It’s no secret in sales development that the career of an SDR is pretty short-lived. Most analysis puts the average tenure of someone in that role around 14 months; just a little over a year. Considering the fact that most SDRs are relatively young with decades of work yet to come it begs the question: where are they all going? While many former SDRs now hold closing roles or executive sales positions, that’s becoming less and less frequent as more companies shift their focus from retaining salespeople to retaining talent.
So for all those SDRs starting to feel burnt out but not sure what to do next, treat this as the first step in exploring the next stage in your career, whether it be in sales, marketing, or something else entirely. Feel free to jump ahead to the section that describes you best.
I Like Sales
Ok, this is the most obvious one, so we won’t spend too much time here. If you like the sales aspect of sales development, you have two options:
- Move up within your organization
- Move up outside of it
Moving up within your organization is preferable for a handful of reasons. You don’t have to have any sort of formal interview. You already know the team you’d be joining. You (likely) already have the product knowledge needed for the position. The list goes on. The biggest question you need to ask is whether or not the opportunity to move up exists. If your company isn’t currently scaling it’s possible the opportunity never presents itself, and that’s when you have to start looking at external opportunities.
Looking outside your org has its pros and cons. On the one hand, the interview process can be a slog, especially in today’s environment. Additionally, coming from the SDR role there are certain companies that will ask you to be an SDR for a set amount of time (6 months is common) before they transition you to a full AE or closing role. You need to ask yourself if you’re willing to continue SDR work for that amount of time.
On the plus side, now that you have sales experience under your belt, you’ll likely have more job opportunities to choose from because your resume has improved. This means you can target companies within the specific industries or sectors that interest you the most.
I Like Sales Development
Here’s where things start to get interesting. If your particular interests align with sales development the next question you should ask is whether or not you like managing people. Luckily, if you’ve held the Team Lead position or something similar, you should already know the answer. The next step from there: Become a Sales Development Manager.
Again, you’ll need to ask yourself if there is an opportunity to fill the position internally or if you need to look elsewhere, and the pros and cons are similar as well. One difference to focus on is how you want to interact with your current teammates. If you think you would struggle to transition from being their peer to being their manager, seriously consider looking externally first. While being an external SDR Manager hire comes with its own challenges, if you prefer that to altering your current work relationships, then give it a shot.
I Like Marketing
So sales isn’t for you, and you don’t know how you feel about managing people, but there are some aspects of the SDR role that you enjoy. Trust me, I’ve been there. If you like certain aspects of the SDR role but not others, now are the time to solidify what those are. If writing email templates and giving feedback to the marketing team is your jam, explore those interests further.
Unlike moving up into a new sales role, moving into the marketing department is typically less cut and dry (unless your sales dev function rolls up under marketing, in which case the inverse may be true). It’s going to take some networking and proactivity on your part to let the marketing team know that you’re interested in moving up into their department if possible. Then it becomes a discussion between you and the marketing team to see if there is an opportunity for growth in that direction. If there isn’t, that’s when the real work begins.
Finding a marketing role when all you have is SDR experience can be tough, but not impossible given the right circumstances. The first thing you’ll want to do is search for SDR adjacent marketing roles. For example, if you already have experience working with list strategies from the SDR side, look for a role involved with lists on the marketing side. You might not even realize that you already have experience for a role, and all it takes is a shift in perspective to parlay that into a job.
I Like Dealing with Customers/Prospects
Good news! Sales Development and Customer Success have more in common than you might think and most of the skills you develop as an SDR translate pretty seamlessly over to the Customer Service Rep (CSR) role.
If you love passing leads and handling objections but can’t find satisfaction in the journey that is outbound prospecting the CSR role is built for you. Any good organization knows that retaining current customers is far easier than finding new ones, so client retention is an important focus.
If there is room for growth internally, your next step is to get to know the necessary members of the customer service team. By connecting with them and expressing interest in joining their team you will learn what internal opportunities exist and where you’d fit in. Do you enjoy talking about your product/service? The onboarding team sounds right up your alley. Are you still interested in sales but don’t want to be a full-scale closing rep? Look at the renewal and upsell team to see if there are any upcoming openings.
If you need to look externally for an opportunity, don’t fret. You already have more experience than you realize, and simply by adjusting your resume to reflect the relevant skills will hopefully get you to the top of the resume stack.
I Don’t Like Any of It
Not everyone is built for the SDR role or sales in general. Even some who succeed in the role don’t find it fulfilling or worth pursuing for the rest of their career. So what do you do next? Talk to those close to you and take some time to understand what makes you happy. Pursue a passion to see if it could become a career. Look into going back to school for some type of graduate degree. If you can handle it, continue working as an SDR while you do these things. It will give you a baseline source of income that will allow you to pursue those passions more comfortably. Yes, it will be more work, but ‘future you’ will thank you for taking the time and putting in the effort early on. Having a quarter-life crisis is significantly more manageable than a mid-life one.
While this advice is well and good, it’s important to remember that getting a new job can be challenging, and the current environment isn’t doing you any favors. The best thing you can do right now? Focus on the job you have. If you look to get promoted internally virtually none of your work will be a secret to your potential new manager and they’ll do their due diligence by speaking with your current manager before taking any significant next steps towards hiring you. Don’t give them a reason not to give you an opportunity.
Externally, the same rule applies. The more impressive your resume sounds, the more likely you are to get an interview. The better you perform in your current role, the easier that will be. And don’t forget to do the same for your LinkedIn as well.
Whether we like it or not, a lot of SDRs simply take the job because it was the best (or only) one they could find. For some, it’s a blessing in disguise and will launch them down a rewarding career in sales. For others, it will end up being just another stepping stone towards a full and rewarding career in a completely different field. As long as you continue to push forward and set your own goals for your future, you’ll eventually end up exactly where you were meant to be.