Q: Dear SaaStr: How Hard is it for SDRs to Move into AE roles?
It’s a well-proven path. If you want to get into SaaS sales, start at SDR and knock it out of the park. The only real issue is if the SDR team is large enough, there aren’t enough promotion slots to go around in many cases.
You can hear a great story of how Sam Blond, CRO of Brex … started off as our first and best SDR ever at Adobe Sign / EchoSign here:
In most well-run SaaS organizations, the VP of Sales is constantly using the SDRs as a farm team for AEs. In part to groom great AEs, but also maybe even more so, to provide SDRs a career path. The reality is in a perfect world, your best SDR would always stay an SDR. But the best ones often want to get “promoted” to AE (or group manager of SDRs). By providing a career path, good VPs can recruit more SDRs.
The problem is time, and timing. They are only so many you can promote. And you also need to bring in outsiders too.
So typically what happens is at first, there’s no room to promote, because you are just building an SDR team. Then you start to grow quickly. And there’s room to promote 1–2. And then. You hit a few speed bumps. And that promotion path gets all shut down.
So it’s not so much that it’s hard. It’s that its super context and timing sensitive. You may miss a window at a seemingly great SaaS company, and that promotion window might not open for another 12 months. Through no fault of your own. Even just after someone not even as good as you got promoted to AE.
But most of the best VPs of Sales I know started as SDRs. Probably half.
(note: an updated SaaStr Classic answer)