How to Make the Leap from SDR to AE: Your Personal Game Plan

Posted by Richard Smith

Ever thought about jumping from a Sales Development Representative (SDR) to an Account Executive (AE)? It's a popular move, but it's not without its hurdles and tough competition.

Let’s unpack some expert advice from Josh Bruer, a seasoned SDR coach with over 10 years of experience in sales development and account management roles, on how to tackle this transition with style.



What’s Driving You?

First things first: Why do you even want to be an AE? Is this something you’re burning to do because you want more client interaction, larger deals, and the potential for higher earnings?

Or are you just getting swept along by what everyone else seems to be doing without fully examining your own motivations?

Josh stresses that getting to the heart of your true motives is key. You need to understand yourself in order to effectively communicate your qualifications and fit for the AE role to others.

Action Steps:

Jot down your reasons for eyeing the AE role in detail. Think about each reason and whether these reasons really speak to your passions and strengths or if you're just following the crowd.

Make sure your reasons are intrinsic and will continue motivating you through challenges rather than being extrinsic like keeping up appearances.

Ready, Set, Assess

Are you actually ready to step up to the plate? Josh suggests a thorough self-assessment against the wide range of skills an AE needs to be highly successful in their role such as qualifying leads through needs analysis, delivering compelling presentations, negotiating contracts, maintaining ongoing client relationships, and exceeding sales targets quarter after quarter.

The role requires a blend of technical skills as well as "soft" skills like communication, collaboration, and problem-solving.

Action Steps:

Make a detailed list of the key responsibilities of an AE in your company based on your research of current AEs and their job descriptions.

Rate your proficiency in each skill area on a scale of 1-5, and provide examples when possible to back up your self-assessment.

Note specific strengths you can leverage as well as one or two areas that could use further development. This will help focus your efforts.

Sell Yourself as the Product

Here’s a cool twist: Josh advises imagining yourself as the product and your career move as the sales cycle. This mindset shift helps you use familiar sales strategies to plot your career growth.

Conceptualising your candidacy as a "product" and the hiring managers as "buyers", you can craft an ideal messaging and promotion strategy.

Action Steps:

Research your company's typical sales process, whether it follows a framework like BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing) or MEDDIC (Message, Economic climate, Decision process, Desired outcomes, Decision criteria, Internal influencers, Competition), to understand customer buying behaviours and tailor your approach.

Figure out who in your company decides who gets promoted to AE roles, what qualities and track record make someone a top candidate, and work out how to strategically position and "package" yourself to them through resume, cover letter, networking interactions, and interviews.

Scorecard Your Way to Success

To get tactical, Josh loves the idea of a scorecard tailored to your AE ambitions. It’s a great tool to visually track how well you stack up against the role’s requirements and build your case.

Action Steps:

Research 3-5 of the top performing AEs in your company and make a detailed list of their qualifications, experiences, sales achievements, strengths, certifications, education etc. that have contributed to their success.

Create a scorecard template with these factors down one axis and months/quarters down the other. Score yourself periodically on each factor to see progress over time, areas that need more focus, and ultimately how your profile compares to what the "winning candidate" looks like. Review and refine the scorecard regularly.

Commit and Own It

Wrapping up, Josh’s big on committing to your goal and really owning your journey. This means setting concrete steps and sticking to them through dedication and follow-through. Goals without plans and accountability will likely fail.

Action Steps:

Draft a detailed 90 day, 6 month and 1 year plan with specific, measurable and time-bound milestones based on your scorecard findings and areas that need improvement. Set deadlines for leveling up certain skills or achieving sales targets, completing additional certifications, taking on new responsibilities, etc. Check in with your manager, a mentor, or an accountability partner monthly to ensure you’re on track and get help overcoming any hurdles. Tweak your plan as needed along the way.


Jumping from SDR to AE isn’t just about wanting a new title; it’s about strategically gearing up for a major career upgrade through intentional preparation and demonstration of your readiness.

By treating your career shift like a sales campaign—where you’re both the salesperson and the product—you can map out a clear path to success.

And remember, digging into the 'why' behind your ambition is crucial; it’ll keep you driven and ensure your actions are really in line with what you want out of your career long-term.

Track your progress, refine your tactics, and you’ll be pitching as an AE in no time!

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