Sales Hiring

Difference Between an AE and an SDR in Sales

Published by:
Prateek Mathur

Table of content

​​Just when you thought your sales team was vibing, along came a deeper dive into the duet of Account Executives (AEs) and Sales Development Representatives (SDRs). 

Understanding the specific roles within a team can significantly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of your sales strategy. 

Particularly important are the roles of AEs and SDRs, each of which holds distinct responsibilities in the sales process. While both positions are crucial to a business's success, their functions differ substantially in focus and objectives. 

This article will explore these roles in depth, helping you understand how each contributes to the customer journey and sales success.

Defining the Roles

1. Role of an Account Executive: Closing deals and maintaining customer relationships

Account Executives are primarily responsible for closing deals and maintaining ongoing customer relationships. After leads are identified and nurtured by their SDR colleagues, AEs take over to handle the deeper nuances of negotiation, deal-making, and client management. 

Their primary goal is to convert prospects into loyal customers by understanding their needs and offering tailored solutions. AEs are often seen as the key drivers of revenue in a sales team, as their efforts directly correlate with the achievement of sales targets.

2. Role of Sales Development Representatives: Lead generation and qualification

Sales Development Representatives focus on the initial stages of the sales process: lead generation and qualification. 

Their main task is to sift through potential contacts, reach out to prospects, and assess their interest and fit for the company’s offerings. SDRs bridge marketing efforts and actual sales opportunities, setting the stage for AEs by nurturing leads until they are ready for more detailed engagement. 

This role requires a high level of persistence and expertise in communication and prospecting techniques.

Key Responsibilities

1. AE Responsibilities

Account Executives hold the crucial responsibility of managing customer relationships throughout the sales cycle. 

Their tasks include:

  • Managing customer relationships: AEs ensure that customer relationships are nurtured and maintained effectively to boost long-term satisfaction and retention.
  • Identifying upsell opportunities: They constantly seek opportunities to upsell or cross-sell, maximizing the value delivered to the customer and the company.
  • Ensuring customer satisfaction: AEs gather feedback and address any issues customers might face, aiming to enhance the overall customer experience and ensure fulfillment of their needs.

2. SDR Responsibilities

Sales Development Representatives handle the front line of the sales process. 

Their primary responsibilities are:

  • Prospecting: SDRs use various tools and strategies to identify potential leads that fit the company’s target market.
  • Outreach to potential leads: They reach out to potential leads through cold calls, emails, and social media to gauge interest and introduce them to the company's offerings.
  • Setting up meetings for AEs: SDRs set up meetings for AEs after qualifying leads, ensuring that only the most promising prospects are forwarded along the sales pipeline.

Skills Required

1. AE Skills

To excel in their role, Account Executives need a specific set of skills:

  • Deep product knowledge: Understanding the ins and outs of the products or services they sell is crucial for AEs, as it enables them to address client concerns and highlight relevant features confidently.
  • Ability to build strong relationships: It is vital to forge and maintain strong relationships. This includes empathy, listening, and interpersonal skills.
  • Negotiation and closing skills: AEs must effectively negotiate terms and close deals, skills that directly impact the company's bottom line.

Read: Improve Your Meeting Show Rate: An Account Executive’s Guide

2. SDR Skills

  • Effective communication for outbound reach: Mastery of communication techniques is essential for reaching and engaging potential leads.
  • Lead qualification: SDRs need to quickly assess the potential of leads to determine if they meet the criteria that make them likely to purchase.
  • Handling objections: Addressing and overcoming objections during initial conversations is crucial for keeping potential leads engaged.

Read: Hire SDR: How to Find the Best Sales Development Representatives

Operational Focus

1. AEs

Account Executives focus intensely on the latter stages of the sales process. 

Their key operational tasks include:

  • Negotiating Contracts: AEs lead discussions about pricing and contract terms, using their negotiation skills to secure favorable outcomes.
  • Finalizing Deals: They are responsible for closing deals and taking over the process after SDRs have successfully handed off qualified leads. This often involves tailored presentations and final adjustments to proposals to meet client needs.

2. SDRs 

Sales Development Representatives are vital for injecting new opportunities into the sales pipeline. 

Their focus includes:

  • Introducing New Business: By engaging new prospects, SDRs add fresh leads to the sales funnel.
  • Converting Prospects into Qualified Leads: Through strategic outreach and initial qualification, SDRs filter the prospect pool, setting the stage for AEs by forwarding only those leads that show real promise.

Career Progression

The transition from an SDR to an AE is a common career path in sales, offering clear mobility opportunities:

1. The structured path from SDR to AE, highlighting career mobility opportunities

Many companies structure their sales teams to allow SDRs to evolve into AEs. This path provides SDRs with a concrete goal and a clear understanding of the skills and achievements needed to advance.

2. Importance of developing a solid foundation in sales skills as an SDR before moving into an AE role

Foundation in Sales Skills: Starting as an SDR allows individuals to build a solid foundation in key sales skills, including prospecting, lead qualification, and dealing with objections, which are invaluable when they step into an AE role.

AE vs. SDR: A Synergistic Relationship

1. Importance of cooperation and regular communication between AEs and SDRs

The effectiveness of the sales process heavily relies on the relationship between AEs and SDRs:

  • Importance of Cooperation: Regular communication and cooperation between AEs and SDRs ensure that both roles are aligned in their strategies and goals.
  • Regular Updates and Feedback: Frequent exchanges between AEs and SDRs help refine tactics and approaches, ensuring that both parties are informed about evolving client needs and market dynamics.

2. How AEs and SDRs work together to increase conversion rates and drive revenue

  • Increasing Conversion Rates: AEs rely on the groundwork laid by SDRs. When SDRs effectively qualify leads, AEs can focus their efforts on the most promising opportunities, which enhances conversion rates.
  • Driving Revenue: The collaborative efforts of AEs and SDRs are crucial for driving revenue. While SDRs populate the sales pipeline with qualified leads, AEs maximize the potential of these opportunities through skilled negotiation and closure, illustrating a perfect synergy that boosts overall sales performance.

Outsourcing Considerations

Benefits of outsourced SDR services 

Outsourcing SDR services can offer numerous advantages for businesses looking to streamline their sales processes:

  • Cost Savings: Outsourcing eliminates the overhead associated with hiring full-time employees, such as benefits, training, and office space.
  • Access to Experienced Sales Reps: Outsourced services provide access to sales professionals who bring a wealth of experience and proven strategies to the table, enhancing the efficiency of the lead generation process.

Accelerating Processes

Outsourcing can significantly boost the productivity of sales operations:

  • Enhanced Lead Generation: With dedicated teams specializing in lead generation, businesses can see a faster and more efficient process, filling the pipeline with qualified leads.
  • Improved Appointment Setting: Experienced outsourced SDRs can more effectively set appointments, ensuring that AEs spend their time engaging only with the most promising prospects.

Strategies for AE Success

Effective Sales Techniques

To maximize their effectiveness, AEs should adopt the following strategies:

  • Leveraging Testimonials and Case Studies: These tools can be powerful in demonstrating the value and success of products or services, helping to shift the conversation from price to value.
  • Focusing on Value Over Price: By emphasizing how the product or service can solve problems or improve the customer’s situation, AEs can better engage potential clients.
  • Active Listening: This skill is crucial for understanding the client's needs and tailoring the pitch accordingly, significantly increasing the chances of closing a deal.

Collaboration with marketing to ensure alignment of materials and messages

AEs should work closely with marketing to ensure the promotional materials and messages are consistent and effectively support the sales process. This alignment helps in creating a seamless customer journey from initial contact to closing the deal.

Activated Scale: Streamlining Sales Operations for Startups and Small Businesses

Activated Scale offers a distinctive solution for startups and small businesses aiming to optimize their sales operations without the overhead of a full-time sales force. 

Specializing in connecting companies with vetted, fractional sales talent, it enables businesses to "try before they hire," providing a cost-effective way to ensure the right fit for sales roles.

Key Features of Activated Scale

  • Access to Vetted Sales Professionals: Businesses gain access to skilled sales experts who are rigorously vetted to meet high standards.
  • Flexible 'Try Before You Hire' Model: This model allows businesses to assess potential hires in real-world conditions without immediate long-term commitments.
  • Comprehensive Sales Support: Activated Scale handles everything from lead generation to managing the sales cycle, allowing business owners to focus on core business areas.

Overcoming Sales Challenges

Activated Scale addresses several common challenges:

  • Optimal Hiring Times: The platform advises on the best times to hire sales staff to maximize growth.
  • Fractional Sales Roles: Activated Scale offers part-time or flexible sales positions for companies with limited budgets.
  • Sales Education: The platform helps demystify sales roles and terminology, aiding businesses in making informed decisions.

Read: Hire Fractional AE: The Ultimate Guide for Businesses


Understanding the distinct roles of AEs and SDRs is essential for optimizing sales processes. While SDRs lay the groundwork by identifying and qualifying leads, AEs take these opportunities forward, negotiating and closing deals.

Moreover, the synergy between AEs and SDRs forms the backbone of a successful sales operation – driving growth and ensuring customer satisfaction in a competitive market landscape.

If you're looking to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of your sales team, consider exploring Activated Scale. 

Visit our website to learn more about how our flexible, cost-effective sales solutions can help your business grow. Start with our 'try before you hire' model today, and experience firsthand how we can transform your sales strategy.

Hire Sales Talent Now!

Get in Touch Now!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Dominate Your Market: Hire Fractional Experts

Hire Sales Talent

Related articles