Customer stories

Palantir.net: Winning in Web Design and Development

Palantir.net: Winning in Web Design and Development

About Palantir.net

In operation for over two decades, Palantir is a full service web design and development firm based in Chicago. The company uses open source technologies to enable people everywhere to discover, create, and share knowledge. Palantir is primarily known for its extensive use of Drupal technology, but also works in PHP and other platforms. Palantir offers a variety of services including, but not limited to—consulting, support, design, strategy, and development.

The majority of their projects are large-scale, often involving building out an entire website infrastructure for major organizations. “Yes we design websites, but we really want to do much more than that,” says Shawn Smith, Marketing and Communications Lead at Palantir. “Our Goal is to become a real partner to our clients, understand their business goals on the deepest level and then implement them through technology.

Palantir’s Business Philosophy

As a full service agency Palantir has enjoyed its greatest success when comprehensively handling projects from start-to-finish. Initially the team unpacks the nuts & bolts of the business—overall business model, strategic goals, web presence strategy—as well as establishing and maintaining a firm handle on the target market. The team then internally designs and develops the website that best speaks to the specifics of that particular business. Palantir finds this method highly effective as it allows them to deliver exact results their clients ask for.

The Palantir team has enjoyed a record of success in the areas of higher education, healthcare and nonprofits. “We target industries and sectors that have a different kind of bottom line in mind.” explains Shawn. “And we like the fact that the work we do has the potential to help change the world”. Among their established clients in higher education are—the University of Chicago and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

Lead Management via Copper

Through their inbound focused marketing approach, the vast majority of Palantir’s leads come from the content they produce such as case studies and podcasts. As Marketing and Communications Lead at Palantir, Shawn uses Copper for lead nurturing and management purposes. “Copper makes it easy to not only search for leads through filters and other discoverable means, the direct integration between Copper and MailChimp also makes our job even easier, and much more effective.”

As with any business service, agencies often have particular client types that they work with more frequently. For example, Shawn filters leads by higher education and healthcare industries to narrow the list down to target university healthcare systems. “Copper helps us build a targeted list. And from a marketing point of view, we definitely like the fact that we can filter through particular groups when messaging, as it really helps us drill down our list, using the best of both worlds and allowing us to do very targeted outreach as a result.”

Splitting the Sales Pipelines is Key for Web Development and Services

Palantir maintains four pipelines:

  • Outside Sales
  • Inside Sales
  • Third Party Support
  • Long Lead

The team’s primary focus is the Outside Sales, Inside Sales, and Third Party Supportpipelines. The Long Lead pipeline is set aside for review each quarter as it consists of opportunities in which “conversations” have begun without any particular endgame in sight.

Outside Sales vs Inside Sales

The differences between Outside Sales and Inside Sales often depend on the channels through which the initial leads are acquired, as well as the lead qualification process.

Outside Sales generally consist of more traditional sales in which leads are acquired through funnels such as contact forms.

“With Outside Sales, we’re not yet familiar with the client, so we’re essentially building relationships,” explains Ken Rickard, Director of Professional Services, who is also in charge of managing Palantir’s sales pipelines. “With Inside Sales, as we know the client and understand their needs, we are much more proactive about recommending projects.”

In the web development and services industry, agencies often work with clients they maintain existing relationships with—where mutual trust and confidence have already been established. As a direct result, the Inside Sales process is much more straightforward.

Another major factor that differentiates the Inside Sales pipeline is the lead qualification process. Ken explains, “With a number of our clients, it’s a case of whether we’re able to understand and address their needs. If we are, in most cases clients won’t consider anyone else.”

“We earn return business because we have built the confidence by effectively addressing their issues,” adds Ken.

When considering both Outside and Inside Sales, leads must be qualified based on budget and time, as these are both crucial factors in web development and services. However, Ken explains “It’s more a case that [for Inside Sales] we are pre-qualified in the eyes of the client. As some of our clients—the University of Arizona for example—keep a pre-qualified vendor list, and we track those leads as Inside Sales.”

For these reasons, Inside Sales normally have a much higher “close” rate compared to Outside Sales. And this is one compelling reason why Ken and his team made the decision to divide the pipelines. Currently, their Outside Sales close rate is 27%, while the Inside Sales rate hovers at 65%.

Third Party Support

In the web development and services industry, occasionally clients arrive with work that’s already been handled by other agencies and are simply seeking support. The Palantir team considers these cases as Third Party Support opportunities. “With Third Party Support, we’re pretty deliberate about whom we choose to work with. So we’ll go in and do technical audits of their work to ensure that we can provide the level of work they deserve,” says Ken. The work involved in a Third Party Support contract also typically tends to be less complex.


Palantir’s pipeline stages are straightforward:

  1. New Opportunity
  2. Qualification
  3. Proposal / Presentation
  4. Client Evaluation
  5. Contract Signed

“Since we started using Copper, we’ve been refining the deal process, and we consider a deal closed when the signature is signed.” adds Ken.

copper screenshot

Tracking and Analytics

Ken and his team track lost and abandoned opportunities, so that they can establish exactly why particular companies are not a healthy match. As a result they’re able to efficiently pre-qualify leads in the future. In most cases, budget is normally the reason for lost/abandoned opportunities.

Ken uses the Copper Custom Report Builder which allows him to directly import his Copper data into Google Sheets. He then creates a dashboard to share with the entire company, so that those without access to Copper can stay up to speed.

As there are three separate pipelines to actively report on, Ken updates the dashboard regularly with a single click. This way, the entire company has access to vital sales information such as revenue projection and sales quotas. “It gives us real time business data,” Ken adds.

From Zero CRM to Copper: Before and After

Prior to Copper, Palantir did not use a CRM system and therefore the team was only tracking existing opportunities along with their existing value in a spreadsheet.

“With Copper, we have a much better understanding of our sales cycle,” added Ken, “Copper gives us superior clarity into our market. We’re now able to track the average value of a lead. From that we can then extrapolate how many additional leads we’ll need to generate in order to hit our sales quota.

We also like how Copper tracks leads. The total value of our Outside Sales pipeline is greater than the Inside Sales but Inside Sales value is worth a lot more because of its higher ‘win’ rate. This way, we can now quantify the long term value of client relationships, which changes our sales strategy, staffing model—and all these factors tell us where to focus our efforts.“ Additionally Ken explained- “It changes how I spend my time, and where we look for client acquisition.”

For businesses using CRM in web development and services industry, Ken recommends, “Collect good data! One of the most positive aspects of using Copper is that it lets us collect good data so that we can then efficiently and effectively identify room for continued improvement.”

As one example, Palantir sometimes handles projects that are strictly design, strictly consulting or strictly development, etc. In Copper, the team then effectively filters specific projects by custom fields to track the overall project lifecycle. If they see a lot of development projects over other types of projects, then this indicates that the design team may need additional projects. The team can then more effectively source new projects where they have capacity. “We want to make sure we have a balanced portfolio.” Ken concludes.

The Palantir team is able to leverage the sales data that Copper provides to optimize their sales funnel, forecast accurately, and overall drive their business.