How to Build a Pipeline of Quality and Consistency

Building a Quality Sales Pipeline

Editor’s Note: Recap post of the deck presented at Sales Hacker Conference, New York City 2015 by Tom Murdock, Head of Worldwide Inside Sales at Acquia. Slides are viewable below.

‘Hacking’ things gets used as a term a lot. For us, it’s doing things efficiently at scale, particularly in the areas where we have to do things at volume.

Hiring Hacks


For those that are trying to hire folks that don’t have a ton of experience, you probably can relate to this picture. This is what it felt like for us doing it the old way. This is brutal for us at Acquia and also for the candidates sometimes.

“Business Development Rep” or “Sales Development Rep” is an attractive role for any soon to be or recent college grad. The problem is, not everyone is right for it. And sometimes going through a hiring process for these roles really can beat people up and leave them wondering if business is even right for them.

This isn’t fair to candidates and it’s not a good use of time for you. So we set out to hack the interview process and remove the problem of bad fits at the top of our funnel.

Enter the Team at LaunchSource.

LaunchSource is playing an important role in fixing two problems:

  1. The stigma of sales that pushes otherwise awesome candidates into “Analyst” or “Consultant” roles.
  2. The painful, low conversion hiring process that most people in this room go through for BDRs and early-career inside sales people.

Interview Day

Interview Day allows us to spend time with nothing but pre-screened, sales ready candidates. During Interview Day we go through sales exercises, group exercises, and are able to see candidates work real life scenarios (instead of meeting with people who may have just been coached really well on how to interview).

We’d love to be at 100% but we’re making progress thanks the Launch Source hack. We’re somewhere around 18% now (a 4x+ improvement) and trending upward as LaunchSource learns more and more about what type of candidate we’re looking for before we meet them at Interview Day.

Following a signed offer letter, the candidate will actually go back to LaunchSource for some training on how to be effective in a BDR role.

Prospecting Hacks (Our “Sales Stack”)

Once we have our team hired, we enable them with tools that will help them find the right companies at the right time to talk about how Acquia can help them transform the way they are going to market via the web.

Team Structure

  • 30% on our Inbound Leads
  • 70% on Target Account Outbounding

This will vary based on your model. Clearly your inbounds need to be priority one, but if you aren’t doing outbound yet because you have enough inbound right now, invest in outbound now. It takes time to ramp this up and get it cranking. If you do it now while your inbound is cranking, you’ll have it scaled when your inbound can no longer keep up with your growth goals. We should have started dedicated outbound earlier than we did.

Daily Self Improvement

Top Sales Advisor – This platform is a phenomenal way for individual reps to stay engaged on the latest and greatest techniques to master their craft. It provides reps with tools to ensure they are focusing on the right things to move the needle in their accounts.

Measure Success

Yesware / InsideSales.com – Once it’s time to call and email these folks, we leverage these two technologies to help us a) know who to call and when, b) A/B test what to say, and c) make it fun and competitive.

Impressive Messaging

VITO – Our outbound team is solely focused on 60 target accounts each for the quarter. Their goal is to do research to understand the account, know the strategic priorities of that company and send highly personalized emails to senior level executives within the company.

This won’t work for you if you have an ASP less than ~50k for your larger accounts and need to do more transactional sales. However, if a part of your team, or your whole team is pushing up market into bigger accounts and bigger deals, the VITO selling process works well.

This means our BDRs are measured more on the quality of their meetings and opportunities than on their dials and emails. We look for 20 dials and 40 emails, along with 2 VITO letters per week.

Find The Right Prospects

DiscoverOrg, LinkedIn, and SalesLoft – LinkedIn to get the right people in the right companies. SalesLoft to get them into SFDC and manage the follow up process. DO for accurate contact information and org charts in Marketing and IT.


Barrows – if you haven’t had John come in and train your prospectors, do it. He’s expensive, but that’s because there’s a waiting list. Get on that waiting list and open the check book. Your pipeline will thank you.

Sandler – This is a great training to help your reps methodically work a deal from inception to close. It is rep-based with real life, day-to-day scenarios worked through and trained on.

Pipeline: Quality and Consistency

Acquia’s process for pipeline quality and consistency:

  • Discovery Letter
  • Pursuit Drill / Vision to Close

Scaling a team fast while also trying to hit your quarterly bookings targets can make it difficult to ensure your pipeline is consistent in terms of its quality and its stage. We’ve instilled these processes throughout a sales cycle to ensure we’re focusing on the right deals at the right time.

Let’s quickly dive into these a bit more.

Discovery Letter

A “Discovery Letter” should be sent within 24 hours of a possible opportunity interaction. It typically contains the essence of the conversation that occurred during the sales call along with a proposed set of next steps. A common structure is:

  • A detailed description of the sales person’s understanding of the need and what is driving the need
  • A description of the timetable, budget, and approval process
  • Re-cap of any recommendation you made
  • A list of open questions that were not answered (and may have been tabled for off line discussion during the meeting)
  • A list of agreed upon next steps and owners. This list is one of the best ways to push things forward, especially if there are due dates attached to each next step.
  • A discovery letter MUST BE VALIDATED / ACKNOWLEDGED by prospect

Example of a Discovery Letter:


Thank you for your time today. I now have a much better understanding of your data needs.
I have summarized my notes from our conversation. Please let me know if you have any comments / clarifications.


  • ABC company is currently hosting their Drupal site at RackSpace
  • Significant user growth has crashed the site five times in the past two months
  • The site outages are tarnishing ABC’s brand and the CEO has mandated a fix ASAP
  • RackSpace nor ABC have the Drupal expertise to troubleshoot / manage this environment. There is a concern that the site has security flaws
  • ABC is looking for a company to provide hosting and application support 7/24
  • The annual budget for hosting and support is $75k. James and his boss will make the vendor decision.


  • James will complete the hosting questionnaire by …..
  • James and his boss will participate in a 60 minute requirements gathering / validation call with Acquia on ______
  • After this call, Joe will turn a proposal around in 24 hours
  • Joe and James walk through the proposal on ______

James, I look forward to working with you on this project.


Joe Salesperson

If you put an opportunity in and it doesn’t have a discovery letter, Sales Ops will go in and zero out the dollar value on that opportunity, they email you and CC your Sales Manager and say “You created this opportunity but don’t have a discovery letter. Once you’ve gone back and validated the opportunity you can go back and enter in a dollar amount.”

Purpose – Check your “Happy Ears”.

Getting a response in writing makes your prospect take it seriously.

Further Reading: How to Build a Validated Sales ProcessSales Predictability Through Data, Science, and a little bit of Glengarry Glen Ross (The ABC’s of selling)…


Before an opportunity can go into the pipeline, it must be validated via RENTAL.

R – Response to Discovery Letter
E – Eval Process and Timeline
N – Next step booked requires customer action w/in X time.
T – Technical pain = business pain and financial pain
A – Agreement on Value Prop
L – Landscape of Opp (Who would our solution help? Who might think we negatively impact their job? How do we make sure they realize we’re an asset to them?)


Qualify all opportunities with with MEDDICC.

M – Metrics – We know their business metrics that drive a compelling ROI for an Acquia solution.
E – Economic Buyer (budget holder) is identified and we are in discussions with that person (or have validated from them that they are delegating early stages to lieutenants)
D – Decision Process – Who is on the evaluation team (influencers) and who has the final call/recommendation
D – Decision criteria – What are the business and technical criteria that will drive a decision?
I – Identified Pain – Who it impacts, what a more precise cost of that pain is, and what happens if they “do nothing”
C – Competition – Who are we up against? Other companies? DIY?
C – Champion – We have a champion, or we’ve identified who it could be and are planning how to engage

Pursuit Drill

When we first started out, we did these in an ad-hoc fashion but now they’re religion in the company. Every deal that gets into the “Best Case” forecast category and above has to have a pursuit drill done.

The template should be completed by a sales rep and VALIDATED by a sales manager / deal team for any deal that makes into QUALIFIED/BEST. It should also be used as a “gut check” before investing in a formal proposal.

The pursuit drill ensures we answer these kinds of questions:

  • Does the customer have a need?
  • Do we have the right solution?
Is this a closable opportunity?
Where do we have red flags?
  • What pro-active strategies should we deploy?

Vision to Close

A vision to close MUST be done AND Validated by a manager prior to moving a deal into Likely/ Commit. Answering theses 3 quick questions can create a roadmap on how to get a deal to closure

  • How do we get business buy-in?
 Person / what they care about / how we will get them bought in?
  • How do we get technical buy-in?
 Person / what they care about / how we will get them bought in?
  • What is the procurement / legal process and how do we navigate?

Before you forecast something you must do a pursuit drill or have a vision to close. Its simply a two-page document filed out by rep, and is audited by someone not involved in the deal – typically sales leadership.

Goal: Find and fill the holes (takes the emotion out of the deal when someone not involved does the audit).

Sales Development

Build a Validated Sales Process

Read more about how their building a validated sales process at Acquia and managing their full pipeline.

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