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Building Great AE-SDR Relationships on an Enterprise Sales Team

By Basil Alomary

A “strong relationship” can manifest itself in different ways in different organizations. At an enterprise sales organization like Simon -- where the sales cycle is lengthy, the contract values are relatively large, and the number of stakeholders involved with a deal is high -- a great relationship requires meeting regularly to build account strategies.

It also requires SDRs to remain engaged throughout the sales process. Great relationships in this setting need clear communication and an understanding of what each AE is looking to accomplish in their respective territory.

In this blog post, I’m going to explore a few of the things that you can do as an SDR to ensure that you're developing a good relationship with your AE and setting yourself up to be in a closing role.

Adding Value to the Sales Cycle

A long and involved enterprise sales cycle with multiple stakeholders represents an opportunity for an SDR to play a significant role. If you find yourself in that position, offer to set “follow-on meetings” for your AE. While creating an opportunity with the decision maker is the primary goal, it can be hugely helpful to reach out to additional stakeholders at a target account. Very few AEs, if any, will contest that sort of involvement. 

An extended sales cycle also increases the risk of "dropping" an opportunity, i.e., forgetting to follow up with a prospect. That is the perfect time to get involved as an SDR. When I was in a closing role, nothing made me appreciate my SDR more than a Slack message reminding me to follow up with a prospect. 

That said, you’ll need to approach this in a way that won't make your AE feel as if you're telling them what to do. Offering to follow up for them is a great way to show them that you're not advising them on how to do their job but are instead taking an effort to be involved with the deal. 

Another way that SDRs can be useful in their AE’s sales process comes in the form of research. While an AE ought to be doing a ton of pre-meeting research, a great SDR that provides rich pre-meeting context is an exceptional resource.

When well executed, this involves fleshing out any details about the company and prospect's goals, building out a comprehensive organizational chart, and providing deeper context around an upcoming meeting. Many AEs are more than happy passing this off to SDRs as it serves a dual purpose - it positively affects the working relationship, and it prepares SDRs as they look to move into a closing role by giving them a first-hand look at the type of prep work required as a deal progresses.

Supporting Several AEs

Depending on the organization you're in, you might find yourself supporting multiple AEs. This sales structure can be complicated for an SDR as you’re often being pulled in various directions. John may want you to focus on calling exclusively, dialing down a list of contacts who downloaded a whitepaper. Mary might ask you to concentrate on emailing manager-level contacts while she reaches out to senior leadership.

Critical to your success is the delineation of each AE’s desired workflow and clear communication of expectations. In my experience, the best SDRs have recurring meetings with each of their AEs and a structured way of approaching those meetings. 

What this requires is getting a good understanding of their weekly priorities, their pipeline, and where you can help support. AEs will always be skeptical letting go of any of their work, and it’s on you as an SDR to prove yourself as a capable associate. 

Weekly meetings with your AE should have several goals, including gaining an understanding of how you can help your AE, aligning on your outreach strategy, and receiving feedback on your performance. The questions you ask your AE and the time you spend in that meeting should be a reflection of those goals. 

Successful SDRs will often walk through an AE’s pipeline, getting a better understanding of what deals need additional support. Your area of focus with this walkthrough should be on the early-stage opportunities as there’s only so much you can help with once an opportunity is approaching the finish line. 

Additionally, you’ll want to review your outreach strategy by going through the accounts you’ve targeted over the last week and going through whom you intend to reach out to this week. Occasionally, AEs will have experience with a particular account and may be able to provide you with helpful context. 

Lastly, you’ll want to use this time to get any general feedback from your AE. SDR managers can be a bit removed from the opportunities that you’re working and getting insight directly from the AE can be invaluable. Be mindful of how you respond to feedback as well. You never want to dissuade your AE from giving you criticism and come off as uncoachable. 

Becoming a Closer

It can be exhilarating watching AEs close business, and you might find yourself a bit overeager to jump into the closing role. That said, it can be a bit annoying to an AE if you keep asking for tips on being promoted before you’ve even added value in the role. Before asking for guidance around getting promoted, show first that you're a great SDR and it will pay dividends.

The best way to get a shot at the job is to have someone advocate for your abilities. Nothing is more convincing to an SDR manager than a note from your AE telling them how great you’ve been. Additionally, when an AE feels like you're a great asset, they'll often give you more responsibility and with more responsibility comes a shot at showcasing how well you’ll perform in a closing role.

The best SDRs build excellent internal relationships, and hopefully, the tips above will help you do just that. Go out there and support your AE as they look to close some business!

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