Does being a good SDR mean you will be a good AE?

Curious to hear War Room members' opinions here.

  • Does the SDR skillset translate well into an AE role?
  • Any success stories of being a mediocre SDR to a top-performing AE?
  • Any stories where you were a top-performing SDR and didn't find much success as an AE?
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WR Officer
Not necessarily.

To be a good SDR you require a thick skin, grit, the ability to have conversations with people and convince them it's worth their time to take the meeting. All skills that you need to be a successful AE as well. However, to be a successful AE you need to be good at managing many other steps of the sales process including discovery, presentations and proposals, negotiations, liaising with legal/finance/sales ops to close a deal...not every SDR is going to have these skills.

My rule of thumb is that if someone is an excellent SDR they have a pretty good chance at being an excellent AE. If someone is a terrible SDR they have a pretty low chance of being an excellent AE.ย 
Sales Development Lead
Sound, really think this is solid.ย 
WR Officer
Director of Business Development
It actually just means less cigarette burns on your cheek.
There isn't a definite correlation from what I have seen, however, for sure going from and SDR to an AE gives the AE the tools needed to prospect which is one of the hardest parts of sales self sourcing meetings. It will give the new AE "think skin" if you will to be able to take rejection and keep moving forward without slowing down.

Depending on the industry a strong AE will need to understand complex processes, ask meaningful questions to understand challenges, and then paint the picture simply of how the prospects life could be improved with the product/service they are selling. Sometimes the SDR may just not have the tools, or perhaps they will need a significant ramp time to train.ย ย 

I've seen a "mediocre" SDR turn into a great AE. This SDR was mediocre in the eyes of the company due to his call volume being consistently lower than his peers, however, when making dials with him he asked great questions, challenged the prospect in a non-aggressive way, and was often able to at least turn them around for a future call. He became a great AE using these skills in discover etc.ย 

I've seen the opposite as well with an SDR who booked a ton of meetings but when moved to an AE she couldn't slow down to the sales process cycle needed. She wanted the quick kill and to move on. That desire left her impatient and often she didn't dig deep enough in discovery to uncover real pain.ย 

So to summarize- if it was me, I would look to find the SDR that is fearless on the phone but isn't a mindless dialer... someone who really gets it, connects with people, asks good questions, and can adapt responses to facilitate conversation. That's a vital tool they will need to build on as an AE to execute discovery effectively.ย 
Account Executive
No, but it's a good starting point. It really depends on what type of AE you want to be. There are many more layers to being an AE that are not easily viewed or really appreciated until you are balls deep into the position. It was a big shock for me but I've adjusted well.ย 

A mediocre SDR will never be good at anything in sales. If you can't do the SDR job well, you are just a mediocre employee in the sales world.ย 

Yes, many top SDRs fail as AEs and it goes back to the layers I mentioned. You might be a beast at prospecting but can't demo to save your life or you suck at managing your time an being organized.ย 
Call me what you want, just sign the damn contract
No. I'm a better AE than I was a BDR. And I've seen great SDRs/BDRs absolutely suck as AEs.
Sales Representative
Being an SDR is supposed to teach you the foundations of the company along with the product/service offerings. This doesn't necessarily mean an SDR will make a good AE, as there are other factors involved in it, closing ability being one of the biggest. I've seen both sides of the coin with reps, some have great success and others just don't do as well.ย 
Valued Contributor
Not always, but its an indicator.

You have to be able to put up with a lot in both roles, so the fact that a successful SDR has drive and thick skin helps. That said, the AE role adds a ton of complexity and forces a focus on soft skills like conversation + asking questions, as well as closing, negotiation and time management.ย 

In my experience, rep management tends to be a LOT tougher to deal with too.
Account Executive
I would say the SDR <> AE relationship is not necessarily bi-directional meaning a good AE will likely have qualities of a good SDR, but a good SDR does not always translate to a good AE.ย 

Being a good SDR gives you a lot of foundational skills to be an AE, but there is a lot more nuance / skills that need to be learned to supplement the SDR foundation. Some good SDRs aren't willing to make that commitment to fail / learn more advanced skills that translate to being an AE.
Federal Business Dev Director
not at all. Some people are only good in one part of the sales cycle and fall short in others. Really good SDRs can easily become a good AE, but it does not mean you will become one.ย 
Account Executive
If you are a good SDR you will be able to source your own leads as an AE and hopefully overachieve your targets. It's surprising the amount of AE's that can't hunt if they haven't been through the SDR role previously.ย 
Not necessarily. But it is a pretty good indicator.ย 

at least you can prospect and book meetings. Closing is an othe tower of the game. Although you have more chances to close and to learn how to close because youโ€™re good at setting meetings.ย 
Account Executive
Nope, but it's a good start
Not really. I mean I don't think it hurts. SDRs prospect well and that's a skill an AE must have as well, but no, I don't think it's a correlation.
Valued Contributor
CSAM of Luke Warm Chowder
The simple answer is yes.

I'd recommend not getting yourself too hell-bent on these cheeky sales terms.

You're not in engineering. No need to make the sales process overly complicated.

You're going to find plenty of people bickering about what skills you really need to succeed.

But there are three that will be pivotal for your success in any circumstance.

Product & Industry Knowledge (You need to own your product)

Technical Aptitude (Willingness to go hands-on or at least have an understanding of the implementation of the product you're selling)

Negotiation & Facilitation Skills ( you already got most of them through the SDR/BDR role, just need to follow up the complete sales cycle)

Yep, these three come with practice and time.

Learn a sales methodology, like Sandler, MEDDIC, and Heiman Miller(Conceptual, Strategic selling), and start volunteering in nonprofits or places where people are looking for Fresh Blood.

The best way to do that is to research where you live and try to come up with businesses that are in dire need of getting their sales number up.

Provide your services, most of the time all sales skills are transferable. It's the perspective that counts. You don't even need sales training if you know how to learn to fail forward.

You'll be fine.

P.S I know plenty of people who went from a pure lead generation role to closing big deals. Anything is possible in sales.
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