Are you an SDR today? Odds are you won’t be in sales in 5 years

Most SDRs won’t be selling in 5 years.

By selling I mean spending your days focused on closing new business. If you’re an SDR today, right now, then odds are you will not be a closer in 5 years.

I know, you just read someone’s post on how being an SDR is the hardest role in sales. Is that true? Absolutely. It is the hardest role in sales.

What you might have missed is why it’s the hardest role in sales. Spending 100% of your time calling, emailing, and cold prospecting is a brutal way to spend all day, every day. You have to deal with the fact that most people don’t pick up the phone and that most people who do pick up say “no.” Almost all of your emails will not be replied to. Most of your replies will be a “no” as well.

Being an SDR is the hardest job in sales because you’re doing the dirty work for someone else.

It’s not the hardest job in sales because closing deals is easier than setting appointments. Taking a prospect from initial curiosity through the buying journey all the way up to the point where he signs on the dotted line and pays for the thing? That’s much harder to accomplish than to book a meeting.

Booking a meeting requires getting someone who looks right to give up a few minutes of their day.

Closing a deal involves convincing your prospect, and a handful of their peers, that exchanging thousands (or tens or hundreds of thousands) of dollars for your product is the best thing they could do right now.

It’s much, much easier to get half an hour from someone than to get thousands of dollars from them.

I looked back at everyone I’ve hired over the past 5+ years to see how many of them became sales reps, people responsible for closing new business.

The answer: less than half of them did.

Not just as a whole, mind you. If I look at each individual year and included all the reps I hired for an entry-level sales role, less than half are a closer today.

I can only imagine what’s going through your head right now. It’s probably a mixture of fear, confidence, and wondering, “What will it take for ME to become a closer?”

I can’t guarantee you that you’ll make it and become a closer. Nope. I wish it were that simple.

What I can do is tell you how to stack the odds in your favor.

First, commit to becoming a closer, no matter how long it takes.

The key to that statement is the second half: no matter how long it takes.

Nearly 5 years ago we unveiled a defined career path at Brafton. You spent your first 9 months as solely an SDR (we called them Lead Gen Reps, same thing). If you had been consistently hitting your numbers you were eligible to get a pay bump and get put on a track to sales. You stayed on the SDR team but in addition to booking meetings you took demos, built a pipeline, and worked to close deals. All you had to do to move into a closing seat fully supported by the SDR team was close a certain amount of business.

When we rolled this out I expected that sooner than later we’d have a pipeline of future closers fighting over the next opening.

It never happened.

Most of the reps who made it into the program would spend months learning the ropes, taking demos, building a pipeline… and then quit for another job.

What surprised me was that most reps left for a job that wasn’t a closing role. Heck, a lot of them left and took another SDR role. Some moved to client services or account management. A few completely left business to pursue another career path entirely.

So many of our best reps never became closers.

What’s just as interesting is that a number of our middle of the road performers, or the reps who barely made it to the sales track, did become closers. It was always the ones who took the job, realized they wanted sales but didn’t see it happening with us for one reason or another, and never gave up on landing a closing role.

You might be wondering, JV, seriously, how long is “no matter what it takes?”

One of the reps who worked for me years ago earned his way into the sales training track at Brafton. Eventually he felt he wasn’t going to earn a spot as a closer, so he left for a different SDR role. His new employer hit a much rockier spot than he expected and he jumped for another SDR role. When he realized he wasn’t getting a promotion there after a year? He took a break to search for his next job, and picked a different kind of sales process, hoping this would be his breakthrough.

He told me this week he’s getting his shot at closing deals.

Does this mean anyone can become a closer if you’re willing to stick it out for as long as it takes?

Honestly, no. Sales is a profession and certain talents make it far easier for some people. If you don’t have those talents then developing the skills you’ll need to be successful will be much, much harder.

If you have those talents though, yes, you can get there if you commit to it.

Odds are if you’re reading this the question isn’t, can you?

The question is, will you commit to playing the long game?

Are you simply focused on booking that meeting, or are you learning your craft?

Are you more concerned with getting promoted to an AE seat, or by making sure you’re successful if you get that shot?

Think about what that career transition is like. As I said before, it’s much harder to get someone to part with money than it is for them to give up half an hour.

Because it’s not about making the leap, it’s about landing and making yourself at home once you’re on the other side.

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