Is your Sales Development Representative (SDR) career path in desperate need of CPR?

*Rubs defibrillator paddles together* Clear!

SDRs, if it feels like you’re expected to reach different levels of your career without a ladder (you know, the one they promised…), it’s time to get off the hamster wheel and take action to get your career on track.

Whether you’re questioning if the SDR ➞ Account Executive (AE) path is right for you, wondering why you aren’t being given the opportunities to grow and shine or even why your leaders simply aren’t listening to you, there are solutions that will get your career out of the rut where it doesn’t belong.

Scott Ingram, founder of Sales Success Media and director at Relationship One, joined an episode of the INSIDE Inside Sales podcast to share his take on the ingredients needed to succeed. On top of leading a successful B2B sales career for more than 15 years, Scott also hosts two popular sales podcasts — it’s safe to say this guy knows what he’s talking about.

🛣️ Does the SDR career path exist?

sales development reps

SDRs, Scott encourages you to get realistic and look at the big picture. Before you can claim your path, he says you should think through your ultimate goals.

Sure, you want to be an AE, but you might also want to be an intentional individual contributor like Scott, start your own company or even move into leadership. Whatever your path, you have to be intentional about it or there’s no way you’ll know the best route to take.

“Until you understand where you’re trying to get to,” says Scott, “you really can’t define what the appropriate steps are in between.”

Don’t back down from throwing yourself hardballs as you consider which path is right for you:

  • Do you want to be an AE?
  • Does that path exist?
  • Are people being promoted?
  • Are you being given the opportunities to develop and grow skills that will help you be successful as an AE?

According to Scott, it really comes down to where you want to be focused.

🕺💃It takes two to tango

And hey, for you sales leaders, you have a big responsibility when it comes to defining the path for your SDRs.

Scott worries about whether the SDR path is a dead end: “I think, too, we’re treating this role as a dime a dozen; it’s entry-level, it’s churn and burn. We’re not serving the people that are serving us and helping us develop pipelines in our organizations.”

✅ Landing in the right industry

Back to you, SDRs. Scott outlines three paths you might consider to figure out how to land where you belong:

  1. Find a path within your existing organization, execute on what’s being asked of you and eventually move into that role.
  2. Recognize your current company doesn’t offer the development opportunities you need and decide to make a change.
  3. Evaluate whether you’re in the right job. Do you move to another SDR role or should you focus on getting closing experience and move down into a small- and medium-sized business sales role, then work your way back up? (It’s not the most glamorous option, but sometimes the way up is down, right?)

Another recommendation? Keep that same energy of intention throughout your search for the right organization.

During the interview process, it’s up to you to make sure there’s a formal process that will empower you to advance from an SDR to an AE. Scott suggests you really look into your employer-to-be: Do they have a good reputation for training and developing people?

Whether it’s timelines, milestones or requirements, ensure there’s infrastructure in place to physically make sure communication stays open and expectations are managed both ways.

💪Own your own development 

How often do you tell your prospects to invest in themselves or their companies? Now compare that to how often you actually invest in yourself — I’ll bet $5 there’s a slight difference there.

It’s probably not deliberate, but the truth is, there’s no excuse to not own your own development.

“Nobody is ever going to care more or benefit more from the development that you do for yourself.” ~ Scott Ingram

While he agrees the availability of development opportunities is a great litmus test to suss out your next employer, Scott believes it comes down to the individual. Ultimately, “you can’t scapegoat your company on this and say, ‘well, they wouldn’t let me go to that training’ or, ‘they wouldn’t give me the money for that.’ You know what, who does it matter to the most?”

Whether you invest time or money, your goal is to know where you’re “going to get the foundation you need to take that next step and really accelerate your career growth,” reminds Scott.

We’ve discussed several ways to do that, but here’s one more for the road: have direct conversations with your manager.

“It should be a regular part of your one-on-ones where you’re talking about your development and talking about your next steps,” says Scott. Don’t be afraid to be straight up and ask, “What’s it going to take for me to develop the skills now to be successful on your team?”

“That’s what’s going to sort of smooth that runway and that path for you to be successful and to take that next step,” adds Scott.

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