“Sales is an amazing profession and everyone in it should have an opportunity to grow, develop, and be successful in their career if they’re willing to do the work.” – Scott Ingram in today’s Tip 372
Is the SDR Role a Career Trap?
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Scott Ingram: You’re listening to the daily sales tips podcast and I’m your host, Scott Ingram. Today’s topic might be a little bit controversial, maybe even a lot controversial, but it’s really been bugging me and I think we need to talk about this based on a variety of messages I’ve received and conversations I’ve had over the last few months. I’m starting to believe that in many cases the SDR role is proving to be a dead-end or a career trap for otherwise talented young sales professionals. The most glaring example came from a conversation I had with a really high performing top sales development rep. He was the number one rep in the organization had been every single month for over a year, and his goal when he started with the company was to move into an AE role. The company promised him at the beginning that after six months of consistent performance that they would build a bridge for him to that a rollover a year later, no bridge, worse yet, he would receive regular calls from recruiters, but as soon as they found out that he had no closing experience, those doors pretty quickly closed, super talented guy, stuck. It’s even worse for the, not quite number one, but above average SDRs who’ve reached out to me as well. Some companies do a great job of grooming these talented young performers into strong AE’s, but sadly those companies are a tiny minority. Far too often I see organizations that treat SDRs as disposable assets. They’re applying a super old school churn and burn type of mentality and in many cases are turning an entire generation off of sales and pushing them into other roles when they’re really totally capable.
So I’m going to talk about this from a solutions perspective because well, that’s how I roll. First, we’ll talk about it from an SDRs perspective and then I’ll address sales leaders and other executives. If you’re in an SDR role or are considering an SDR role, look around and get a sense for the reality of the situation. Is there an opportunity in this role for you to develop and grow beyond just prospecting techniques and to move up into another role if that’s what you desire? Have others done it before you or does this company bring in other experienced AEs rather than promoting from within?
If you’re not seeing what you want, it’s time for a really open conversation with your leadership about what you really want to see in your future.
I think the SDR role is going to help you develop some incredibly valuable skills and experience. Prospecting is key to success in virtually any sales role, but it’s a subset of all the sales skills you’re going to need to develop to become a strong full-cycle seller. I’m not sure there’s any benefit to staying in this kind of role for more than say 18 months.
It may make more sense to move down market and find a full cycle sales role selling to smaller companies, ideally with a company that has a really strong training and development program to help you get there. Then over time, you can move upmarket, which seems to be an easier path than trying to go from SDR to AE with no closing experience.
Alternatively, you may love the SDR thing and just want to become a specialist. I think that’s super valuable and I’ll talk about professionalizing the role in the leadership advice section. Look for companies that are taking that kind of approach and are properly compensating their strongest SDRs.
At the end of the day, you have to take ownership of your own development and your own career path. Hopefully, you can turn your boss and your leadership into a mentor and an advocate, but don’t stop there. Find mentors outside of your company who can also guide you and open doors for you.
For the sales leaders. I hope you’ll seriously consider how you’re treating these individuals and what type of culture and reputation you’re creating. Looking at the turnover in your SDR ranks will likely serve as a really strong barometer.
Do you have a well-defined career progression along with written expectations, explaining what’s expected from an achievement and development perspective for an entry-level SDR to move into an AE type of role over time or if you’re not at that kind of size or scale, are you at least being honest in your interviewing process and setting expectations around what these fresh new sales professionals can realistically expect?
I think the biggest challenge here is helping someone take the leap. A great SDR is still going to need to develop a ton of new skills to run a complete sales cycle and we’ll probably have a longer than normal ramp and require more coaching than someone with previous experience. It can be hard to turn off a strong pipeline producer and put them into a role where it might be 6 months or more before they’re fully productive.
That’s why I think we also need to look at professionalizing the role. We’ve got to recognize that there’s a ton of value in high performing SDR that might be generating two or even three times the pipeline than their peers are.
Doesn’t that person deserve to be compensated comparably to a typical age? What do you think? Do you agree with me? Maybe you vehemently disagree. First, I’d encourage you to check out the conversation I had with Darryl Praill on his Inside Inside sales podcast. That episode will be released this evening, and as soon as it’s available, I’ll include a link to it over at DailySales.Tips/372
Then let’s move the conversation to LinkedIn. I’m going to create a post there. We’ll have a link to that post at DailySales.Tips/372 as well.
Sales is an amazing profession and everyone in it should have an opportunity to grow, develop, and be successful in their career if they’re willing to do the work. I hope you agree.
Thanks for listening and be sure to come back tomorrow for another great sales tip.