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Why SDRs are your future AEs

Why hire new AEs into your sales team when you already have the talent in front of you? Here’s why great SDRs make great AEs.

If you’re expanding or filling gaps in your AE team, you may be on the phone to recruitment consultants and interviewing experienced candidates from other companies. This takes time, costs money and even when you’ve hired them, they might not be as good as you thought. It’s a problem.

However, the solution may be right under your nose. It’s the high-performers in your SDR team. Moving talented SDRs into AE roles brings benefits for them, but also to you and your organisation.

A word of caution

Hold on. Before you start, a word of caution first. The route from SDR to AE is the logical one. Most SDRs have the ambition of becoming AEs, but not all. Not every SDR does or should take this route. There are some SDRs in the industry who love working at the start of the sales process and do not want to change.

You also need to take experience into account. The average tenure for SDRs has increased from 14.3 months to 15.5 months. This is mostly driven by innovation in career paths and opportunities for other types of professional development that keep them in their job longer. Not all SDRs will be ready to take the leap yet. Be honest about that. If they are not ready yet, devise a plan for them to get there. Managing expectations is essential.

Now, here’s why SDRs make great AEs.

Talented SDRs already have many AE skills

SDRs are the lifeblood of any sales organisation. Just because they’re not at the glamorous end of the sales process, closing business, never underestimate their skills.

High-performing SDRs spend most of their day talking to customers. They are experts at qualifying prospects. Their knowledge of the product has to be flawless in order to overcome early objections. They have to be resilient to deal with the number of rejections of the face every day. What’s more, SDRs need to work meticulously to make the number of calls they need to every day.

These are all skills that transfer brilliantly over to the AE role. Plus, if you move an existing SDR into an AE role in your team, you already know that they fit in with your company culture.

Great SDRs show the initiative to progress

While being an SDR offers a great foundation to become an AE later on, the best SDRs will already be taking steps to ensure they can make the transition.

Becoming an AE does require different skills; you’re working through many more parts of the sales process, such as stakeholder management, RFPs, proof of concept, contraction negotiation and closing. However, SDRs can work to develop skills that will make them effective closers while still in the SDR role.

SDRs work with AEs daily. The best will use this to their advantage, observing the processes and attributes of the role. They will shadow their AEs; they will sit in on demos and collaborate on projects together.

Simplifying hiring

If you can hire AEs from your SDR team’s talent bench, it makes the whole process much more straightforward.

The SDR to AE promotion typically has lower attrition rates than external hires. It lowers your hiring costs as you don’t have to pay fees to recruitment consultants. Performance against target is higher on average, compared to external hires, at a lower cost per £/$.

Start your SDRs on the journey now

It’s a good idea to get your SDRs thinking about making the leap to AE level as soon as possible.

Firstly, it’s a great motivator. If an SDR sees the person they sit next to get a promotion to AE level, they will want to be next and will work hard to develop the right skills.

Next, it helps with retention. An SDR will not be looking elsewhere for an AE role if they know they can achieve that level of success at their current organisation.

Help them develop their skills. Draw up a plan for progress. Get them sitting in on demos and shadowing AEs. It will help them understand the right questions to ask and improve their own discovery process.

When you put it all together, moving SDRs into AE roles boosts performance and helps create a thriving, cohesive culture. What’s not to like?