Sales Career: Where After SDR? [+6 Reasons to Stay in Sales]
For sales reps, career progression is a top consideration 💯
There are so many ways you could go.
From closing deals as an account executive (AE), to managing your own team of sales development representatives (SDRs).
But how do you decide what’s next for your sales career? Or even to stay in sales at all.
Here we’ll outline some key pointers to consider.
Jump ahead or scroll at your own pace 👇
- What a sales career looks like
- “Sales is a stressful career”
- 6 reasons you stick with a career in sales
What a sales career looks like
Most people start as a sales development rep. The key responsibilities of an SDR are to focus on prospecting, outreach, and lead qualification.
Reps are a crucial part of outbound sales. Their goals are to get meetings booked using cold calling. As well as channels such as email, and LinkedIn messaging.
SDRs gain so many transferable skills that you’ll need throughout your sales career.
Sophie Pease, Account Executive at Cognism says:
“Don’t be an average SDR and coast through the role thinking that’s going to get you recognized. Eyes will be on you from the very beginning of your career.”
There are a lot of soft skills required to progress, like:
- Active listening
- Good communication
- Building relationships with clients and colleagues
- Being coachable
- Representing company culture
These are all skills you can work on from day one. And they are all important whether you want to become an AE or transition into management.
It’s important not to rush your next steps. Ben Ward-Cochrane, Head of Sales at Huq Industries disagrees that the SDR role can’t be a long-term position. He says:
“There is so much value for a business if you can master the SDR role. There are people that have been sales reps for two or three years who I follow on LinkedIn. And they are crucial to their business.”
We’ve laid out some of the roles your sales career could lead to in this infographic👇
Now let’s highlight some of the roles you can enter after you’ve been a rep..
Account Executives (AE)
After being a rep, one of the natural next steps is to become an AE. It’s another role where you’re an individual contributor.
But in this role, you’re closing business. It’s your job to turn prospective clients into customers. AE’s run discovery sessions and demos of your product in SaaS sales.
They required additional skills to be able to:
- Fully qualify leads
- Uncover the pain point of the potential customer
- Negotiate on pricing and renewal terms
AEs also need deep product knowledge, because they speak with additional stakeholders. And this means presenting a business case for each.
A lot of promoted AEs recommend building on your product knowledge while in the SDR role. Sophie says:
“Building your product knowledge is something that you can do as an SDR. Blocking out even one hour per week.”
“It’s not just something that will help you progress to the AE role, but also something that is really going to benefit you as an SDR to get those meetings booked.”
Before you get promoted, you need to nail the account executive interview.
Brahm Jagpal, Commercial Sales Manager at Cognism has some advice for this:
“I used to listen to the recording and say what I would’ve said and then benchmark this against what the AE’s response was.”
“This helped me analyze my approach. I could see if I was jumping to a new line of questioning. Or whether I was getting deep enough into understanding their pain and the gap we need to fill.”
Some want to go into the management field. It’s the job of an SDR manager to recruit, onboard, and train reps.
They are key for helping ensure that each sales rep is on target. And are there to iron out any problems that arise.
Typical tasks of an SDR manager include:
- Interviewing potential new hires
- Solving problems and issues
- Reviewing analytics of individual SDRs
- Other ad hoc tasks
Hugh Campbell, EMEA SDR Manager at Cognism says:
"When your reps are in a lull, SDR Manager's job is to motivate them to pick things back up. Not in an overbearing way. But by encouraging them to keep going and to get the job done with a ‘come on, let’s make sure we get there’ ."
"It’s up to you to keep your reps accountable. You’ve got to set lead generation KPIs and make sure that they’re hitting those day-in and day-out."
Head of sales
As a head of sales, you lead the entire inbound and outbound team. This includes not only SDRs but business development managers (BDMs) and sales managers too.
Ben Ward-Cochrane, Head of Sales at Huq Industries started out in sales as a rep. He says:
“I did a master's degree in business innovation and thought: where do I go next? Because to be able to really use my degree I needed to be in management or senior management.”
To become a head of sales, you need to have excellent leadership skills and be able to inspire others.
“Just because you’ve been good as the SDR or BDM role, doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good head of sales.”
“The old analogy I use is that you can have some good football managers who were never players. Your personality, tolerance for people, and interpersonal skills all depend on who you are as an individual.”
“Sales is a stressful career”
There’s no way of sugar-coating it. Working in sales can be stressful 😤
You need to have the right mindset to be a successful sales professional.
Particularly when you start out as an SDR, it can be tough. When you’ve got a target, and you need to hit it for the first few months, that’s when sales anxiety can set in.
Here are some tips for managing it:
- Having a surfer’s mentality
- Stamp out toxic positivity
- Recognizing that self-kindness doesn’t equal complacency
- Think of your energy as a currency
Chris Hatfield, Founder & Coach at Sales Psyche, explains managing your energy in the clip below 🎬
6 reasons you should stick with a career in sales
Some say that everything is sales.
And it’s not far from the truth. There are so many areas in B2B where sales is relevant.
Let’s look at the top 6 reasons for having a sales career 🥇
1. Transferable skills
There are so many transferable soft skills that you hone when you work in sales. For example, improving your listening and communication skills. As well as accepting advice and being ‘coachable’.
Thomas Allcock, Enterprise Sales Manager at Cognism says:
“Tenacity is what sets you apart throughout your sales career. The difference between succeeding in sales and doing well in sales is having that get up and go.”
2. Build your personal brand
You have to network in sales. Along the way, it’s common for salespeople to have the chance to build their personal brand.
This opens the door to so many other opportunities throughout your career. From being on podcasts to new job offers.
3. The money, duh
There’s high earning potential in the world of sales. Usually, you’ll have a decent average base salary with a commission on top 🤑
But it shouldn’t all be about the money. The modern salesperson often favors two-way exchanges as Chris explains below:
“Especially in times of economic uncertainty, there’s becoming more of a two-way exchange of what people can get from being at the business. It’s all about maximizing your experience.”
4. It makes you adaptable
From overcoming rejection and objections to meeting new needs in the market, sales has got it all.
You constantly need to be adaptable. And it’s safe to say no two days will be the same. That’s where the surfer’s mentality comes in to help deal with the ups and downs.
5. You’ll always be in demand
Outbound sales is a crucial strategy for most. Even during times of economic downturn, it’s a vital channel.
Selling during a recession is all about being able to understand new pain points. You need to understand the sales process will be longer and invest in your own training.
6. Clear path
When you’ve worked in sales, you could go anywhere. Whether that’s transitioning across to being an AE or even customer success.
The knowledge and skills you develop as a rep will see you through in so many other roles.
Sales jobs aren’t for everyone. But for a lot of people, it offers a clear career path.
There’s the chance to stay as an individual contributor or move up into management.
Here are some of the key things to consider about your sales career:
- There are so many transferable skills. You could go anywhere in the business once you’ve been in sales.
- You don’t have to know where you want to go when you start as a rep. Mastering the SDR role is as much of an achievement as making it into management.
- It can be stressful. So you need to have the right mindset for it. Finding a supportive business environment is crucial.
- The money is good, but it’s not everything. Money can’t buy happiness. Don’t forget, it’s about that two-way exchange.
- Salespeople are always needed. Even in times of economic crisis. People will always need to hire for outbound sales, though the strategies might change.