Advice: "I'm a top SDR at my company, but management has made it clear my chances of moving up are slim. What should I do?"

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Dear Quota Team,


I joined my first real SaaS tech company and was overjoyed when I started because their offer was so competitive and they paid a great starting bonus. I'm more than half a year in now and clearly communicated in my hiring process that I wanted to move from a Sales Development Rep to an Account Executive position within a year and a half. 

Well, now that I'm settled into my position, I decided to start digging last month on how to obtain the promotion and get on the right path. I have friends in the field that are at different companies with specific goals and KPI's required to hit before they can become an AE – very detailed stuff. 

However, when I went around asking senior reps, AE's, my manager, and AE managers, I was met with a less-than-satisfactory response. "Work hard and maybe you'll get promoted," or "even if you put in the best work, there’s a slim chance you'll become an AE, that's just how it is here."

What should I do? I want to leave, because I know of other positions from connections who say that with the current numbers I've put up, I would be talking about promotions already. I'm performing in the top 10 out of 110+ other reps. But I'm also sort of in a jam as taking an SDR position was a huge pay cut from car sales and now I have a 5k starting bonus hanging over my head to pay back if I leave before a year. Any advice?

Restless in Utah   


Dear Restless,

We asked Ryan Walsh, Founder and CEO of RepVue, the go-to platform for everything related to sales compensation, culture, role, and employment, for his thoughts. Here’s what he said: 

“First, it's reasonably unusual that an org with 100+ SDRs doesn't have a clear, well-baked promotion plan/path for SDRs to get to the AE role (particularly a modern sales org). It's really a core component of the sales professional development plan and has been in most orgs for a decade. Frankly, it's dumb for orgs to train up great talent only to have them jump somewhere else for their AE role.

Second, it's super important that you have this direct conversation with your direct manager as well as that person's manager (via a skip meeting if your team has those, where you meet with your manager's manager). Just be clear in what your objectives are and the fact that you'd love to be on that AE path at your company. This is not threatening, but most managers will understand that if you don't get that AE role there, then you'll likely be looking around after a year.

Third, don't fret and assume you are being treated fairly and as a top 10% performer are earning decent money. Understand that after putting in your 1 year (to retain your bonus), you'll simply be a highly coveted employee for a bunch of tech orgs looking to grow their teams. Once you get to month 10, if the current org is still opaque regarding your prospects, you should start having conversations with the recruiters who will likely be hitting your DMs.

Think of the car sales transition as short term pain long term gain! Good luck!” 

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