When most people picture a successful salesperson, they often think of ‘the closer’ – the one celebrating the big deal coming in, money showering down, and gongs going off.
These folks, particularly in enterprise companies, are often called Account Executives (AE). They manage the account, ultimately building and owning the relationship, then closing deals.
Ever since the switch to ‘inside sales’ became the dominant way to initiate deals – over the phone and over email – it’s been the role of sales development representatives to start but not finish the process. Once a lead is qualified, it turns to the AE to make it happen.
Sales development is incredibly important work, and without it, AEs couldn’t have their glory. Closing should be a “natural” result of a relationship with prospects, even for the best salespeople. But if you want to work in sales, how do you move from the grind of cold outreach as a BDR to closing deals as an AE?
I’ll let you in on a secret … it’s all about your network. And we have the data to prove it.
As the CEO of Nudge.ai, a sales tool that uses artificial intelligence to provide insights that build stronger buyer relationships, we already have 12,000+ sales users on our platform.
We recently analyzed the size and strength of sales pros’ networks on Nudge.ai. Here is what we found:
- A Business Development Rep (BDR) has the smallest network – which makes sense
- An Account Executive (AE) has, on average a 35% larger, active network than a BDR
- A VP of Sales has on average a 6% larger active network than an AE. I thought this would be a larger difference, but after thinking about it, a VP of Sales will focus more on high quality relationships vs. quantity.
The takeaway is clear: start building your network early in your sales career. Those relationships you start as a BDR can help you with future sales as an AE.
So how do you build your network as a BDR to you can become an AE? At a high-level:
- Build authentic relationships by focusing on shared interests and passions
- “Give-to-give” as Jill Rowley would say, not “give-to-get” – help people when you can
- Build a list of key people you must stay in touch with over your career – and actually stay in touch with them
Here are five tactical takeaways:
- Do your research. You can find relevant insights on your connections including social activity and company news without radically disrupting your standard workflow of email, phone, and CRM. Use a free tool like our Nudge.ai for Chrome extension which integrates right into Gmail, Google Inbox, Office 365, Outlook, and SalesLoft.
- Develop empathy: ask and inquire with your contacts about how you can help and what problems they are facing. Keep them in the back of your mind, consider what signals they are providing, and regularly make time to consider them.
- Provide value with every interaction: make introductions, share resources, and give feedback. These are easy ways for you to provide value, for free.
- Keep in touch. Reach out to your old customers, especially if they’ve moved onto a new company – they might be open to hearing from you again if you were a pleasure to speak with. Keep in touch with former colleagues, and don’t forget how strong your weak ties can be.
- Don’t push too hard or have a sell-first mindset. Focus on relationship building. Sales has been dominated recently by social selling and specifically by account-based sales, a focused, long-game strategy that relies on a foundation of strong, multi-threaded relationships with a company. If you push too hard at the start, you won’t develop the trust that they need to move forward.
So, focus on building relationships in deals and across accounts to grow your network. This will make the difference for you if you are a BDR who wants to become an AE. And remember, “your network is your net worth.”
Today’s post is by guest author, Paul Teshima, CEO & Co-Founder of Nudge.ai, a modern sales solution that uses artificial intelligence to provide sales teams with actionable insights to build stronger relationships with buyers.