Sales Models, Metrics, and Motions Blog

New Data on How SDR to AE Promotions Have Slowed

by Matt Bertuzzi on Thu, Dec 03, 2020

I saw an interesting LinkedIn post from Tito Bohrt the other day. He wrote:

Promotions from SDR to AE have slowed down in 2020…. The question is how to you prevent SDR burnout?


I think Tito’s intuition is spot on, but I wondered how much and where the slow down is occurring.  So, I ran some numbers.

I started by identifying 14 SaaS companies who:

  • Have 150+ total employees
  • Have SDRs (or ADRs, BDRs, etc.)
  • Promote SDR into AE roles

I ended up with a list of 200 US-based reps who started as SDRs in 2017, 2018, or 2019. 2020 hires won’t yet have the tenure to be captured, so I excluded them from the data. Here’s what I found.

On average, months as an SDR--from hire to AE promotion--increased 28% for the class of 2019 compared to the class of 2018

I found increases across 13 of the 14 companies I sampled.

The median increase is roughly 3-4 months. Considering just how much disruption 2020 has involved, this doesn't feel too out of proportion.

Those companies that, prior to Covid-19, promoted at the most rapid clip saw the biggest slowdown.

I grouped companies into three buckets based on their pre-Covid average tenure before promotion to AE.

  • Small- 12 or fewer months from SDR to AE
  • Medium- 12-16 months  
  • Large- 17+ months average tenure before promotion

Average tenure increased the least in the Large companies (+10%) versus increasing the most in the Small companies (+64%)

There was some interesting back and forth on Tito’s post and I recommend you check it out. (Side note: why does LinkedIn hate chronological sort so much?!) This comment from Q4’s Manager of Global Business Development, Andrew Hastings, stuck out to me:

Although we've been lucky to promote 6 BDRs into new roles YTD, the focus to Tito's point remains on Coaching>Managing. Whenever possible here at Q4:
Morning role-plays, tools like SalesLoft or Gong, and on-going Sandler training allow us to create the sales equivalents of "running a pre-game warm-up," or "reviewing the game film," to build these muscles and perfect our craft the same way that athletes do.

It appears we have take a step back from the 2014-2019 model of rapid SDR to AE promotion. What’s left is building a role/path/reality that keeps reps engaged, motivated, and rewarded. 

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What do you think?