. And in that situation, remember, the vendor keeps the difference right. So a substantial amount of money. Am I characterizing it fairly for our audience? Is that kind of what's at play here?

Mary Carter [00:07:44] Yeah, you're spot on. I would argue that it's more like 2.5 percent for credit cards. Those are the rates right now. So it's incredibly expensive, yes.

Michael Pollack [00:07:54] Yes. So there you go. So just think about that. So I guess then I'd ask a question that again is going to be relevant to our audience for GoCardless. Clearly, every business who takes payments should want to be a GoCardless customer. Right. Because it means instead of paying two dollars and 50 cents on one hundred dollar transaction, maybe you just pay 50 cents or some number like that. I'm curious, how does GoCardless go about getting businesses to understand this? I imagine the switchover is not as easy as switching from A to B.. So can you share a little bit about how that process works? How are you finding customers and what's the process like for bringing them on to the solution right now?

Mary Carter [00:08:34] That's a great question and that's essentially the mission that I'm on right now with launching GoCardless in America. We launched in 2019. And so I was one of the founding members here in America to basically market to the US market. And what I'm finding is that some merchants get it. They have a footprint and let's say the Eurozone, U.K., Australia, New Zealand, the Nordics. And so they understand that the preferred payment method for those different regions and those parts of the world are direct debit. And so it's a no brainer. You want to offer the preferred payment method to those payers. What they're comfortable with, what they know about. The challenge here in the States is that as consumers, we don't normally use our bank account to pay for consumer goods. And so what I'm finding is that, you know, who's the actual market? It's going to be businesses. Businesses would much rather pay with a bank account or accept a bank account, rather than pay with credit card, because those fees, what we talked about are so expensive. The way that I've seen it done super successfully here in the States is that a merchant is going to pass on those cost savings for accepting direct debit to their customers. And so imagine you're in a checkout page, you're paying for the products, the services, and you're presented with three different payment methods. One of those is going to be highlighted. And if you can imagine which one, it's going to be, the one that's least expensive for the merchant. And so you can get a five percent discount for using your bank account to make that purchase. And that's something we see today. Verizon is actually an example that we like to talk about today, where if you go to pay your cell phone bill, you'll see that if you set up autopay, you'll receive five bucks off, ten bucks off your your bill every month. And it's because they know that they're saving money by having you pay with your bank account. And so they're going to incentivize their customers by paying with your bank account, by passing the cost savings onto them.

Sarah E. Brown [00:10:36] Awesome. Mary, I'm curious in terms of SaaS or in terms of your customers, I mean, you can see companies that have footprints, let's say, in those regions you mentioned where it's not called ACH, but that type of payment is more common. How else do you identify your best prospects? And as a sales engineer, are you thinking about a specific territory? Are you selling mostly to North America or is it all over the globe? I'm curious how you approach that and finding your sweet spot and target customers.

Mary Carter [00:11:00] Sure. Great question. I pushed myself here in North America. However, the customers I sell to you have footprints all over the globe. So really, I'm selling all over the globe. We have partners, so we specialize in partnerships in terms of dealing with subscription billing partners. So think of Zora, Recurly, ChargeMe, Chargify, Salesforce Billing. If I forgot to name a company, please don't be mad because we've got over two hundred and fifty different partners. And that's essentially how we do our marketing. That's essentially how we target our market, because if you have a subscription business, if you have recurring revenue, that you're going to want to use direct debit. And so if you have those platforms, our goal is to be in those businesses AppExchange, and so you're going to find us and Salesperson AppExchange, you're going to see us in those applications as the preferred direct debit provider. And so the marketing essentially is marketing type relationship with our partners.

Sarah E. Brown [00:12:01] Awesome. So our audience for this podcast is cloud sellers and marketers. And I think a lot of people understand intellectually the role of sales engineering, but maybe there are misconceptions or things that they don't know. I'm curious, as a seasoned sales engineer, what advice would you have for those functions, marketing in particular about sales organizations at large and how to work well with their sales engineers?

Mary Carter [00:12:23] Yeah, you can think of a sales engineer as like a utility player. That's kind of a sports reference. I don't want to go too far down that rabbit hole, but we're essentially the first line of defense to handle lots of different topics for that initial customer interaction. And so you can leverage us for product roadmap discussion. You can leverage us for a deep dive into the API or integrations. You can leverage us for support queries, you know, kind of like the foundation. How do I get access? And of course, like the why – why did we build this feature? Why are we selling to you today? And so what's been most successful in my career is when the teamwork is facilitated. And what I mean by that is that there are dedicated sessions for, you know, that sales engineering team and a product team meet, or the sales engineering team and the engineering team would meet to discuss what deals we're working on, what issues that are coming up. Vice versa, it gives the product team the ability to talk to our team of what they believe and why they built it. And so it's a bit of storytelling going on for us to not only sell better, understand the customers concerns and the problems that they're experiencing better. And so as long as there is open communication across departments, there's no way you cannot succeed with having the sales engineering team. It's very important for us to be talking to each other and kind of growing each other.

Michael Pollack [00:13:51] I think for our audience, that definitely is something that has some resonance. And so for you, maybe experiences of past companies or perhaps at GoCardless. Can you talk a little bit about when you think either is the right time or when you think is the best time for the sales engineering to get involved? Is it really a pre-sales product or is it a post sales its entire lifecycle? When do you think is kind of the right time or when do you think is the most effective time?

Mary Carter [00:14:15] Yeah, I think it's going to be the entire lifecycle of the customer's journey. So from the very start presales, I could assist the SDR, the sales development representative, and their initial investigation of a company. So that SDR may have questions of, hey, I don't understand how the website works and I need to understand what payment methods they currently have on file and how best to correct my message to book that first meeting. They can actually use the SE's help to do that foundational work. Fast forward to the meetings they've been booked, and now we're working with the account executive. We're there to prep the executive on the deal as well as help with the initial discovery, to see what we keep our eye on the website or maybe some marketing material out there to help craft our initial pitch. Fast forward to the first call. We're there – not just for our brains but optics, even – if a merchant is bringing several people to the call, you do want to match that audience. And so if they're bringing three folks to the call, you'll also want to bring a couple of people. And if there's a technical resource on the call, you also want to have your SE there to assist with any kind of conversation, if it may go a bit technical.

Michael Pollack [00:15:28] I think that's helpful. And I think for this business, GoCardless, some context here might be helpful for our audience. I'm imagining there's potentially a small number of companies that will spend a lot and a really large number of companies that may spend a small amount. Right. If you think about online vendors, right. There's millions of them, but a small number of our huge vendors. How do you structure that time effort? Right. Because I imagine almost all these companies could use some help. How do you allocate resources or how do you think about your time and efficiently aligning your resources to the best opportunities? Can you comment on that a little bit?

Mary Carter [00:16:04] Sure. Since joining GoCardless this year, I really consider as a startup in America, we're actually well oiled machine in the UK, and have been in business for 10 years. But in America, it's more of a startup mentality. And so really it's it's a team effort, all hands on deck. Any deal that comes our way, we're working on it together as a team, as we grow, as we scale here in the states, we're going to have to start attributing our time a bit differently. You're 100 percent correct on that. And so what will likely happen is that SEs will be assigned to enterprise deals, some SEs will be assigned to mid-market and SMB deals. And of course, you've got the merchants that are self-service who can simply check out our documentation because their needs are not so complex. And we have a dedicated support team that covers all time zones. And so that would likely be the point of reference for those SMB merchants.

Michael Pollack [00:17:01] Got it. So on your side, on the SMB side, there's to your point, there's a CS org that can kind of step in there and handle that. That really, the SE function is focused on, I'm saying enterprise customers, or whatever is a customer that's kind of above and beyond that SMB threshold. And is that threshold for you guys just based on dollar volume or is it system complexity or employee size? Or how does GoCardless segment the market?

Mary Carter [00:17:26] Yeah, it's going to be a combination of those factors. And additionally, it's going to be the potential upside, too. And so it could be that we're working with a large enterprise company that is only a small segment of their business. And so the contract size is actually smaller than what matters to the company size. However, if the project is successful, if they're seeing a lot of success with adding adding direct debit on their payment page, that's when we talk about expansion and growing into different regions or taking the entirety of their direct debit business. And that's where the land and expand deal could become quite lucrative. And so that's something that you'll still want an SE on because you want to provide value, as much value upfront, for any potential opportunity that comes your way. So, yes, we're looking at all those different factors. But there's also kind of the subjective piece: could this deal be bigger in one year's time or two years time? That's definitely a factor.

Michael Pollack [00:18:26] And I have just one more question on this thing. Maybe for our audience, which again, tends to be probably heavy with sales leaders or sales individual contributors. Do you have any guidance or feedback or tips you give to a seller, an AE, about how to really maximize the relationship with their sales engineering partner?

Mary Carter [00:18:44] Yeah, that's a great question. I would say treat your SE like a counterpart. People like a teammate. And what I mean by that is preparing them before a client meeting, giving them notes, giving them your feedback, brainstorming together, because often your SE is juggling multiple opportunities at the same time. Also, the same work for after the call is done. Let's have a debrief, 5 minutes, 10 minutes just to catch up, provide each other constructive criticism about what you liked or areas for improvement. That goes a long way for the working relationship that you have and also builds strong relationships and strong trust.

Sarah E. Brown [00:19:25] That's awesome. And I'm wondering, as you're sharing this knowledge, what advice would you have for folks for kind of getting it out of silos? Are there systems you like to use? Do you share data? I'm curious how you get that information to the team or how you like to approach that.

Mary Carter [00:19:41] I'm a big advocate for, you know, the communication application at companies, so Slack, which is super common, or WhatsApp. We actually use both of those at GoCardless during the day. Slack during the day, WhatsApp on weekends. The team is pretty tight and so we're communicating across time zone. Just because we like each other, so when you share information across lots of different channels, but that instantaneous part of it is necessary. The quick check in, you know, maybe during the call, you might have to communicate to the AE, hey, don't say that or that's not something you want to talk about. And of course, when we talk about projects that we do through the company, that could be a component of the SE role where, for example, I created training material for the team to get onboard on the product. This is what GoCardless is, this is how you log in, this is how you search for customers, and do analysis. That's something that projects the rollout that you want to share company wide and email so everybody has access to it. And so kind of sharing achievements I think is very important.

Sarah E. Brown [00:20:50] Mary, is there anything else you'd like to share?

Mary Carter [00:20:52] Well, there was one thing I had no idea that the SE role existed until I stumbled across it. I had no idea about it. And so I'm just, you know, I've loved sharing my knowledge, sharing my experience and kind of letting other businesses know how important this function is. And so I really think of an SE as being able to be the trusted advisor for customers, their advocate, not just the traditional salesperson that's trying to close the deal, but someone to provide the honest, real feedback in terms of will the software technically work for you? Yes it will, no it won't, or maybe – and let's talk about a potential way to to put that up to develop it. And so it's an amazing experience. And for anyone that wants to know more about it, I'd be pleased to get in touch with them.

Sarah E. Brown [00:21:41] That's fantastic. And along those lines, for folks who want to learn more about you and your work, where should we direct them to?

Mary Carter [00:21:47] Yes. So you can reach out to us at GoCardless Twitter, on LinkedIn, and of course,

Michael Pollack [00:21:54] Thank you, Mary. This is awesome.

Mary Carter [00:21:55] Yeah, this is fun. Thank you. Go Badgers.

Sarah E. Brown [00:21:59] Well, that's it for us. This episode may be over, but we can continue the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #SellingInTheCloud. On Twitter, I'm @SEBMarketing.

Michael Pollack [00:22:08] And I'm @MRPollack.

Sarah E. Brown [00:22:09] Thank you to everyone for joining us for this episode of Selling in the Cloud, brought to you by Intricately, the authoritative source of digital product adoption, usage, and spend data for cloud sales and marketing teams. If you like the show, head on over to iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts, please give us a review. We appreciate it. Until next time.

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