How to Get Promoted from SDR to AE

For most SDRs, becoming an AE is the logical next step for your career trajectory. But you can’t just expect a promotion to fall into your lap—even if you excel as an SDR. Getting promoted requires developing the right skills and forming connections with your colleagues.

Remember, SDRs and AEs have different core functions. SDRs work at the top of the sales funnel, reaching out to prospects; while AEs are responsible for closing deals. To go from being an SDR to AE you need to show that you’re capable of doing that job and more. Here are the things you should focus on to put yourself in line for a promotion.

1) Exceed your sales quota and set higher goals for next quarter

The best thing you can do to prove you’re ready for a promotion is not only to meet but exceed your sales quota every quarter. If you’re already doing this, great! People higher up on the food chain will notice.

If you’re not consistently meeting quota, identify where you’re falling short and implement a plan for improvement. You want to have great numbers before asking for a promotion.

2) Cultivate strong relationships with your colleagues

Relationship-building is a major skill that AEs need. It’s helpful to show your abilities in this area by forming strong relationships with your colleagues—and not just your superiors. While your own sales should remain your top priority, carve out a little time to provide help to fellow SDRs. If you’re particularly skilled in one area, such as CRM navigation, establish yourself as the go-to person on your team for people who need help in that area.

When you do interact with more senior people on the sales team, prove your value and professionalism. Establish yourself as someone who is skilled, willing to learn, and open to collaboration with everyone on the team. It’s also important to form relationships with product development and customer success team members. Those connections will be critical when you do become an AE.

3) Manage your priorities effectively

Top-performing AEs are expert time managers. Assess how well you’re performing in this area. Even if you’re generally good about managing your time, there’s always room for improvement. Track your daily habits and consider whether you have any habits that may be adversely impacting your productivity. If time management tends to be a challenge for you, experiment with different productivity tools and find out what works best for you.

Before promoting you from SDR to AE, your supervisors want to see that you can manage your pipeline, respond to communications promptly, and fulfill all of your obligations on time.

4) Develop experience in consultative sales

AEs tend to be more involved in consultative skills. If your day-to-day responsibilities as an SDR tend more towards transactional sales, you need to maneuver to get experience in consultative sales. Let your supervisor know that you’re interested and ask if you can be included in a project that will allow you to learn consultative sales skills.

Show that you’re serious about developing expertise by studying up on consultative sales on your own time. Learn from books, articles, podcasts, and training courses. This demonstrates that you’re willing to learn what you need to learn in order to succeed as an AE.

5) Suggest concrete ideas to improve your sales process

Being an AE is fundamentally different from being an SDR in terms of looking at things from a wider perspective. To show that you’re prepared, make it a point to learn how the entire sales process works at your company. Ask sales leaders relevant questions that demonstrate your interest. You might request to be put on projects that will enable you to gain firsthand knowledge. Evaluate your current sales process and figure out how you can make it more efficient. Use data to back your ideas. Don’t just throw in new suggestions for the sake of having a contribution. Your ideas might not be 100% approved or realized but make 

6) Develop your closing skills

SDRs typically work more on top of the funnel activities like prospect outreach and setting up demos. AEs work very differently. To show you’re ready for AE responsibilities, work on developing strategies for closing a sale. Ask for opportunities to shadow experienced AEs and to develop your skills as a closer.

7) Show that you can be a team player

As you move on to bigger deals, you’ll need to work with more people in order to close a deal. AEs often have to coordinate with multiple people to ensure that the sales process is going as it should.

Now is the time to show that you’re capable of being a team player. You should be consulting with others on your sales. By being knowledgeable, organized, and open to feedback, you can prove that you can handle the responsibilities of being an AE. Remember that being a good team player isn’t always about showing off your own skills. Communicate clearly and respect other people’s expertise.

8) Find an AE who can mentor you and provide guidance in your career

If you don’t already have a mentor who can talk you through career advancement, try to find one. An AE at your company can be a great choice, but so can someone who serves as an AE at another company. Meet with your mentor regularly to update them on your career and ask for advice.

When talking with a potential mentor, make it clear that your primary goal is to develop the skills you need to be an AE, not simply to get a promotion. Although your mentor can hopefully provide practical career guidance as well, it’s important to position yourself as a serious sales professional who wants to learn.

9) Prove that you can learn from your mistakes

Many SDRs believe they need to be perfect in order to be in line for a promotion. It’s actually better if you can show your ability to learn from your mistakes. When you’ve made a mistake, openly acknowledge it. Figure out what you could have done better and work on implementing what you’ve learned in future deals. If you can do that, you’ll impress sales leaders with your willingness to learn. 

Getting that promotion from SDR to AE isn’t automatic. But if you can start to develop the skills you’ll need as an AE, you can better position yourself for a promotion.

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James Meincke

Director of Marketing @ CloserIQ. Previously Recruiter @ ManpowerGroup & Freelance Social Media Strategist. University of Wisconsin Journalism & Strategic Communication Grad.