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Tech Sales Roles: Sales Development Rep, Account Executive, Sales Engineer - What are the differences?

career change Jul 03, 2023

The world of sales is vast, with a range of career opportunities and roles to choose from. As you explore your options, it's essential to understand the differences between various positions, their responsibilities, what a typical day looks like, compensation, and potential career paths. In this article, we'll dive deep into three popular sales roles: Sales Development Representative (SDR), Account Executive (AE), and Sales Engineer (SE). 

Each role focuses on a different aspect of the sales process and requires a specific set of skills and responsibilities:

 

Tech Sales Roles

 

Sales Development Representative (SDR)

SDRs are typically responsible for generating new leads and qualifying prospects. They do this by conducting research, cold calling, emailing, and using social media platforms to identify potential clients. The main goal of an SDR is to schedule meetings or demos for the Account Executives. SDRs are usually entry-level sales professionals and often work in a high-paced environment.

 

SDR Main responsibilities:

  •   Prospecting and generating leads
  •   Qualifying leads and scheduling meetings for AEs
  •   Maintaining and updating customer relationship management (CRM) systems
  •   Collaborating with marketing and sales teams to develop lead generation strategies

 

A Day in the Life of an SDR

An SDR's day mainly revolves around reaching out to potential customers and gauging their interest in the company's products or services. This involves a mix of cold calling, emailing, and social media outreach. Here's a breakdown of what a typical day might look like:

  1. Morning routine: Upon arriving at the office, an SDR usually starts their day by checking their calendar and planning their day. This includes scanning through emails, prioritizing tasks, and setting daily goals.
  2. Prospecting: SDRs spend a significant portion of their day researching and identifying potential customers. They use various tools and techniques, such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator, to find contacts that match their target personas. They also analyze and review data to uncover trends and insights that can help them tailor their outreach.
  3. Outreach: Armed with their list of prospects, SDRs engage in outreach activities to initiate conversations with potential customers. This includes making phone calls, sending emails, and connecting on social media platforms. The goal is to pique the prospect's interest and set up a meeting or call with an AE or SE.
  4. Lead qualification: SDRs are responsible for qualifying leads before passing them on to the next stage in the sales funnel. They assess the prospect's needs, budget, and decision-making authority to determine if they're a good fit for the company's offerings.
  5. Collaboration: Throughout the day, SDRs work closely with AEs and SEs to share information about qualified leads and coordinate next steps. This could involve setting up meetings, preparing demos, or discussing pricing and contract terms.
  6. Continuous learning: As the frontline of the sales team, SDRs must stay up-to-date on industry trends, competitor offerings, and their company's product developments. They often attend sales training sessions and workshops to hone their skills and learn new strategies.
  7. End-of-day wrap-up: SDRs typically end their day by updating their CRM with notes from their outreach efforts, calls, and meetings. They also review their progress towards their daily and weekly goals and plan for the next day.  

SDR Compensation

SDRs typically start with a base salary in the range of $40,000 to $60,000 per year. Additionally, they often receive performance-based bonuses or commissions, which can bring their total annual compensation to between $50,000 and $80,000.

 

SDR Career Path

As an entry-level position, the SDR role serves as a stepping stone to more advanced sales roles. After gaining experience and honing their skills, SDRs typically have several options for career advancement:

  1. Account Executive (AE): Many SDRs aspire to become AEs, as this role allows them to manage the entire sales process, from lead qualification to closing deals. AEs often have higher earning potential due to their increased responsibilities and the ability to earn commission on closed deals.
  2. Sales Manager: SDRs with strong leadership skills and a track record of success may choose to pursue a role as a Sales Manager. In this role, they would manage and mentor a team of SDRs, helping them develop their skills and achieve their goals.
  3. Marketing or Business Development: SDRs with an interest in marketing or business development may choose to transition into roles within these departments. These positions often involve creating and executing strategies to generate leads, build brand awareness, and support sales efforts.
  4. Customer Success or Account Management: SDRs who excel at building relationships and ensuring customer satisfaction may find success in customer-facing roles, such as Customer Success Manager or Account Manager. These roles focus on maintaining and growing relationships with existing customers, ensuring their needs are met, and identifying opportunities for upselling and cross-selling.

 

Applying for a Sales Development Rep position? Here are SDR resume examples.

 

Account Executive (AE)

AEs are responsible for managing the entire sales process, from initial contact to closing deals. They work closely with SDRs, who pass on qualified leads to them, and Sales Engineers, who provide technical support during the sales process. AEs typically have strong negotiation and communication skills, as they must persuade potential clients to purchase their company's products or services.

 AE Main responsibilities:

  •   Building and maintaining relationships with prospects and clients
  •   Conducting product demos and presenting sales proposals
  •   Negotiating pricing, terms, and conditions
  •   Closing deals and achieving sales quotas
  •   Collaborating with internal teams, such as sales support, product development, and customer success

 

A Day in the Life of an AE

An AE's day is a mix of customer meetings, negotiations, and collaboration with internal teams. Here's an overview of what a typical day might look like:

  1. Morning routine: Similar to an SDR, an AE starts their day by reviewing their calendar, checking emails, and setting their priorities for the day.
  2. Customer meetings: AEs spend a significant portion of their day in meetings or calls with prospects and customers. These interactions can include product demonstrations, sales presentations, or contract negotiations.
  3. Pipeline management: AEs are responsible for managing their sales pipeline and ensuring leads are moving through the sales process efficiently. This involves tracking deals, updating the CRM, and following up with prospects and customers.
  4. Collaboration: AEs frequently collaborate with SDRs to review qualified leads and strategize about the best approach for each prospect. They also work closely with SEs to prepare for product demonstrations and address technical questions.
  5. Proposal development: Once a prospect expresses interest in moving forward, AEs create customized proposals that outline the product or service, pricing, and terms. They often collaborate with other departments, such as legal and finance, to ensure the proposal aligns with company policies.
  6. Closing deals: A major part of an AE's job is closing deals. This can involve negotiating contract terms, addressing objections, and working with other departments to finalize agreements.
  7. End-of-day wrap-up: Like SDRs, AEs end their day by updating the CRM, reviewing their progress towards goals, and planning for the next day.

 

AE Compensation

Entry-level AEs usually start with a base salary in the range of $50,000 to $70,000 per year. With commissions and bonuses, their total annual compensation can range from $100,000 to $150,000 or more, depending on their success in hitting sales targets.

 

AE Career Paths Options

AEs have a variety of options for career growth, depending on their interests, skills, and performance. Some potential career paths for AEs include:

  1. Senior Account Executive or Strategic Account Executive: AEs with a proven track record of success may be promoted to a senior or strategic AE role. These roles often involve managing larger, more complex deals, and working with high-profile accounts or industries.
  2. Sales Manager or Sales Director: AEs with strong leadership skills may advance to managerial or director-level positions. In these roles, they oversee a team of AEs, providing guidance, support, and strategic direction to help them achieve their sales goals.
  3. VP of Sales or Chief Revenue Officer: Highly successful AEs with extensive experience and a deep understanding of sales strategy may aspire to executive-level roles, such as Vice President of Sales or Chief Revenue Officer. These positions involve setting the overall sales strategy for the organization, managing sales teams, and driving revenue growth.
  4. Sales Operations or Sales Enablement: AEs with a knack for data analysis, process improvement, and training may choose to transition to roles in sales operations or sales enablement. These roles focus on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the sales organization through data-driven insights, process optimization, and the development of training and support materials.

 

Applying for an Account Executive position? Here are AE resume examples to help you land interviews.

 

 

Sales Engineer (SE)

SEs, sometimes called Solutions Engineers or Technical Sales Engineers, are responsible for providing technical expertise during the sales process. They work closely with AEs to understand customer needs and demonstrate how the company's products or services can solve specific problems. SEs typically have a strong technical background, often in engineering, computer science, or a related field.

SE Main responsibilities:

  •    Supporting AEs in understanding customer requirements and proposing solutions
  •    Conducting technical product demonstrations and presentations
  •    Answering technical questions and addressing concerns from prospects and clients
  •    Collaborating with product development teams to ensure customer needs are met
  •    Assisting with the implementation of products or services after a sale is closed

 

A Day in the Life of an SE

An SE's day is a mix of technical demonstrations, customer consultations, and internal collaboration. Here's an overview of what a typical day might look like: 

  1. Morning routine: Similar to SDRs and AEs, an SE starts their day by reviewing their calendar, checking emails, and setting priorities for the day.
  2. Preparation: Before any customer interaction, SEs spend time preparing for product demonstrations or technical consultations. This involves researching the customer's business, understanding their needs and pain points, and tailoring the demonstration to showcase how their company's product can provide a solution.
  3. Product demonstrations: SEs often lead or participate in product demonstrations with potential customers. They showcase the product's features, functionality, and benefits while addressing any technical questions or concerns.
  4. Technical consultations: In addition to product demonstrations, SEs provide technical consultations to help customers understand how the company's solutions fit into their existing infrastructure. They may also assist with proof-of-concept (POC) projects, which involve implementing the product within the customer's environment to demonstrate its effectiveness.
  5. Collaboration: SEs work closely with AEs to support the sales process by providing technical expertise and guidance. They may also collaborate with SDRs to share insights on customer needs and inform their prospecting efforts. Internally, SEs may liaise with product development and engineering teams to relay customer feedback and contribute to product improvements.
  6. Continuous learning: To maintain their technical expertise, SEs must stay current with industry trends, emerging technologies, and updates to their company's product offerings. They often attend training sessions, webinars, and industry conferences to expand their knowledge.
  7. Documentation: Throughout the day, SEs create and maintain documentation related to customer interactions, product demonstrations, and technical consultations. This can include updating the CRM, writing technical notes, or preparing reports.
  8. End-of-day wrap-up: Like SDRs and AEs, SEs end their day by reviewing their progress toward goals, updating relevant documentation, and planning for the next day.  

 

SE Compensation

For entry-level SEs, the base salary is typically in the range of $70,000 to $90,000 per year. Including bonuses and commissions, their total annual compensation can range from $90,000 to $120,000 or more.

 

SE Career Path Options

SEs possess a unique combination of technical expertise and sales acumen, which opens the door to several career advancement opportunities:

  1. Senior Sales Engineer or Solutions Architect: Experienced SEs may progress to senior-level roles or take on the title of Solutions Architect. These positions often involve working on more complex projects, leading technical sales strategy, and providing guidance to junior SEs.
  2. Technical Sales Manager: SEs with leadership skills and a passion for coaching may choose to pursue a role as a Technical Sales Manager. In this role, they would manage a team of SEs, ensuring they have the resources and support needed to excel in their roles.
  3. Product Management or Product Marketing: SEs with a deep understanding of their company's products and the needs of their customers may transition to roles in product management or product marketing. These positions involve guiding product strategy, identifying market opportunities, and creating messaging that resonates with target audiences.
  4. Pre-Sales or Post-Sales Management: SEs may also choose to specialize in either pre-sales or post-sales management. Pre-sales roles focus on supporting the sales process and providing technical expertise during the prospecting and negotiation stages. Post-sales roles involve working with customers after a sale has been made, ensuring successful implementation and providing ongoing technical support.

 

Summary

SDRs, AEs, and SEs play distinct but interconnected roles within a sales organization. While their daily tasks and responsibilities may differ, they all contribute to the overall success of the sales process by identifying and nurturing leads, building strong customer relationships, and showcasing the value of their company's products or services. By understanding the differences between these roles and the typical day-to-day activities of each, you can make informed decisions about which career path aligns best with your skills, interests, and long-term goals.

For the compensation, it's important to note that these ranges are approximate and can vary significantly depending on factors such as geographical location, company size and type, industry, and individual performance. In some cases, sales professionals in high-demand industries or high-cost-of-living areas may earn substantially more than the ranges provided here. Always research the specific company and location to get a more accurate understanding of the compensation for a given role.

The sales industry offers a wealth of career opportunities for individuals in SDR, AE, and SE roles. By understanding the potential career paths available and assessing your interests, skills, and long-term goals, you can create a strategic plan for professional growth and advancement. Whether you aspire to move into management, specialize in a specific area of sales, or transition to a related field, the possibilities are vast and varied.

Still deciding which career in Tech is the best fit for you? Check out our new Career Quiz. Answer 15 quick questions to find out which Tech career you'd do well in based on your interests and personality. 

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