How To Define The SDR Career Path

It’s remarkable how when you’re in line at a coffee shop, everyone in line goes out of their way to not look at each other.

SDRs and coffee shop lines are eerily similar

You’re all there for the same reason: ridiculously overpriced espresso drinks served by disinterested hipsters. You would think the common interest would be grounds for light conversation as you waited. Yet, you go out of your way to look at your phone, or stare at the floor, or silently peruse the pastry display internally debating whether to get that cake pop or not.

I mean, it’s only 120 calories! I’m probably burning that many just standing here in line.

As I mentally debated with myself, a barista – that’s what you call them in these places, because “coffee bartender” doesn’t roll off the tongue – asked, “What can I get for you today, miss?”

“Cappuccino, please. Non-fat milk. And a cake pop. I’m having non-fat milk, so that makes me calorie-neutral, right?”

The barista smiled politely – clearly not amused by my shtick – took my money and nodded as I moved along to make way for the next caffeine-addicted patron.

While waiting for my drink, I concluded that you can have a group of people who were together for the same purpose; but completely disinterested in that common purpose, focused only on their individual needs.

Which reminded me of sales teams and the SDR career path. If you have a sales floor with the common goal of selling lots of software and making money akin to the strangers in line at the coffee shop, that behaviour can dramatically impact how your organization performs.

Setting the behaviour of your organization ultimately comes from leadership, but Enablement is in a unique position to influence that behaviour. The sales skills you enforce within an organization can directly affect how the team behaves: is it a team of individuals aiming to hit targets with little interaction with each other (like strangers in a coffee shop), or is it a team of inclusion, sharing, and support?

A coffee shop environment can cause a lot of missed quarters and team turnover. Most of the sales team gets frustrated and ends up going through the motions until they find a better gig and leave. Through inaction, you allow yourself to get complacent. Through complacency, you become isolated. Through isolation, you become stagnant. And stagnant salespeople are not successful.

To be successful, one must be in a constant state of activity, growth, and evolution. And an environment where everyone stays independent of each other doesn’t foster success. Successful sales organizations are in an environment that is the exact opposite of a coffee shop.

A sales leader once asked me if I thought people were born with sales acumen, or if those skills could be taught. I strongly believe that training for sales reps is something anyone can go through and become a great rep - but they have to be willing to adopt those skills they learn.

And even when you have someone who appears to be a “naturally born salesperson”, if they do not exhibit the right behaviour that is conducive to the environment you are trying to create within your organization, that salesperson can hurt your sales team.

Whether you are a simple sales skills grid junky or a competencies disciple, you must provide a path, particularly a career path, and especially an SDR career path. Particularly for the younger salespeople, who may be starting out in a Sales Development Representative (SDR) role and are eager to become quota-carrying after a year.

For many people, one year in a role is as long as it takes to become partially proficient; yet, there is a desire amongst younger generations to advance along the SDR career path after a certain amount of time. I have worked with new SDRs out of college who believed that after one year as an SDR – regardless of how successful they were – they should advance up the SDR career path and be promoted to a quota-carrying rep.

Hey, if someone is crushing it as an SDR and turning that rep into an AE after 6 months makes sense, then by all means; but the time spent in a role should not be the only deciding factor along the SDR career path.

Even your most eager SDR cannot argue with a defined SDR career path, one that measures sales skill level, goal achievement, behaviours, and time in a role. And why not make it a visual SDR career path, so they know exactly what it takes to get to the next sales role level? Just like this one from SalesLoft.

The Career Progression Of A Sales Development Rep

This example has a combination of goal attainment, measured achievements, and time in the role. It’s a clear definition of the path to get a promotion, and it gives a young SDR guidelines on how to advance up the SDR career path. There is no ambiguity about what is expected, and the behaviour it will take to get there. It’s up to them how much they want it!

Providing clear, visual career paths for your sales roles will go a long way in fostering behaviours of growth and collaboration. And then as a team, you can go OUT to grab that coffee.