“I believe success is achieved by ordinary people with extraordinary determination.”
— Zig Ziglar, American author, salesman, and motivational speaker
We’d have to agree with Zig on this one—it takes a lot of determination to be successful. That being said, it takes a lot of other things too, like passion, grit, and perseverance to name a few. Success in the sales world is no exception. We sat down with one of Abstrakt’s very own, Natalie Archer, to learn more about how she went from a Sales Development Representative (SDR) to an Account Executive (AE) in just one year. Read more about her personal success story below.
Natalie obviously did something right in her role to move up so quickly, but what was it exactly? First, let’s define what her two roles entailed. An SDR is an inside sales representative who uses different prospecting strategies to engage with leads and schedule appointments for AEs. An AE then takes that appointment and delivers a more detailed, refined sales pitch to try and close a deal.
As an SDR, Natalie was scheduling pitches for AEs so that Abstrakt could acquire new customers. Her role as an SDR certainly prepared her for a role as an AE, but the hard work and determination were still there. Straight from the A Player herself, here’s how she did it:
An SDR talks a lot. They spend hours every day cold calling prospects and engaging with leads to set appointments. For many, this day-to-day process becomes mechanical and unilateral, but the reality is that you can’t treat lead generation as a one-way street. In order to turn the best leads into warm leads, you have to understand who the prospect is, what their goal is, and how your service can impact them in a substantial way.
“I believe active listening is the most important quality a salesperson can have. When I’m speaking with business owners, I’m having a conversation with them—learning, listening, and then executing a solution to grow their business.”
For Natalie, active listening was one of the biggest things that set her apart as an SDR. She understood that each prospect’s needs were unique and that they each needed a business growth strategy tailored to their company. If your sales pitch sounds like a sales pitch, chances are you’re doing it wrong. Have a conversation with your prospects, listen closely, and find a unique way to make your services sound like a must-have for that particular prospect.
As an SDR, you get told “no” a lot—it’s part of the job. Someone new in the role might especially hear rejections a lot. Allowing yourself to learn and grow from failure is what sets a good SDR apart from a great one. A great SDR sees mistakes as a chance to learn and stays hungry for their next opportunity.
In the SDR role, Natalie was determined to be successful and kept her eye on the prize. It can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work sometimes, but the end goal kept her focused. She wanted to deliver quality leads to the AEs, so she embraced failure as a chance to learn and celebrated her successes along the way.
“Know that falling on your face is normal and will only make you stronger. Allow yourself to be flexible in knowing that what you put into the job is what you will get out of it.”
While the goals of an SDR and an AE are completely different, they’re still both sales roles. And there are plenty of lessons learned as an SDR that directly apply to being an AE. Think of it as a pyramid, with the SDR role being the foundation, and all other roles building up from that experience. For Natalie, her transition between roles was nearly seamless based on what she had applied from her previous SDR position:
“For over a year now, I’ve been in the shoes of talking to companies who are looking to grow and have a clear need to execute a plan. It has been a smooth transition because I’m still building my pipeline and actively working prospects the way I would as an SDR, but now I’m actually able to meet them and show them the process!”
To be an Account Executive, you need to be prepared to go in depth with clients. An SDR position prepared Natalie by giving her the tools she needed to be confident in pitching to prospects, and with a strong foundation she was able to take off quickly as an AE. The knowledge she had acquired over the past year by listening, remaining determined, and having a consistent process quickly made her a standout SDR. Instead of treating each job separately, she saw a clear plan for growth for herself and used the knowledge she was gaining to work toward the next step in her career.
“What motivated me to want to become an AE was managing a team of SDRs while also setting appointments for our AEs. It gave me an entirely new perspective. Seeing our operation and process work internally, the SAME way it works for our clients to grow their business, is so impactful and motivating to me. What we do for our partners is life-changing and I wanted to be the one to share that with them directly.”
No one ever said being an SDR was easy, but the rewards are worth it and the potential for growth is huge if you’re determined enough to get there.
We feel lucky to have had a front-row seat to watch Natalie’s journey, but we have a feeling she won’t be our last success story. We’re in the business of growth—not just growing businesses, but growing people, too. We hope you can use these tips in your own journey and set yourself up for success and career growth.
Interested in sales jobs in our St. Louis office? Check out open positions here.