Sales Development is a Career, not a Stepping Stone

Sales Development today is generally seen as a stepping stone. The role is filled with people looking to get into closing sales roles, but without the experience to land an account executive (AE) title.

So, the Sales Development Representative (SDR) job is offered with a promise that – if you hit your quota – this is the stepping stone to that higher base salary and fat commission checks you might earn as an AE.

I believe Sales Development in itself is a full blown career (and a very important one at that) – not just a stepping stone.

SDR’s have a crucial role. They prospect, create lists, cold call and email, find the right people to talk to, reach out, and get the conversation started. This is really important stuff! They’re seasoning the meat (or veggies! I don’t discriminate) for the AE’s to cook.

I believe that an SDR’s contributions to a deal are just as, if not more important than the AE pitching the product and closing it.

If you have a high performing SDR, why would you want them to move out of what they are really awesome at, into unfamiliar territory as an AE (which requires a new round of training and investment) simply because that’s what the market says to do?

Now you have to try and find another great SDR, and either train them from scratch or hope they mix well with your existing team dynamic. And you’ll have to do the same again once that awesome new SDR does the inevitable and meets that quota you set for promotion.

We should get rid of the stepping stone stigma around the SDR role, and compensate accordingly.

Describe the job as what it is – a really important part of the sales cycle – but throw out the part about how this is the way to “get into sales”. Make Junior, Senior, And Director level SDR roles to show upward mobility.

From a compensation standpoint, SDR’s should earn a higher base salary than AE’s, with a lower commission rate – leveling out the playing field, so that the SDR doesn’t feel AE is the next step. Leave the option open, of course – if the SDR would rather be an AE or vice versa – by all means!

This methodology might take a bit to adopt – but it should start somewhere. Spread the word, and let me know what you think.