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Signs your superstar SDR is ready for promotion

October 13, 2021

Promoting an SDR is no easy task.


Because you’re not just filling in some paperwork and updating their title on LinkedIn.

You’re changing the course of their sales career.

It’s a big step for your team, but an even bigger step for your SDR.

They’re making a giant leap from a problem finder to a problem solver.

So, how do you know when it’s time for your flourishing SDR to be promoted?

You simply (or not-so simply as you’ll see) look for the signs.

Read on to get advice from Jason Baskaran, Sales Director at GetAccept. He explains what you should be looking out for, and what your SDRs need to do, when they’re ready to change roles.

Scroll 👇 through the menu to get the titbits and big bites you’ll need.

Is it actually cut and dry? | What you should look for | Seeing capability | How important are KPIs? | Tips for SDRs looking to be promoted | More sales insights from Cognism

Is it actually cut and dry? ✂️🌵

The short answer is no, no it’s not.

The longer answer is this.

A sales career path isn’t as rigid as some may think.

The next step for an SDR isn’t always an AE.

Your reps might be completely satisfied being an SDR for their entire career.

Some might be frustrated and itching for a change.

So, you’ve got to approach promotion with caution.

And more importantly, you’ve got to establish whether becoming an AE is actually on your SDR’s agenda.

Jason expands on this:

“It’s not always the logical next step that an SDR will become an AE. It doesn’t happen sometimes because the SDR role might be their ceiling for as far as the rep goes in sales. In the way that not every AE becomes a Key Account Manager...who then becomes a sales leader.”

“It’s a bit like climbing a mountain, sometimes we get to a particular base camp and then we stop because that’s good for us. You don’t want to go too high and fail, burn, and crash. It’s a big hit to the ego.”

Moving from an SDR role to an AE role is a huge jump.

When assuming an AE role, it’s critical that an SDR executes everything around them that the best AEs are doing.

And, if they make mistakes, that they learn from them instead of repeating them over and over again.

But, more than that, what does the SDR need to do?

What signs are there that tell you when an SDR is ready for promotion?? Keep scrolling 👇 to find out!

What you should look out for 🧐

Three things are at the top of Jason’s list!

1 - Intelligence

Your reps need to be incredibly smart!

They are basically detectives after all, and if they’re going to dig into prospects’ pain points, they’ve got to constantly be researching and digging up information.

2 - Drive

Being driven is the key to assessing whether your SDR should take on an AE role or not.

Most SDRs are incredibly driven already, working in the hardest role in B2B sales. But the AE role is a huge step up. It requires the ability to work much autonomously and be a good manager of your own time.

Then, the first two attributes need to be combined with...

3 - Creativity

This shows you how the SDR breaks down barriers and approaches problem-solving in a unique way.

It’s what sets a good SDR apart and is your cue to see that they have the potential to be a great AE, sales leader, or have a more accelerated career further down the line.

Jason explains how creativity ties into your promotion process:

“Your reps should be active in posting on LinkedIn, but it’s about being able to be seen and to give value through their creativity. It’s not just about being loud - it’s about being very valuable in how they get their message across.”

If your reps are looking for some inspiration on how to do this right, you should show Charlotte Johnson’s profile to them ASAP.

Further to intelligence, drive, and being creative, your reps need to demonstrate capability.

Here’s how you, as a sales leader, recognise this 👇

Seeing capability 🕵️‍♂️

If you want to see whether your reps are capable of moving up into an AE role, give them a proving ground to work on.

Enter the SDR stand-in.

This is where an SDR stands in for one of your AEs and takes over the role.

It could be for a day, it could be for just one sales call.

Either way, this process is critical in assessing your SDR’s capability.

But, it requires a lot of trust between the AE and the SDR.

It’s the difference between closing and losing a deal, so it’s a pretty huge step!

Jason expands on this:

“In the instances where an SDR will assume an AE role, the proving ground will, of course, be the opportunities to stand-in. It’s a similar concept to when people are trying to get into leadership positions, they’ll either shadow or deputise for their leader. This creates opportunities for exposure but, more importantly, it acts as a proving ground.”

“It is, however, extremely critical that they do a good job. If they don’t do a good job the first time, they’ve got to do a better job the second time, and even better the third time. If your reps aren’t able to do it well, you’ve got to think of it as an on-the-job interview - if they can’t do it here, how can they do this as their full-time job?” 

A good sales leader will give their SDRs these stand-in opportunities.

It’s critical that they get to see what skills are involved and what the role entails.

If you don’t give them these exposure opportunities, you’re really just throwing your reps in the deep end, where there’s very little room for error.

You’ve then got to consider...

How important are KPIs? 📈

Now, you might be thinking “Did you really just ask me that?”

Yes, yes we did.

In your role, it’s easy to be caught up with meeting quotas, making sure your reps have booked X amount of meetings, etc.

But Jason thinks you should take a step back and re-evaluate your thinking.

You’ve got to think about whether KPIs, or value and quality are more important in assessing your SDR’s performance.

Jason explains:

“If you had to tell your reps to make ten bookings, I guarantee you they can make ten bookings but they’re not all going to be great. Then you turn the screw a bit more and say now I need twelve bookings. If you’re not enabling them to get twelve meetings and you’re just expecting them to do more, with the exact same skill set or the exact same tools, you’re setting them up for failure.”

“Of course KPIs are important, but they’ve got to deliver value in what they’re doing. For me, I’d rather have three rock-solid, genuinely scoped out opportunities rather than rubbish bookings.”

When it comes down to it, of course, you should have a focus on activity, meetings, and conversions - in terms of your KPIs.

But, you’ve also got to get your SDRs to focus on value and quality.

It’s arguably the better metric to look at when you’re considering promoting a rep.

Now that we’ve given you some tips on what to look out for, we’ve also got some tips on what your reps should be doing more of if they want to be promoted.

These tips will give your SDRs a clearer idea of what they need to do, and give you a better insight into assessing their performance.

Let’s jump into Jason’s 👇

Tips for SDRs looking to be promoted 📋

If your reps are looking for that promotion, they’ve got to:

1 - Communicate

A sales leader has many skills, but mind-reading isn’t one of them!

If a rep wants a promotion, they have to be proactive in telling you.

The best approach?

Simply saying:

“This is where I am now, and this is where I want to be tomorrow. Can we reach that conclusion together, or do I need to find it somewhere else?”

It’s on you to then let the rep know:

  • Whether this is possible or...
  • Whether you’re not able to take on any new AEs, for say, the next three years.

This allows both of you to know where their time and their career is going to go.

2 - Find a mentor

They’ll want to find someone who has either done the AE role for a considerable amount of time and is really good at it.

Or, find someone who is two steps above.

A mentor in a higher position will be able to give even better learnings and even better information.

3 - Self-educate

They’ve got to learn.

Yes, they should do research, but more than that...

They should be obsessed!

Obsessed over:

  • How they would not just meet, but beat, revenue targets.
  • How they would make a consistent, repeatable sales process for themselves.
  • How they would learn from mistakes and commit to improving their performance.
  • How they can bring something new to the role that no one else has done before.

Run those scenarios in their head. Tell them to watch sales demos from your top AEs and get them practising.

This way, when you go to them with an opportunity to stand in, they’re ready for it.

4 - Be sure

Remember, going from an SDR to an AE is not always the logical step for every salesperson.

The rep has got to be sure that this is what they want.

Remind them to not be pre-conditioned into thinking this is how it must be.

It’s okay to go from an SDR to the marketing team, for example. In fact, this has happened before at Cognism!

Tell them to really take some time to think about it and ask themselves: “Do I want to be an AE?”

After working as an SDR, they’ve got a whole set of skills that can be used anywhere within the business.

The bottom line is: make sure that a promotion to AE is what they truly desire!

More sales insights for you and your team 🚀

Need more tips and tricks to get your team performing at your peak?

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