Sales Development 12 Comments

Why Mastering Sales Development Takes More Than 15 Months

Phill Keene

June 30th, 2016

mastering sales development

SDRs: it’s time to get real about what is going on in the world of sales development. Despite investing a lot of time and money into building out sales development teams, companies are failing to get their teams off the ground and losing the ability to build sufficient pipelines.

According to The Bridge Group, the average tenure of an SDR is 1.4 years. This is down from nearly 2.2 years in 2014. For the first time in the history of this report, SDRs are being hired with less experience than ever: today’s SDRs have fewer than two years of experience, with an average of 1.3 years.

That’s a major change in the sales hierarchy. You are being promoted out of the SDR role much faster than any in the role before you. You are also being hired with significantly less experience. This seems like a great thing for SDRs; however, this practice causes speed bumps for teams as they try to scale their sales and marketing efforts.

The SDR role is one of the most important, if not the most important, role in any organization. You are vital to the success and growth of the company. With that, you need to make sure you take time to master the position. That takes longer than 1.4 years.

You’re just not ready. Seriously; just be patient. I know that is tough to hear, but let me reason with you on this.

Set Yourself Up for Long Term Success

SDRs who are promoted too quickly have not built the necessary skills to be successful at the next stage of their careers. As a result, SDRs don’t just fail to excel – they sometimes deliver less-than-average performances.

Sales development is a craft you will use throughout the rest of your career, regardless of the roles you find yourself in. However, there are also skills you need that go beyond pure prospecting. SDRs need to master time management and business acumen, develop strong written and verbal skills and understand the fundamentals of their next role before moving on.

Additionally, the sales development role exposes you to many different parts of a business. SDRs sit at the center of the business between marketing and sales. SDRs also serve as the first salespeople to test new messaging, and they should gain a firm understanding of successful customers. This makes the promotion track more than just a linear sales path, giving you more options as you better learn the business.

Set Yourself Up for Short-Term Success

Another reason you’re likely not ready is that you do not have a replacement. Hopefully you are being promoted as a sales development representative to an account executive role because you are the top performer.

A good rule of thumb is that you should only move up once the AEs have about 80% of the calendar filled with meetings or demos. If this happens too soon, you will be promoted and struggle to find a way to fill your pipeline and your company may have fewer appointments or opportunities being created because the top SDR moved up. Timing a promotion is everything, and understanding that helping the ramp of the other SDRs will only make your short-term success more likely.

Recommended Read: Top Lessons Learned From The Future Of Sales Development Summit

Moving from SDR to AE takes more than just patience; it takes dedication to thoroughly learning the craft of sales development. With highly developed sales skills, a newly minted AE not only makes it easier to close deals; he makes it easier to teach other new SDRs how to develop the best habits and to be successful.

The path to promotion is different for every company, and as an SDR, you need to sit down with your manager to discuss what it will look like for you. However, before you get too ahead of yourself on taking the next step, learn the ropes and take every bit of knowledge you can out of the role. It is easy to think about the immediate impact that a change will have for you, but when you sincerely consider the long-term vision, you might think differently.

About the author

Phill Keene

Phill Keene is Director of Marketing at Octiv and co-host of #RealSalesTalk podcast. Through his experience as a sales professional, he has learned how to be a strategic resource to companies trying to reach their revenue goals and attain quota. Phill brings commitment to learning and development to the inside sales space, and was named one of 2017’s Top 25 Most Influential Inside Sales Professionals by AA-ISP. His expertise is in best practices around sales productivity, marketing, lead generation, business development and technology.

  • Right on, Phil. So here’s my question…why are people with less than 1 year experience trying to tell educate others how to do it? Something as important as sales development (the heartbeat of any sales organization) needs to be curated by an expert. Expertise is a mix of knowledge and experience. Unfortunately, many are forgetting/dismissing the experience part. Untested knowledge is just an opinion.

    • Phill Keene

      Agreed, if I was getting promoted from SDR to AE I would have a vested interest in making those around me successful before I move on. I would encourage my team to share their knowledge with the rest of their team members so they all get better together.
      I would be a fool to say that I’m perfect and that I can’t learn from my team…and even more of a fool to think they can’t learn from each other.

      Also, if you are the best SDR and on the path to promotion. You should be leading by example for your peers, and truly be the vision of good.

      However, I agree it needs to be curated by an expert.

  • This is an awesome post and there is one thing I would like to add. In many cases it’s not the SDR’s fault they are being promoted too soon.

    A lot of the blame in fact should be directed to upper management. In their never ending quest for better, faster, cheaper. They think they can accomplish all 3 when in fact what they are doing is only faster and cheaper. For SDRs who desire advancement the allure of title change and in most cases more money is hard to resist. In fact who in their right mind would turn down more $? #DontHateThePlayerHateTheGame

    So if you are an SDR and someone wants to promote you I would strongly encourage you to ask questions of management about sales training. Specifically:

    1. Does a sales training program exisit?
    2. What are their plans for giving you training?
    3. How much actual sales coaching (Listening to live calls and providing feedback) is going to happen. Should be 1-2x a week for newer reps.
    4. Will they pay for you to go to sales training program? (If not you should invest in yourself for it.)

    I do agree with Phil’s point, it takes time, be patient, keep learning if you can hold out do, if not, make sure you do not allow yourself to be set up for failure.

    I am sure there are tons of other folks in the #SalesHacker Community who would be glad to give you 15 minutes of their time and guide you through these waters. In some cases it could be the right move, in others it may not.

    • Phill Keene

      Richard, I think there is a massive problem with management at companies not setting clear expectations up front that it will take more than 12 month, and of the companies that do set that expectation up front they do a poor job at telling the new hire/potential hire WHY it will take that long.

      As an SDR, I appreciate the hustle…I want to hire the SDR that wants to be promoted in 3 months because they are already blowing their number out of the water. However, I talk to too many young AEs who only spent 6 months or less in an SDR role. Now, they struggle to understand why they are missing their quota.

      100% agree with everything you are saying.

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  • trishbertuzzi

    If I could make a point… as managers I believe we are confusing an SDRs need for speed (to promotion) with their desire to learn new skills. The SDRs believe the only way they will learn anything new is to move to a new role. That is why we recommend building in micro-promotions to the SDR role. If done well it can literally double the length of time an SDR stays in that role AND better prepares them for their next role. Obviously the key to success here is actually creating a learning environment but shouldn’t we be doing that anyway?

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