November 11, 2022

How to Make the Jump from SDR to AE

Written by Karli Stone

Becoming an account executive is often the next career move for SDRs and BDRs. It’s a role that promises less tedious prospecting, more relationship-building, and bigger paychecks.

But this isn’t a promotion that’s guaranteed; it’s one that’s earned.

The SDRs who advance to AEs are hungry and driven. They are committed to managing their pipeline, exceeding their targets, and learning and developing new skills.

With insights from Kyle Coleman, once AE and now SVP of Marketing at Clari, this blog will teach aspiring SDRs the must-have skills of an AE and provide best practices for making the big career jump.

The must-have skills of an account executive

SDRs spend most of their time working the top of the funnel, while AEs typically engage with active, qualified prospects on the verge of making a purchasing decision.

Here are some essential skills an AE needs to convert buyer-ready leads into paying customers.

Lead nurturing

On-the-fence leads don’t wake up one morning and randomly decide to purchase. They need to be nurtured with relevant information, value-based content, delightful interactions, and lots of support.

To close deals with valuable, but indecisive leads, AEs need to use lead nurturing strategies like:

  • Scoring and segmenting leads
  • Creating relevant and engaging content
  • Building personalized email campaigns
  • Leveraging multi-channel outreach methods


At the bottom of the funnel, many buyers will bring up their purchasing concerns. Account executives need excellent negotiation skills to address these concerns and re-establish their product’s value without losing the sale.

Good negotiators actively listen. They create value while maintaining control of the sales conversation and they use data and social proof to eliminate their lead’s concerns.

SDRs—get a better idea of how to properly prepare for a negotiation and where to better your skills with this free downloadable checklist.


Closing sales is both an art and a science.

As an AE, you’ll need to know how to create a sense of urgency, overcome sales objections, and create a clear and easy path to purchase to successfully close out the sales cycle (and earn your commission checks!).

Check out this blog for tried and true techniques for closing sales deals.

Prime yourself for a promotion with these best practices

Kyle Coleman, SVP of Marketing at Clari and LinkedIn thought leader, has helped 50+ people make the jump from SDR to AE and we want to share his top tips with you.

#1: Be a top-performing SDR

Before you even consider stepping into the AE role, you need to have your SDR game on lock.

The sales development reps that stand out and rise in the ranks work smarter, not necessarily harder. They hone in on a few key skills and choose the right sales tools to simplify their work and help them reach out to qualified candidates at speed and scale.

To make sure your SDR tasks don’t slip consider:

Apollo recently hosted a killer webinar on SDR best practices. Learn more SDR essentials in this webinar recap.

#2: Become revenue-critical

To rise in the ranks, you also need to be focused on your team and your business’ bottom line.

“Understand your impact on driving revenue, track your stats, and study top performers,” suggests Kyle.

An expansive analytics tool can make all the difference in becoming more revenue-driven and performance-focused. SDRs can use these tools to instantly see key metrics like:

  • Call and email efficiency
  • Conversion rates
  • Sequence/subject line/messaging performance
  • Team performance
  • Open and interested rates
  • And (thanks to infinite report customizations) so much more

#3: Explore various growth paths in your career

Kyle’s next piece of advice is to take the chance to explore other career paths. Find opportunities to learn the ins and outs of your business within customer enablement, account management, product education, sales, etc., and make sure that the jump to AE is what you really want.

“This gives you confidence that sales is right for you,” says Kyle, “And it gives everyone else confidence that you’re making the move for the right reasons.”

#4: Build a crew of advocates

Every interaction with a team member, manager, client, or boss will leave them with an impression of you.

Make each one count.

With the right mindset and a quality work ethic, you will quickly build a community of advocates who will vouch for you in opportunities for career growth. “From individual AEs and front-line managers to your sales leaders; everyone will be in your corner because they know you always approach your work the right way,” Kyle says.


In an SDR role, you can apply brute force and see results. Send more emails, dial more calls, make more connections, and see your numbers go up. Meanwhile, an AE’s job often requires more intentional interaction and finely-tuned bottom-of-the-funnel selling skills.

SDRs aiming for a promotion should find every opportunity to foster these skills and stay committed to crushing their numbers, tracking their performance, and building meaningful relationships.

Karli Stone headshot Karli Stone