The coordination between sales and marketing drives growth in Ciena


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

Our expert team at the Revenue Enablement Institute examines how leading companies are transforming their business models to accelerate revenue growth. We introduce growth leaders – CXOs – who are at the forefront of defining, enabling and directing the implementation of the 21st century trading model.

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

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

Stephen Diorio: The “connection” of sales and marketing was a difficult challenge for any B2B organization. Especially in the technology area. The two of you were able to develop a working relationship as sales and marketing directors that was hugely successful in terms of culture, teamwork and sales growth. In the last five years your team has been together, Ciena has grown from $ 2.4 billion to $ 3.6 billion. Can you tell us what it took to break the code, which is a big problem for most organizations?

Joe Cumello, SVP for global marketing and communications at Ciena


Joe Cumello: It all starts with an invitation from sales management to the table and an appreciation of the value of marketing. I have to compliment Jason on setting up the arrangement because I reported him as SVP of Sales at the time. Jason invited me to be a strategic partner who sits at the table on every strategic conversation about growing the company because he understands that sales and marketing, when working together, can be a “force multiplier”. This is certainly different from what I’ve experienced during my career when marketing was traditionally viewed as a “service to sales”.

Jason Phipps, Senior VP, Global Client Engagement at Ciena


Jason Phipps: I would start with the first conversation I had with Joe when we were considering bringing marketing and sales under one roof a few years ago. To be very clear: Sales and Marketing are two colleagues on the management team today who report to the CEO.

There are several factors that underlie our merging of the sales and marketing functions. Leverage and talent.

Sales is a huge part of our growth and there were concerns that sales would take up all of the marketing money. But frankly, it had already happened, and I saw this as a way to better reallocate those resources by taking advantage of the “multiplier effect” between sales and marketing.

This was important because the growth dollars are not unlimited and at some point if another body is put in front of the customers it will not get the growth that will come from putting that dollar into marketing. I believe there is a lot more leverage to put the next growth dollar into marketing, especially once you’ve reached critical mass.

From a talent perspective, coupling sales and marketing enables more talent-related interactions in both teams and opinions. One of the things Joe did was attract new talent to add key people to the operations and product marketing teams who had both a sales background and marketing experience. These key managers brought instant credibility and respect with them, which made it easier to create leverage and synergy in our teams.

Stephen Diorio: Trust and teamwork are important components of the business model of the 21st century. Can you quantify the success your teams have achieved from working together?

Jason Phipps: Yes. We are a very metrics-oriented company. I have to give it back to Joe as he has a number of KPIs that his team uses to gauge the value of marketing. Overall, I think we’ve turned our growth KPIs too much to get too quantitative in our eagerness to be data-driven. We both recognized the importance of capturing the higher quality aspects of growth in terms of meaningful conversations with the customer and the frequency with which the sales team raised their hands, and marketing, engineering and product teams in the conversations with Involve the customer in quarterly business reviews and other account development activities. This collaboration has shown that we build trust and that marketing is seen as an extension of the sales team. So we’ve turned more to a Quality of Engagement (QOE) score to measure our account teams that reflects all actions, activities, and engagements that add to account health and lifelong value.

Stephen Diorio: One area that Ciena is pioneering is in developing metrics and incentives. You have pioneered the health of accounts that take into account important but often poorly quantified aspects such as impact, perception, and consideration of the value proposition. Can you talk about what it took to shift the focus from measuring transactions and MMS to data-driven measures of customer lifetime value and success?

Joe Cumello: We keep all the standard metrics – how many people engage with us on social networks, how many people go deep into our website, and how much content they consume. We have it all. However, the traditional metrics for generating demand – MMS, SQL – were not effective or relevant for us because we have very deep customer relationships and a long sales cycle (9 months or longer).

For example, you can set yourself a goal of making a million calls in 90 days, which is quantitative, measurable, and gets people talking to the customer on the phone. But you could call the same person 20 times and have meaningless conversations and hit the metric. So we had to adjust our approach.

What is really important to us is moving the needle within an account – focusing on the next RFP or working more closely with key stakeholders – to open up different areas of the account or to diversify business strategy within the account.

I want to be able to provide data to our sales team on how customers are engaging with us across all of our materials and opportunities, and then give that to Jason and say that if we win, this is what a successful engagement model looks like And that’s what happens when we lose

That’s why we’ve developed customer retention reports and Quality of Engagement (QOE) measurements that give us a more complete and real-time picture of the breadth, depth, frequency and impact we have on our customers. Our dashboard is like an “EKG for Sales” that gives us a dynamic and digital picture of what is going on on the account. Are we engaging the right levels in the organization? And do these stakeholders take part in webinars, take part in “demo days” or do they download materials?

Diorio: How do these actions and dashboards help your sales teams penetrate and grow accounts?

Jason Phipps: There are many accounts where we are not achieving our full potential in terms of penetration and lifetime value. There is a huge discontinuity in performance and engagement between accounts. In some reports we work with the CEO, the CFO, the CMO and the SVP of the sales department and right down to the engineer in the laboratory who makes the recommendation in the chain. We link service metrics and operational reports with all functions and the account managers. We did a great job. Everyone is involved in rowing the boat. I would put a QOE of nine or ten on an account like this. Then there are other accounts where we only work with the engineering team that makes the decision on the project. And we’re just sitting around waiting for the POs to come in. This happens for a while, but the stickiness and longevity of the relationship may not be there. So this account will get a QOE score of two or three.

Our longer term vision is to be able to produce a highly accurate QOE score for each account on a scale of 1 to 10 based on the level of engagement across the account. Sellers are currently measured by the achievement of quotas. However, we would like to consider the funnel in the breath of engagement as another way of measuring the sales manager on a large account as well. Not only did you measure account teams whether they hit the quota, but did they have a robust pipeline and funnel for building a long-term relationship with that customer?

Diorio: What did it cost to enable these Quality of Engagement measurements and retention dashboards?

Jason Phipps: We had to combine data from different data sources to show how different actors on our sales team connect with key account stakeholders – from the CEO to the engineering. A large part of this is rethinking the organization of our operating and activation organizations. Operationally, we had to coordinate and integrate marketing and sales activities. Joe and I have a joint Operations Support team. Joe has marketing activities on this team that create the loyalty dashboard, or what is known as the “EKG”. The Sales Enablement and Sales Operations people who focus on Quality of Engagement (QOE) measurements are on my team. But they will have a connection with Joe’s Marketing Operations Director because if he looks at the customer loyalty dashboard (EKG) on site, we know it correlates with the Quality of Engagement score. So if we have high QOE for a particular account it should have a better EKG.

Joe Cumello: We also worked with our IT partners to better leverage data from across the company. Many companies, and one of them is one of us, have data silos from operations to finance. This is beyond what Jason and I are in control of. So this is a bigger discussion than just sales and marketing activities. So we had to take a step back and have a bigger discussion among executives about what we want to do with data and analytics and AI, and how we can bring the data together and create value. This will create a great opportunity.


Joe Cumello is the SVP of Global Marketing and Communications for Ciena, and Jason Phipps is Senior Vice President, Global Client Engagement. Both are part of the management team and jointly oversee all marketing and worldwide sales.

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