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Sales competencies that lead to promotions

4 min readOctober 1, 2019

The typical career progression for a sales development rep (SDR) is to advance to an account executive (AE) within a company. The idea is that development reps already have experience pitching your products, understand it, and know how to work with your potential buyers.

The longer an AE remains with the team, the even more knowledgeable and experienced they become. They gain even more of an understanding of the products, become experts in the industry, learn how to overcome objections and competitors, and best of all, can pass their knowledge and experience down to new reps, increasing the abilities of the entire team. All of this means it is within your best interest to promote from within.

If sales reps consistently meet or exceed goals every month, they are certainly moving in the right direction. But, it takes more than mastering basic skills and meeting benchmarks to take the next step, especially since 26% of new AE’s fail. Here are the key sales competencies that lead to promotions…

Understanding of the entire sales process

Starting as an SDR, reps are hyper-focused on the top of the sales funnel with the goal of scheduling initial appointments. Then, to succeed as an AE they need to become knowledgeable of the workings of the entire sales cycle and develop the additional skills they need. SDRs should get to know the AEs they work with, AEs should turn to sales manager or senior reps. Get to know their experiences, advice, and see what can be learned from them.

Practice handling uncommon objections

As an SDR, reps have likely learned how to handle common objections presented by prospects. As an AE that spends far more time with prospects, and handles deals that are further down the funnel, they will encounter far more difficult and atypical objections. Reps should learn what they are and how to handle them. They can do this by listening to highly successful AE calls and learn what they do, then roleplay with colleagues so they are prepared for these challenges when they experience them.

Developed listening skills

The ability to listen more than you speak during sales calls is a skill that everyone must develop. It will serve any sales role well and is crucial to sales success. Proper listening provides the ability to gain deeper insights, demonstrate empathy and build better relationships with prospects, and ultimately leads to more sales.

Excellent at leading conversations

In addition to great listening skills, it’s necessary to frame questions properly when speaking with prospects, gaining the information needed while still providing value. To accomplish this reps need to develop great business acumen and become an expert on the industry they are selling to as well as the personas involved in the buying process. Reps should master warm calling, and become the salesperson prospects want to speak with.

Keep good notes

Although reps don’t need to write down every word a prospect says, especially with call recording, it’s critical that they make note of the key information that is shared during every call. This enables them to remember things like pain points, objections, and goals so time is never wasted reiterating a previous question. Plus, documenting this intel facilitates creating winning solutions for each prospect.

Excellent time management skills

AE’s need to keep track of accounts at various stages in the sales cycle while SDR’s have a relatively consistent flow of activities guided by their sales cadence. That’s why it’s so important for reps to develop excellent time management skills. Planning days, weeks, and months carefully as well as leveraging all available automation allows reps to optimize their productivity.

Become a team player

Today it’s more important than ever to be a team player. Developing this collaborative and sharing mindset benefits the entire team by accelerating the learning process and effectively utilizing company resources to close more deals.

Learn how to do a demo

As an AE, demo skills are critical to success. The more comfortable reps can become doing demos before they are promoted, the faster they will excel in their new position. So, reps should study recordings of demos, sit on live ones, and practice giving them before it’s part of their job.

Have excellent closing skills

Although scheduling appointments is a form of closing, closing the sale can be significantly more challenging. Reps should listen to top AEs close, then role-play with other aspiring AEs to hone their closing skills. Developing this skill will pay off handsomely in the long run.

Always be learning

In sales, there’s always something new to learn. Beyond becoming an expert in their product, industries they sell to, and buyer personas, reps need to learn from daily experiences and failures. Listen to call recordings and study their metrics to consistently identify ways to improve their performance and knowledge.