Scott Slomba: How to Succeed in Customer Success Roles

ScottSlomba_beach-1Scott Slomba is Director of Customer Success at Komprise. He has more than 25 years of experience selling and supporting innovative software products and services with a strong background in storage solutions, edge computing, and secure IoT solutions. Prior to Komprise, he spent 23 years as Director of Sales Engineering at Wind River. We chatted with Scott about his career in Customer Success.

You started your career in engineering but quickly pivoted to the customer success/sales engineer roles. How did that transition happen?

SS: I am not wired to sit in front of a screen all day coding. When I learned that there are these jobs where you can hop in a car or plane and go meet with people at other companies and talk about technology, I was all over it.

Of course, this has now changed with people traveling less for work and working remotely more often.

SS: Yes, and I was often working remotely back then when it was hard to be a remote employee dialing into a conference call in headquarters. You didn’t know how many people were in the conference room and what side conversations were going on and what’s on the whiteboard. Since COVID, there was a huge shift of people working remotely online and that persists in most areas. This has now leveled the playing field for me. However, in a customer-facing role it’s more challenging, as you lose the small talk and the body language–even on video.

What did you learn early on about the key challenges for a customer success professional?

It’s all about the first 90 days. The sooner the customer realizes value the more beneficial for everyone. By nailing the onboarding process, the customer will realize value sooner, customer satisfaction will be higher, and the odds of renewals and expansion downstream will be much higher. Adoption is also less expensive than making diving catches during the last 90 days of a subscription.

An excellent onboarding outcome builds trust early on, which makes the customer journey much smoother and enjoyable for both the customer and the customer success professional.

But it’s hard to get the attention of enterprise IT customers as they are often spread so thin.

It is. I come from the embedded computing space. It was a big change for me to move into SaaS because in embedded, most of our customers were working on a single project that had critical requirements, fixed budgets, and hard deadlines. Ask anybody in aerospace how catastrophic it is to miss a launch date. Customers were focused on the project. In the enterprise IT space, it’s about being more efficient, saving money, saving time or being compliant. That compelling event isn’t always there. Instead, there are often fire drills randomly popping up all over the enterprise. Regular cadence calls help ensure that things are moving forward and issues are being addressed in a timely manner. In parallel, you have to check in with the businessperson regularly to make sure they are realizing value.

It doesn’t matter how well things are going on the technical front, if the business needs are not being met you will lose the customer.

For somebody wishing to go into this profession, what are the key traits/skill sets required?

Common traits I’ve seen in strong CSMs are people who enjoy helping others, who like to learn new technologies, and who are inquisitive of how people do things. Key skills include consultative selling and project management skills. You need to be able to understand the customer’s pain, map out a plan to remove that pain, and execute.

Do you need an engineering background?

It depends on the customer success model in place. I’ve seen some customer success models where the focus is on quoting, forecasting, and obtaining the renewal PO. I’ve seen other models where the focus is on providing white glove support and managed services. Komprise has a trusted advisor model where we act as the customer’s advocate and provide oversite through the onboarding journey into adopting new use cases. Having an engineering background in this role helps to better understand the challenges the customer is facing, provide guidance on how to address those challenges, and speak the same language while doing so.

Tell me about your experiences at Komprise. What are some of the rewarding parts of your job?

I like helping people solve problems whether they are technical, financial, or organizational. I get to do this with customers directly and by working with colleagues inside the company. I like working for a small company where people can make decisions fast and quickly execute. I also like working in an environment where everyone has an impact and we each contribute to the company in a tangible way, every day.

What is most interesting or exciting to you about the area of unstructured data management?

I come from the embedded computing space where most applications require limited compute and memory resources because things need to fit in tiny spaces like an anti-lock braking system, missile, or a surgical robot. I don’t even think I knew what a petabyte was five years ago. I find it mind boggling how much data is out there and how fast it is growing. IT organizations can no longer just keep buying more and bigger filers to address their data storage needs. Instead, they must strategically manage their ever-growing data footprints. Komprise has a real solution that addresses this problem that I believe was ahead of its time.

What do our users—storage architects and engineers—struggle with daily? How do you view their overall challenges and role in IT?

Companies are well past the point where they can just keep buying more data storage. They need to be more strategic about how they manage their explosive data footprint. The storage professionals need to deal with much more complex heterogenous hybrid environments both on prem and increasingly in the cloud as well as multiple clouds. At the same time IT budgets continue to tighten, constraining resources to manage these environments which are growing in complexity. Then throw security into the mix as cyberattacks are getting more prevalent. Factoring all these things together, these people are spread thin and have to be a jack of all trades.

You’re lucky to have lived in San Diego for the past 30 years. What are your favorite things to do in that beautiful town?

It is a treat to live here. I am originally from New England where the weather heavily dictates what you can do on a given day. In San Diego, it’s always a nice day where you can do anything. In my free time you will find me doing ocean swims, surfing and sailing, hiking, biking, and on winter weekends, skiing which is close. Then we have a small wine country that is very close. It’s a nice, relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

That does not sound dull. Thanks Scott!

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