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AEs: How did you get your first AE role?

Sales Savages,


I'd love to hear how was your path to getting your first AE role.


Did you start as an SDR? Had experiences outside of SaaS? I've even heard one that was a recruiter before moving to AE.

🏰 War Stories
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16
softwarebro
Politicker
+4
Director of Sales
Job hopping.Β 
champchamp
Catalyst
+5
Enterprise Sales Development Representative
Haha nice
LoneMaverick
Opinionated
+3
Strategic Account Leader
I had several years sales experience outside of SaaS, couple years corporate insurance and a couple of years in selling proprietary software in the automotive.

Technically, took a step become and an SDR at a start up. Β Was an AE within 6 mo.
champchamp
Catalyst
+5
Enterprise Sales Development Representative
Nice, was your previous experience taken into consideration for your promotion or was it based purely on your performance as an SDR?
kgotti
Opinionated
+2
Key Account Executive
I joined a SaaS start-up as an SDR out of college. Spent 6-9 months as an SDR learning the sales processes and was promoted to AE. I could see how a recruiter could join as an AE in some capacity as they could argue that's closing experience.Β 
champchamp
Catalyst
+5
Enterprise Sales Development Representative
Nice, did your company had SMB AEs or did you get into commercial or enterprise right away?
kgotti
Opinionated
+2
Key Account Executive
That startup had an SMB segment and ENT so I went to SMB. I spent 9 months in that role and leveraged it into an SMB/Mid Market role at a public SaaS company.Β 

I got promoted there to a commercial role after about a year and spent another 1.5 years there as a commercial rep before moving to a unicorn SaaS company as a comm rep. After 2 years there as a comm rep I moved to Ent.Β  AE. I spent 2 years in that role and recently took a role as a key AE at another public SaaS company.

In all the experiences I've had I wouldn't have traded the mid-market role for anything. I got so many at-bats doing transactional deals it was a constant learning experience.Β 
CaneWolf
Politicker
+12
Call me what you want, just sign the damn contract
Established company set up a new BDR team (first attempt was a disaster). Got promoted as there was a new vertical building out team and I raised my hand. Did a few interviews and there it was.
champchamp
Catalyst
+5
Enterprise Sales Development Representative
Nice, love hearing BDR to AE stories lol.
MontBlanc
Notable Contributor
+13
Senior Account Executive
Great Question Champ, my path of switching to tech and getting an AE job took 2 years and 8 months.

Unpaid Intern - 4 months: After dropping out of my accounting masters program I got an internship working for a VC like company in my hometown on the events team doing outreach to get attendees.

Sales Rep - 1 year: Networked with the digital agency that did the web design for the VC company I was working for and became their 4th employee and only one dedicated to biz dev. My title was BDR but I had a small quota and received commission so put this on my resume as sales rep.

BDR for big agency - 1 year and 4 months: Started looking for jobs in a bigger city and stumbled upon one of the larger eCommerce web development agencies in LA. Worked for them as a true BDR.

How I got the AE job: After getting through the first full year at the big agency the BDR role had its meeting and opp value quotas arbitrarily Β increased by 50%, once that happened with no increase in comp along with no clear promotion path to AE I started looking for AE jobs at other companies.

I was able to get interviews by positioning my earlier experience at the smaller agency as full cycle and was fortunate to be in an industry (tech services) that has a low supply of experienced talent. With that I was able to land an AE role at an agency slightly smaller than the one I was at but in the same industry (we compete for business) and have been there ever since (over 2 years now).
poweredbycaffeine
WR Officer
+9
Bean Juice Drinker | Sales Savant
Busted my ass as a BDR at my first tech startup. Started working with the MM team, quickly grew their pipeline, propelling me to the Ent team after about 3 months. Was able to drive $5M in closed business in 12-months with that team and was invited to interview for a MM AE expansion. This was post acquisition, so it was to join the AE ranks of a very large tech giant, but only selling my startup’s product. All of my BRR experience paid off because I was closing faster than outside hires.
SiliconBBQ
Politicker
+3
The Metal Rooster
was accountant/auditor. hated it. did career course. spent a ton of time on reflection and working through different potential fits for a career.

sales came up high, and matched against a value list.

researched. applied several places. got rejected.Β 

cold called into a local hot redneck tech start up that had been recently acquired by big tech.Β 

took sdr job. bc team lead. was promoted. only looked back occasionally. don't miss the day-to-day of prior work, but think i do more monotonous tasks now....

took awhile to get back to even on money. upside has been nice but have not really done a comparison on total earned. had a very cush gig before and advancement path....just didn't want to be a finance exec or controller....was more personal sadness than S.A.D.N.E.S.S.

but many of my friends make a shitload of money in that profession, so i can't say it was ever only about the money.
paddy
WR Officer
+10
Account Executive
Traditional route for me. Started as and SDR at a big company for 11 months, AE spot opened up (AE turnover is ridiculous at Oracle), and I filled the spot. Was there for about 2 years before moving to field role at a different company.
SlanginCyberSec
Valued Contributor
+5
Account Executive
Started as an SDR. It took 18 months to get promoted, and I was the first SDR to get promoted.Β 

I think you can leverage your experience as a recruiter for an AE gig. Just have to find a company to give you that opportunity - maybe look into a company that sells recruitment/HR technology.
champchamp
Catalyst
+5
Enterprise Sales Development Representative
I was with an HR Tech company and they did hire a former recruiter but he had like 5 years if experience in the field. For the most part the only hired people with 7+ years in sales
beachNsales
Politicker
+3
Account Executive
Hospitality Sales for corporate events then moved into operations for a few years. After that I got an AE job slinging boxes (copiers and doc management software). Now AE for a SaaS company.
champchamp
Catalyst
+5
Enterprise Sales Development Representative
I like it.
CuriousFox
WR Officer
+11
Needer of Life Alert
I had experience outside of the industry and came in as an AE.Β 
champchamp
Catalyst
+5
Enterprise Sales Development Representative
In what industry were you before? And how many years?
CuriousFox
WR Officer
+11
Needer of Life Alert
Pharma for 10 years 😎
Lambda
Politicker
+6
Sales Consultant
Worked for 10 years in outside sales straight out of college then fell into my current role after applying, boring I know
aiko
Politicker
+7
Sr. Account Executive
I was in a closing B2C role before entering the SaaS world. All of my peers at Tesla were going in to B2B IOT AE roles and I felt behind bc I had to start as an SDR in my SaaS Startup. Now I’m glad I did it. Being an SDR has opened up so many opportunities! As I was searching for my next company, they all asked about my time as an SDR. I think it validates that 1) you can do the job and 2) you will respect and teach the SDR below you properlyΒ 
aussiebro
Opinionated
+4
Strategic Account Manager
Started as a BDR and thanks to 2 rounds of restructures & redundancies, I was thrown into an AE role after 6 months…talk about the deep end #oracle πŸ™ƒ
AssistantToTheRegional
Opinionated
+4
Enterprise Account Executive
This is how it went for me… Company A Renewals Company B SDR Company B SDR team lead Company C SDR (again) Company C SDR Team lead (again) Company C Account Executive
HappyGilmore
Politicker
+7
Account Executive
In the tech world? I was an SDR for about a year and half, and got promoted to being an AE my second time going through the process, after being rejected the first go around. I was an AE in a different industry before jumping ship from that (low pay, lots of hours/weekend work) to tech.
DrunkenArt
Politicker
+6
Sales Associate
Just kind of fell into it at a career fair in college.Β 
GDO
Politicker
+7
BDM
I did door to door for 1y. Then a few months of account management. A few months AE. And now BDM for just under a year.
rv
rvb
Good Citizen
Sales Consultant
1 year of non-SaaS sales experience. Joined a start-up that just raised series A and had unicorn ambitions (and numbers to show for it). They had already generated quite some pipeline so were looking for a junior AE that could hit the ground running. Moved from AE > Senior AE > Enterprise AE in the next years.Β 
go
goodculturefit
Opinionated
+1
Senior Account Executive
Nepotism.Β 
SaaSKicker1000
Politicker
+6
AE II
EOY 2019. Was making $31k per year salary as an SDR, signed an offer letter to be an SDR at a different company starting 1/1/2020 for $48k per year + a clearly defined development plan & career path. 12/31/2019 - current company got me by beating the other company’s salary by 10% ($51k per year salary) and telling me if I hit my 6-month KPI’s I would get promoted to Sales. So I increased my salary 60% and got a defined path to Sales just by almost leaving. Nailed my KPI’s in 3 months, & boom, Sales. Fast forward one year and now I’m most likely heading out to a competitor because of the same problems, we do not have a sales manager so very little guidance, and the competitor is giving me the opportunity to sell larger deals, while also upping my salary to $75k per year for an AE role vs. $55k per year currently.
Doog_Watts
Opinionated
+1
NAE Team Lead
I hit 133% to quota in 2020 so my job has NO CHOICE but to promote me! (for the second time that year)
Th
Theloanemperor
Opinionated
+3
Loan Officer
I had just turned 19 and I asked my friend to ask his father who owned the company for a position. Made me an assistant AE, 200 cold calls per day. Manual dialing, b2b printer cartridge sales. Best and most valuable experience i ever had.
JdiggityR
Fire Starter
+3
Enterprise Account Executive
Promoted from an SDR.
PhlipOut
Politicker
+6
Account Executive
I actually started as an smb/MM AE and then took it from there. it was full sales cycle: from lead gen, sale and renewal.
I'm sure there must be more jobs like that still out there VS starting as an SDR?
Oz
Ozz
Politicker
+6
Account Executive
I got lucky out of college and this small software company was expanding into the Asian market and I spoke mandarin so they assumed I could close. It did help I had a technical background and the tool was pretty complex. Crushed it there and been an AE/sales manager except for one org when I tried sales engineering which I hated because I spent all my configuring demos and making way less money. Lesson learned.Β 
3
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