Trusting the process:
Acquia’s Mike Stankus on picking up the phone, learning to talk to executives and ensuring BDRs get ‘results in the business world’

Collin Stewart, CEO

13 July 2017

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

New sales methodologies, email templates and professional studies on when to call prospects – each year comes with new tips and trick to experiment with. But, according to Mike Stankus, Acquia’s Senior Vice President of Special Projects, nothing replaces picking up the phone and having a real conversation with a prospect.

And after a 30-year career in various sales leadership positions, Stankus has seen it all.

“My first sales manager told me the best time to call is when you believe it’s the best time to call. So much about calling is your own conviction. If you start dialing and you’re just going through the motions, you might get somebody but you might not be in the right state of mind,” says Stankus, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

“I tell my BDRs when the good times to call are, but don’t limit yourself. Call whenever you want. Call on the weekends, call at 6 a.m. or call at 6 p.m. Just make your calls.”

It’s with that core belief in mind that Stankus, who leads the team of global BDRs at Acquia, instituted phone call targets for the team. Since the inception of the outbound sales org at Acquia – a team which Stankus started, gave up when transferred to run other divisions and eventually given back – the BDRs had drifted away from making regular calls. Email prospecting had taken over and phone calls were viewed as a waste of time.

But without regular time talking to prospects, many of whom are c-suite executives, how does a BDR, fresh out of school, learn to have effective conversations with leads? How does a BDR build a well-rounded sales toolkit that will carry them into their next role, and beyond?

“I used to walk through the BDR team in those days and it was like a library. I would ask the people running the team ‘why aren’t people making phone calls?’” says Stankus.

“Eventually, we instituted a target number of calls each week, per BDR. And, we taught our BDRs how to have effective calls. We told them, ‘this is what it takes to be successful.’ And the team got wrapped around making calls. They realized they can get people on the phone, and have a conversation that can lead to enough interest to book a discovery call. That’s how the thing started to snowball.”

“My first sales manager told me the best time to call is when you believe it’s the best time to call. So much about calling is your own conviction.”

The results of a regular call schedule have been stark: output per BDR has doubled over the course of a year. The Acquia inbound team too has benefited as the voicemails left by BDRs have resulted in more hits to their website and, subsequently, more inbound leads.

Currently, outbound leads account for about 45% of the company’s pipeline and, although anecdotal, says Stankus, it’s also where the majority of the company’s larger deals come from.

“Our outbound deals are typically the bigger ones. I Haven’t figured out quite why yet,” says Stankus.

“But, million dollar opportunities definitely keep people motivated.”

Motivation, mentoring and coaching is something both Stankus and, by extension, Acquia take very seriously. For example, the company has developed a clear BDR program that helps reps learn what is expected of an SDR, as well as prepares them for other roles within the company.

The BDR program revolves around four key pillars:

  1. Research: Acquia requires BDRs to have a list of 100 people (complete with title, company, phone number etc.) that they prospect to at any given time.
  2. Consistent messaging: this applies to both the phone and email. Stankus and other managers routinely review BDRs’ calls to ensure the right messages are being imparted.
  3. Organization: BDRs are encouraged to have a plan/schedule of what they are going to accomplish every day.
  4. Establishing a relationship with AEs: Acquia has a playbook that outlines what both parties are responsible for and how often they should meet while they work together.

After about 18 months on the job, Acquia BDRs, the majority of which were hired right out of school, move on to more senior sales positions such as Account Executives or to account management positions. Some BDRs also move into team lead roles on the outbound team.

Those who start in the BDR world, Stankus adds proudly, outperform their colleagues after their promotion – 90% of the Acquia’s top performers last quarter came from the BDR program.

“Selling has changed a lot over time. Relationships were extremely key in the past, and they’re always important, but the people we brought through the program know how to hustle. That’s what we teach them,” says Stankus.

“We teach them that there are certain things they need to do every day, and from that the results are going to come.”

For more on Stankus’ sales methodologies, check out his edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.