How Joe Cumello and Jason Phipps have created a common purpose and culture of teamwork across their revenue teams

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.

Joe Cumello and Jason Phipps lead marketing and sales respectively for Ciena (CIEN), a networking systems, services, and software company.  Over the past four years they have forged a tight partnership between sales and marketing that is rare in terms of trust, teamwork, and results – contributing to over $1B in new growth.  

joe cumella, SVP of Global Marketing and Communications at Ciena
Jason Phipps ,Senior VP, Global Customer Engagement at Ciena

Below, I asked Joe and Jason to share how they have been able to build common purpose and a culture of teamwork with their sales, marketing, and product teams at Ciena. 

Stephen Diorio:  The “marriage” of sales and marketing has been a difficult challenge for every B2B organization.  Particularly in the technology sector.  You two have been able to forge a working relationship as the leaders of sales and marketing that has been tremendously successful in terms of culture, teamwork, and revenue growth. Over the last five years your team has been together, Ciena has grown from $2.4B to $3.6B. Can you share what it took to crack the code on what is a huge problem for most enterprises?

Joe Cumello: It all starts with an invitation by sales leadership to the table in some ways, and a recognition of the value of marketing. I’ve got to compliment Jason for setting up the arrangement because at the time I reported to him as SVP of sales.  Jason invited me to be a strategic partner with a seat at the table for every strategic conversation about growth in the company because he understands when sales and marketing work together it can be a “force multiplier”. That’s certainly different from what I’ve experienced throughout my career, where marketing has traditionally been viewed as “serving” sales.

Jason Phipps: I’d start with the first conversation I had with Joe when we were considering bringing marketing and sales together under one umbrella a number of years back.  Just to be clear, today sales and marketing are two peers on the executive leadership team, reporting to the CEO. There are a few factors underlying our bringing the sales and marketing functions together. Leverage and talent.

Sales plays a big role in our growth, and there was a fear that sales was going to take all the marketing money. But frankly, that had already happened, so I viewed this as actually a way to reallocate those resources more optimally by taking advantage of the “multiplier effect” between sales and marketing. This was important because growth dollars are not unlimited, and at some point putting another body in front of the customer doesn’t create the growth that putting that dollar into marketing will accomplish. I believe there is a lot more leverage putting the next growth dollar into marketing, particularly when you’ve reached critical mass.

From a talent perspective, coupling sales and marketing allows us to have more interactions in terms of talent on both teams and opinions. One of the things Joe did was bring in new talent in terms of adding key people to the operations and product marketing teams who had sales backgrounds as well as marketing experience.  These key managers brought immediate credibility and respect that made it easier to create leverage and synergies across our teams.

Stephen Diorio: Trust and teamwork are critical components of the 21st Century Commercial Model. Can you quantify the success your teams have achieve as a result of your collaboration?

Jason Phipps:  Yes. We’re a very metrics driven business.  I’ll have to hand it back to Joe because he has a number of KPI’s that his team leverages to assess the value of marketing. But overall, I think we had over rotated our growth KPIs to become overly quantitative in our zeal to be data driven. We both realized it’s important to capture the more qualitative aspects of growth in terms of meaningful conversations with the customer and the number of times the sales team raised their hands and brought marketing – as well as the engineering and product teams – into the conversations with the customer, in quarterly business reviews, and other account development activities. These collaborations demonstrated we were building trust and that marketing was being viewed as an extension of the sales team. So, we’ve moved to more of a “Quality of Engagement” (QOE) score to measure our account teams that reflects all of the actions, activity and engagement that contribute to account health and lifetime value.

Stephen Diorio: One area Ciena is at the vanguard is in evolving metrics and incentives.  You’ve pioneered measures of account health that look at important but often poorly quantified aspects such as influence, perception and embracing the value proposition. Can you talk about what it has taken to shift the focus of measurements from transactions and MQL to data-driven measures of customer lifetime value and customer success?

Joe Cumello:  We keep all the standard metrics – how many people are engaging with us on social, how many people are going deep into our web site, and how much content they are consuming. We have all that. But traditional demand generation metrics – MQL, SQL – were not effective or relevant for us because we have very deep customer relationships and a long (9 month or more) sales cycle. 

For example, you can set a goal of doing a million calls in 90 days which is quantitative and measurable, and it gets people rallied around making phone calls with the customer. But you could call the same person 20 times and have meaningless conversations and hit the metric. So, we had to adapt our approach. What we really care about is moving the needle within an account – focusing on the next RFP or engaging more deeply with the key stakeholders – to open up different areas of the account or diversify the business strategy within the account. I want to be able to supply our sales team with data about how customers engage with us across all our materials and enablement, and then give that to Jason and say this is what a winning engagement model looks like when we win, and this is what happens when we lose.

 So, we’ve developed customer engagement reporting and Quality of Engagement (QOE) measurements that give us a more complete and real time picture of the breadth, depth, and frequency and impact we are having on our customers. Our dashboard is like an “EKG for selling” that gives us a dynamic and digital picture of what is going on in the account. Are we engaging the right levels in the organization?  And are those stakeholders attending webinars, participating in “Demo days”, or downloading materials?

Diorio: How do these measures and dashboards help your revenue teams penetrate and grow accounts?

Jason Phipps:  There are a lot of accounts where we are not achieving our full potential in terms of penetration and lifetime value. There is a huge discontinuity in performance and level of engagement across accounts.

In some accounts we are engaging with the CEO, the CFO, the CMO and SVP of sales and all the way down to the engineer in the lab that makes the recommendation up the chain.  We’re tying in service metrics and operations reports with all functions and the account leaders. We’ve done a great job. Everyone’s involved rowing the boat. I’d put a QOE score of nine or ten on an account like this.

Then there’s other accounts where we are involved with just the engineering team who is making the decision on the project. And we’re just sitting around waiting for the PO’s to come in. That happens for a while, but the stickiness and the longevity of the relationship may not be there. So that account gets a QOE score of two or three.

Our longer-term vision is to be able to create a highly accurate QOE score of every account on a scale of 1-10 based on the level of engagement across the account. Sales folks are measured on quota attainment right now. But we want to look at the funnel on the breath of the engagement as another way to measure the sales leader on a major account as well. Measuring account teams not just on whether they hit quota, but did they have a robust pipeline and funnel for a long-term relationship with this customer?

Diorio: What has it taken to enable these Quality of Engagement measurements and customer engagement dashboards.

Jason Phipps: We’ve had to combine data from a variety of data sources showing how different players on our revenue team are engaging with the key stakeholders in the account – from CEO to engineering. A big part of that is rethinking how we organize our operations and enablement organizations. Operationally, we’ve had to coordinate and integrate marketing and sales operations.  Joe and I have a common operations support team. Joe has Marketing operations on this team which creates the customer engagement dashboard, or what we’ve been calling the “EKG”. The sales enablement and sales operations folks who are focused on QOE (Quality of Engagement) measurements are on my team. But they’ll have a connection to Joe’s marketing operations leader, because when he’s looking at the customer engagement dashboard, or EKG, in the field, we know this is going to be correlated to the Quality of Engagement score. So, if we have a high QOE on a particular account, then it should have a better EKG.

Joe Cumello: We’ve also worked with our partners in IT to better leverage data from across the organization. A lot of companies, and ours is one of them, have data silos from operations to the finance function.  This goes beyond what Jason and I have control over so that’s a bigger discussion than just sales and marketing operations.  So, we had to step back and have a bigger discussion amongst the leadership about what we want to do with data and analytics and AI and how we amalgamate and create value with the data. This will create a big opportunity.

Joe Cumello is the SVP of Global Marketing and Communications at Ciena, and Jason Phipps is the Senior VP, Global Customer Engagement. Both are on the leadership team and collaboratively oversee all marketing and sales worldwide.

You can learn more about the next generation of growth leaders and the state-of-the-art management tools, skills, capabilities, and practices they are using to accelerate revenue growth and adapt to the new buying reality at the Revenue Enablement Institute.  We welcome nominations of forward looking growth leaders for our CXO 100 research program.

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