It’s an ideal situation for almost every sales leader to promote from within the sales organization. As Ali Powell, Account Executive (AE) at HubSpot writes, there aren’t many companies “out there who hires BDRs just to hire them. The goal is to promote BDRs to AEs and keep you in the sales org to move your way up.”

And with good reason. Internal promotions are not only a great way to maintain team cohesion and reward good performance, it also helps to solidify your selling approach. No one knows your sales methods and products as well as people who are already immersed in your sales culture and offerings.

One of the most common internal promotions is the jump from Sales Development Representative (SDR) to AE. The best SDRs master the skills of sending compelling emails, making phone calls and scheduling meetings for AEs. However, these skills alone do not necessarily guarantee success in the AE position. As Dan Strauss, former BDR and AE at InsightSquared and current Director of Sales at Wevo Conversion says, “With an in-house transition like [the BDR to AE promotion], a lot of companies don’t invest enough in terms of training.”

At Funnel Clarity, we pride ourselves on helping clients like Calabrio develop a framework to make these types of promotions a regular occurrence. Here are four steps you can take to do the same and ensure your SDRs are ready to make the jump to the next level.

Four Steps to Turn SDRs into Top Performing Account Executives

  1. Educate SDRs on the entire sales cycle from day one

  2. Teach SDRs that not all meetings are created equal

  3. Make sure SDRs are not scared of the phone

  4. Partner SDRs with multiple account executives across different verticals or product lines 

Step 1: Educate SDRs on the entire sales cycle from day one

My career in sales started as an outsourced Business Development Associate. While I appreciated the opportunity to work with many different Account Executives across all sorts of verticals, I had one major complaint about the job. Since my role was hyper focused on the top of the funnel, I had no appreciation for the rest of the sales cycle. As far as I was concerned, meetings were the holy grail and the rest of the sales cycle sort of just… happened.

Slowly, I realized that there was much more to B2B selling than scheduling initial appointments. I started to yearn for an understanding of the entire sales cycle because I felt very detached from the process. If SDRs are knowledgeable about the entire sales cycle, they have a much deeper appreciation for how their role fits into the entire sales organization and the sales cycle itself.  

A great way to develop appreciation of the sales cycle is for SDRs to go through the skills training that Account Executives also receive. They won’t be executing on the role just yet but they will have a very good understanding of the entire sales process and the skills needed to be successful. It will also give them something to work towards and help push past some of the grueling aspects of being an SDR.

Step 2: Teach SDRs that not all meetings are created equal

The phrase, “I wish the SDR team would send me better meetings” has been said by every AE on the planet. Every sales person responsible for closing deals knows that not all initial appointments are the same, and sales leaders consistently tell us that they need their AEs focused on the most winnable opportunities.

According to research by Chet Holmes International, only 3% of your market is actively looking to solve a challenge that you can help address. Salespeople need to be focused on this 3%, while the Marketing and Sales Development teams should be nurturing the rest as they move closer to an active buying cycle (i.e. the 3%). 

If the SDR does not have this understanding or skillset to identify where a prospect is relative to a purchase, then any decision maker that wants to talk with their company’s AE will be a good meeting target. You want better meetings? Arm your SDRs with the skillset to identify someone in the 3% and then build a process to pass along prospects who are serious about making a change.

Step 3: Make sure SDRs are not scared of the phone

Some people deal with rejection better than others, but nobody enjoys hearing "no". It is much easier to deal with a "no" over email than it is to deal with a rejection over the phone. It feels like more of a personal attack when someone tells you no directly into your ears.

The more we avoid facing rejection, the more we become afraid of it. I will repeat: the vast majority of the market is totally satisfied with their status quo. Statistically speaking, you are far more likely to hear a "no" than you are to hear a resounding, “Yes, I’m glad you called. I am working on this right now.” Encountering a (hopefully) polite “no thanks” is an unavoidable part of a salesperson’s job.

Since it feels more personal to hear rejection over the phone, many sellers try to avoid it by resorting to email. In the long run, this is a terrible habit to develop. If you are an AE, you have to speak with people over the phone or in person. You can’t be successful and avoid conversations. Ensuring your SDRs are comfortable and excited to communicate on the phone before they become an AE is an important piece of ensuring they are set up for success.

Step 4: Partner SDRs with multiple account executives across different verticals or product lines 

Too often, SDRs get paired with one or two AEs focused on a specific size, vertical or product line. This limits the SDR’s ability to develop their business acumen. If an SDR is forced to work across different verticals, they will have exposure to many different types of organizational structure. A company in mature industries like Insurance are not structured the same way as cutting-edge tech companies. Schools and government institutions don’t function the same way as Fortune 500 companies.

A high performing AE needs to be adept at breaking down a company’s unique organizational structure and separate different types of decision makers. A successful AE knows the concerns of a Director are very different from those of the C-Suite. They should be able to have entirely different conversations with these different buying personas. If SDRs are limited to one type of industry or business unit during the early part of their career, they miss the opportunity to speak with different kinds of executives and gain this valuable insight.

Partnering them with as many account AEs as possible also gives them another key advantage: they get to witness a broad spectrum of selling skillsets. Every SDR should be observing the meetings that they schedule. If they are partnered with a sub-par AE, they don’t get to see what good looks like and won’t have a higher skill set to strive towards.

Expose SDRs Early to the Account Executive Role

The SDR position should not exist as a silo. New SDRs need to be exposed to the entirety of the sales cycle, to different AEs, and multiple verticals in order to successfully transition into an Account Executive position. By executing these four steps, you can prepare your SDRs for a long and fruitful career at your sales organization.