The Alphabet Soup of Sales

Neil HartleyPathfinder SalesLeave a Comment

alphabet soup of sales

You’ve seen the acronyms, SDRs, BDRs, AEs, MQLs, SQLs etc. but what do these mean and, as a tech B2B founder looking to make your first Sales hire, what do they mean to you and should you care?

After all, one salesperson is like any other salesperson, right? Actually, no but we’ll get to that. Let’s start by deciphering the acronyms.

Sales Development Reps (SDR) and Business Development Reps (BDR) are sometimes used interchangeably but when a sales operation is sufficiently large, the SDR works to develop inbound leads (leads that typically come in via your website) while the BDR works more in an outbound capacity (think cold calling, proactive outreach via LinkedIn etc.).

The SDR is working with MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads) i.e. prospects Marketing deems ready for follow up by Sales (usually the SDR) while the BDR is out there generating their own leads. When the SDR/BDR has engaged with a prospect sufficiently and they believe that prospect is ready to be handed over to an Account Executive (AE) – who will run with the lead through to closing – then that is referred to as a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL).

What’s being alluded to above is a process, one that’s hopefully been worked on to optimize efficiency and maximize the output, likely over several years. For B2B tech founders looking to make their first Sales hire it’s not something you should be looking to implement now, but it is something your new salesperson should be working towards – developing and honing a repeatable, scalable, profitable sales process that will work for your business.

This is why we call that first sales hire role the Pathfinder. What they’re developing is a playbook for scaling the business. The SDRs, BDRs and AEs (to a lesser degree) are what we would then generically refer to as Playbook salespeople. It’s not that one is better than the other, just that they require totally different skill sets.

The Pathfinder has to find and develop that path, a journey that will likely involve many wrong turns. Not only do they have to have well-rounded sales and marketing skills but they need to be able to deal with ambiguity. Nobody can tell them what to do or how to find the right path. There is no highly efficient marketing function producing leads for them. They’ll have to figure it all out for themselves. Each day is ill-defined and subject to change, they’ll have to thrive in that kind of environment.

By way of contrast, everything is well documented for the Playbook salesperson. The personas are there, leads are coming in, how to handle common objections will all be neatly documented alongside the questions to ask in order to generate an SQL for the AE. That means the BDR/SDR is not closing or negotiating; it likely also means the AE is not generating their own leads. It doesn’t mean they can’t do it, or haven’t done it, just be aware that when you see ‘Sales’ in someone’s title, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a good fit for you, at your stage of your business.

The motivation of a Pathfinder salesperson is also different to other sales types. Many salespeople are motivated by money which is no bad thing. Some of the best salespeople I’ve ever worked with would spend a day reviewing that year’s compensation plan to see how they could leverage it to maximise their own earnings. That’s no bad thing but money is not the prime motivation of a Pathfinder.

Your first sales hire needs to be a Pathfinder – that person with the full range of sales and marketing skills, who can deal with ambiguity, who understands what the ultimate goal of their role is, who can deal with the many wrong turns in getting there and whose motivation is for success above money.

How do you find one of those? Thankfully, you’re in the right place. Using a proprietary sales recruitment technology, The Right Five automates the assessment of candidates and brings you Pathfinders. We deliver the right five Pathfinder candidates for interview, allowing you to select the right one.

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