How Mike Marcellin, Chief Marketing Officer, and Marcus Jewell, Chief Revenue Officer, Work Together to Build an Operating System for Scalable and Sustainable Growth
Our team of experts from the Revenue Enablement Institute studies how leading organizations are transforming their commercial models to accelerate revenue growth. We profile growth leaders – CXOs – who are at the forefront of defining, enabling, and leading the execution of the 21st Century Commercial Model.
Mike Marcellin and Marcus Jewell are the Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Revenue Officer of Juniper Networks [NYSE: JNPR] a leader in secure, AI-driven networks that connect the world.
Over the past several years they have forged a tight partnership between sales and marketing that is rare in terms of teamwork and results – contributing to a surge in revenue growth and turning Juniper (back) into an agile growth company.
After a decade of profitable but relatively flat growth as their core telecommunications and infrastructure markets have matured, revenue growth has increased to (8%) in the last sales quarter on a large base of almost $5B in revenues, with record levels of customer satisfaction and new logo sales. Their go-to-market team has expanded Juniper into new markets where they are growing much faster – like AI-driven enterprise solutions (28%), cloud-ready data center solutions (28%), and security (21%). This has moved Juniper from what Mike Marcellin describes as a “margin maximizer” to an “agile growth” enterprise with the ability to pivot faster and realize the potential of new and attractive growth markets.
We asked Mike and Marcus to share how they have worked together to align and enable their revenue teams, systems, and operations to continue the acceleration of Juniper’s journey toward high growth.
“Wall Street calls us a value growth company or a GARP company – but we are a growth company any way you look at it,” says Jewell. “We’ve expanded the markets we’ve gone after. We’ve optimized selling. We’ve invested more in growth. And we’ve continued to innovate. We have 6% growth overall (8% last quarter), and even stronger prospects when you look at client interest and bookings. New growth is very strong. Aspects of our business – like AI-driven enterprise solutions, cloud-ready data center solutions, and connected security – are growing well into double digits.”
“A few years ago we (as a leadership team) realized we would not achieve our growth objectives by just selling to the same customers we’ve sold to in the past,” adds Marcellin. “Those telco and cloud providers are still very important for us, but we’ve widened the aperture of the industries were going after to really accelerate growth. We made that decision collectively as a leadership team. That was a sales statement, a marketing statement, and a product build statement. Growth has become a team sport and all of those things together have now allowed us to expand successfully. We’re still doing well in our traditional markets, while expanding rapidly in more industries. And that equates to more growth.”
The formula for growth at Juniper has included a mix of optimization, innovation, and more growth investment overall according to Mike and Marcus. “We are continuing to innovate and are now investing (more) in growth (putting more fuel in the tank),” says Jewell.
Those things did not happen overnight. They started by optimizing their go to market to ensure their investments in the people, process, and technology of growth were generating the best possible returns. “The first order of business was optimization,” says Jewell. “We wouldn’t put more fuel in the tank before we optimized our commercial model because in a sense, we’d be throwing money into a leaky bucket. That’s the work we’ve done together to drive high productivity in the salesforce. As a result: our sales team has the best sales performance in our sector (in terms of revenue per rep). We’re able to attract great talent (because there is opportunity).”
“The marketing engine in 2021 will drive about 5 times the amount of pipeline that it drove in 2018,” adds Marcellin. “And we (still) lead the industry in product innovation, especially around AI and automation.”
“So now it is time to invest,” says Jewell. “And we know we’ll generate a high return on that growth investment (though productivity may drop a bit as we ramp and scale our team in the short term). Over the past couple years, our leadership has put tens of millions of dollars more into sales and marketing.”
Because they work as a team, Mike and Marcus were able to balance how those growth funds were invested across the revenue cycle. They also were very thoughtful about how much should go toward capital investments in technology vs. adding the right skills to the revenue team.
“How we allocate that investment is interesting,” says Marcus Jewell. “The emergence of low-touch and no-touch digital channels and the need to align sales, marketing, and customer success have really changed the way we think about budgets and resource allocation. Mike and I look at the increases in growth investment as a “fungible budget” between ourselves in terms of where we spend it. We have a robust process. We run a small steering committee between us to figure out where we should put this money to drive the greatest growth and realize the most opportunity across our markets. We set clear OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) about the outcomes we are looking to achieve and use that to agree on the best allocation. Ultimately, we don’t really separate the sales and marketing budget when we look at our growth engines. We make sure that those investments are linked across our organizations, but we bucket them into one thing. And we keep it flexible and dynamic.”
“In my 15 years of experience allocating marketing and product budgets, that’s pretty unique,” adds Marcellin. “Normally everyone gets their budget target, and you do what you can with that. But there’s a limited ability to shift money around in real-time as we see opportunities pop up. I think you have to be more agile and be thinking about your entire go to market engine to compete in the rapidly evolving markets we operate in.”
One of the keys to pivoting Juniper to faster growth was understanding what it takes to lead a successful “modern selling organization”. “It used to be you needed a sales leader who managed ’sellers’”, relates Marcus Jewell, who has been leading sales teams for over 15 years. “But to succeed in the current market (in modern selling), you need to manage ‘selling’ (as in a selling system). That’s because sales have become more capital intensive. That’s different because a lot of (the way we engage customers) is low touch, zero touch, digital and augmented sales interactions. (That means that) you are (essentially) moving the money from human capital to systems (that make those humans better). To succeed today (in a 21st Century Commercial Model) you need a truly world-class person in sales, operations, data management and sales enablement – a “rock star” Revenue Operations leader. We’re fortunate enough to have several of those in our sales operations and marketing operations organizations. They have a different skill set. They are all engineers, data scientists, creative, and driven.”
As part of leading a modern selling system, Mike and Marcus have worked to use technology as a force multiplier that makes their revenue teams more effective. “There are three ways technology can improve selling performance,” Jewell asserts. “Migrating tasks and transactions, automating them, or enhancing the value of each interaction.”
“The biggest opportunity for technology and systems to improve selling performance, by far, is enhancing the value of a sales interaction,” he continues. “That’s where we are seeing the biggest gains. Augmentation rules everything. We’re still a belly to belly selling system – we sell massive million or even tens of millions of dollars – so you have to have human interaction. But there are many ways you can make those sellers better in ways that impact margins, total contract value, seller effectiveness, and can differentiate the buyer experience (which is our number one goal). In our world, that includes enabling our sales motions, enhancing our selling approach, telling our stories better, and improving skills. It also means providing sellers critical signals and buyer insights from marketing, so they have a competitive edge.”
“Migration is also a big opportunity and an ongoing activity for us,” adds Marcellin. “So, while we rely heavily on human selling interactions, that human intervention doesn’t need to be as much as people believe. We are moving more and more transactions and interactions with customers to ‘no touch’ and ‘low touch’ channels. That includes things like service tickets, self-service bots, self-configuration tools, and streamlined deal approvals.”
“Working together we’ve been able to go from 0% no touch and low touch transactions to 16% since we started less than a year ago,” he continues. “We expect to get to 18% this year. And that’s looking at percentage of revenues where obviously the high touch interactions are associated with much higher revenue deals and those large deals will skew that metric to look somewhat small. But when you look at the overall number of deals and customer interactions we do across our selling system, a much higher percentage of those are going to low touch at this point.”
“Honestly, you’re better off trying to do as much as you can without people (without sacrificing the customer experience), says Jewell. “There’s a lot of leverage moving your investment from human capital to systems. You want to maximize the unique capabilities human sellers can bring by off-loading as much of the revenue generation activities as possible. (Particularly in such a tight labor market.)”
Automation is also an opportunity, but it has more limitations. “We’ve been automating sales for years, so we’ve already automated much of the day-to-day seller workflow,” says Jewell. “And sales automation – at least how most people think of it – has its limits. To some degree automating sales is a bit of an oxymoron because you cannot fully automate a process that is nonlinear, unstable, and constantly changing (by definition). You can save sellers time and eliminate tasks, but on a fundamental level automating selling doesn’t work because the customer is not automated. The customer buying journey is non-linear and constantly in flux. Customers are constantly testing, learning, changing their minds and changing the way they get information. So how can you build a nonlinear and ever-changing automated system?”
The trick is to find ways technology can augment seller interactions. To Jewell, that is the secret sauce behind a lot of their performance gains. “We have our own project called Project Otto,” says Jewell. “The project is based on some industry standard sales enablement, sales engagement, and sales analytics products (tools like Highspot, Gong, Salesloft, Aviso) as well as some purpose-built and patent-pending data and analytics functionality. But the reality is we need to connect them together to support our own sales motions, stories, and selling approach. The tools are useful, but the real value is in connecting the dots,” he reiterates. “In a sense, the organization that connects the most dots win. I think you must be an orchestrator of different systems to truly augment sellers and generate real returns on your commercial technology investment. The tools are useful, but they are really just components in an operating system for growth.”
“Every organization has its own unique ‘operating system’ for selling,” Jewell continues. “So, it’s a fallacy to think that there’s going to be one platform to fit them all. And why would you abdicate such a strategic asset to an outside one size fits all tool?”
“It’s particularly important to connect the dots between sales and marketing because selling is not a linear process,” adds Mike Marcellin. “Both sales and marketing operations have assets that can enable the complete revenue cycle. Sales may dip in and do some things. Marketing may engage in other parts of the revenue cycle. If one doesn’t know what the other is doing, you’ve lost, and the customer has a horrible experience. So, it’s making sure that we see where sales is engaging through CRM and other tools that they use so that we can factor that into our next marketing motion and vice versa. We’ve been surfacing the data in the engagement we’ve had from a marketing perspective to our sellers for the last few years. Sales needs to know everything we know in marketing, and they need to have access to the signals and triggers we uncover (as well).”
To connect the dots, Marcus and Mike have worked together to integrate the customer facing systems that support marketing with the selling infrastructure that supports sales. According to them it’s simpler than people think – if you work as a team. “There are two primary elements to the system,” according to Jewell. “Mike, in marketing, provides qualitative information. There are some signals there that tell us something could potentially happen. What a salesperson does, which is different from marketing, is provide quantitative information. What is the probability that a specific deal will happen? How big is it? What actions do we take to get it? That’s the way that we work together. So, Mike can be held accountable by the sales team for giving reps those signals, telling us how strong those signals are, and what it might mean. But it’s up to the sales team to use the tools we give them to triage those signals and figure out what the next best action should be to get that sale.”
“A big part of Project Otto is about making sure our marketing systems surface that information, put it in front of the seller, trigger them, and even hit them if needed so they are aware of it, so they take action,” adds Marcellin. “A big key is to automate and integrate those marketing signals with the information that they’ve got (in CRM) to make it much easier for them to get what they need and take the next action – without a lot of hunting for data in different systems, reading it and then taking some action.”
All of this has changed the roles, skills and aptitudes Juniper looks for in its sellers. “One big thing that’s changed is this notion of relationship selling,” says Jewell. “If you rely only on relationships to sell in today’s market, you’re doomed to failure. That doesn’t mean salespeople shouldn’t be strong relationship builders. Of course, they should. EQ (Emotional Quotient) matters in selling. But they must add more to their game, they need digital IQ because if they can’t use insights, data and tools, work as a team, and follow a system, they’re going to fail. People who are lone wolfs are a disaster in the modern world. The same with people who cannot work the matrix and collaborate as part of a team.”
“So, we have actively changed the profile we seek in our sellers,” he continues. “We’re looking for people with different backgrounds and a different psychological profile. We’ve changed our testing and assessment models to make sure they have the right mixture of IQ and EQ. As you might guess, most sellers easily smashed the EQ level, but fewer can meet the IQ level in terms of manipulating data, looking for patterns, and the kind of things you need to be able to do in a data-driven environment. If you think in the context of a Myers-Briggs assessment – whereas we used to look for ENTPs and ENTJs – now we are looking for more INFPs and INFJs. Put another way, we need less Captain Kirk and more Mr. Spock.”
Having world class Revenue Operations is essential to running a modern selling system like the one Juniper is building. Mike and Marcus have had to evolve their approach to managing the operations that support their teams, systems, and processes. “We’ve seen a lot of companies try to combine the operations that support sales, marketing, and service into a single site to get more control of their selling systems and assets,” says Mike Marcellin. “Others have put in place ‘presidents of field operations’ above them to try and span everything. In our experience, you need to strike a balance. You can put someone above everything, but are they really going to add that much value relative to the disruption involved? And will that change what you need to accomplish as an organization?”
“It’s hard to be an expert in marketing operations and sales operations and sales enablement,” he continues. “Marketing technology and modern marketing operations are changing very rapidly. The same for the modern sales organization and the technologies that support it. It’s hard to be an expert in all those things. I certainly am not. I might have some ideas I’ll give to Marcus, but he’s the expert there. And we’ve got our hands full making sure we have a world class marketing engine.”
“In our experience the issue isn’t the leadership,” adds Jewell. “The real key to aligning sales and marketing operations is making sure that the teams on the ground know exactly what you are trying to achieve from revenue operations – are you trying to give your customers a better experience? Or increase revenue? Or reduce costs? Or become more agile? That’s important because the paradigms are different depending on what you’re trying to achieve.”
“So, we make sure all the marketing and sales and service operations teams have clear OKRs between them and understand what their responsibilities are to each other,” he continues. “So that’s why we use steering committees extensively across our operations at Juniper, because then you’re looking at the same data at the same time, and then your opinions can be shared. Ultimately, we have an effective partnership because neither of our teams are confused about the objective. The objective is delivering a great customer experience to drive growth for the company. We create accountability for that with OKRs that span across different divisions. We want everyone that touches revenue to feel that they are accountable to deliver that customer experience.”
“That seems like common sense, but many organizations don’t really have alignment of those objectives between sales, marketing, and services,” says Jewell. “The key is to establish OKRs that measure outputs, not inputs. For example, as a sales leader I can ask Mike for basically two things. I can say I need more awareness, or I need more leads. Both are measurable and very different from an operations and execution perspective. What I can’t do and what I shouldn’t do is tell him how to go do that in terms of media, sponsorship, or digital marketing. That’s what we train our teams to do. It’s our job to make it clear the outcome we want.”
Mike Marcellin is the Chief Marketing Officer of Juniper Networks
Marcus Jewell is the Chief Revenue Officer of Juniper Networks
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