Avoiding Organizational Complexity

February 16, 2021

Embrace full cycle reps….. again.

When did the separation of church and state, err… separation of full cycle into SDR and AE even happen? Back in 2011 a book came out called Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler, it laid out a step by step plan to have specialized sales roles. Like puka shell necklaces and frosted tips took off in the 90s, the idea of SDRs and AEs hit the beaches for some sun in the 20-teens.

The separation has evolved into this thing where people who are SDRs are somehow looked down on, as lower in the sales food chain than AEs, like they aren’t capable. Then SDRs are getting a chip on their shoulder from entitled AEs who don’t lift a finger and complain all the time. Deals are being lost because of crappy hand offs. Companies are spending time training two different groups of people that could be one. Meanwhile, back in the puka shell era, you started as a new sales person and you learned how to cold call, book the meeting(s), manage the relationship, and close the deal. At its worst the SDR/AE model looks like days of confusion and frustration.

Beyond the social swamp of issues that the separation fad has formed, you have the added unintended consequence of poor communication. Poor comms between SDR-AE, SDR-Buyer, and AE-Buyer. You know who gets screwed by this lack of communication? Everyone.

If you do a pass off poorly, it’s like a pothole. You’ve either popped the tired or jostled everyone in the car, or both. Either way, someone’s telling you to pull over and they’re finding another ride. My good friend Amy Volas just spoke to her experience of being driven down a rough road and having to find a new ride. In short, she had a great conversation with a person who she didn’t know was an SDR. She asked to see the product and the person said it wasn’t their job, he’d have to get an AE to show her, and that he wasn’t allowed to demo. Can you believe that? It went from pothole to sinkhole when the AE asked the same questions as the SDR, attempting to re-qualify Amy. She got out of that jalopy and found their competitor’s car driving on a much smoother road.

In Amy’s example, she lost her valuable time, the spectacular SDR lost a qualified prospect, the AE lost the deal, and the company lost the revenue. Sure could have been a different outcome with a full cycle sales person at the helm.
The monotony of only prospecting and taking qualifying calls makes the SDR role ripe for churn. An SDRs tenure and tolerance in their role has become shorter and shorter as they are asked to do more with more complicated channels and products. Burnout is blazing for our friends in this role. On the other end you have AE’s who think they don’t have to lift a finger unless it’s too close a deal, while complaining their deals they are getting handed are crap. If you’re in an org with these mentalities you’ve got a lot more to work on.

[Worth noting here that the best AEs have been and always will be the one consistently prospecting, even if they do have an SDR working with them.]

Enough about the quagmire of SDR/AEs, let’s talk about full cycle sales roles. You train one person to do it all and be it all. Supported by a group of other people who also do it all.

If you’re a full cycle rep reading this, stay humble. Great, you’re on top of your workflow, you have a stacked pipeline and things are going well. High five, you’re doing sales as it was intended. Keep it up! The purpose of having full cycle reps is to have continuity through the sales cycle, reps knowing what’s happening in their pipeline at all times and for efficiency.

Continuity and customer experience

Amy’s example above shows us why having one person as the main point of contact for a buyer is so important. You don’t want buyers feeling lost or passed along. This happens by having a messy pass off and making your buyers tell you everything twice. Once to the SDR and then again to the AE. Don’t be like that. Equip your SDRs with what they need to take the buyer from cold outreach to demo and maybe even beyond if the opportunity arises.


Besides the obvious of paying one person instead of two, the sales team is afforded efficiency by having a shortened buying cycle because the reps can close faster. When cold outreach turns into discovery on the same call, a full cycle rep can bring them all the way into the dock. Efficiency in the understanding of the buyer journey since they work the entire cycle every day will be heightened and everybody will be better for it.

Pipeline and deal quality

Full cycle reps have eyes on their pipeline at all times. They reps get to be the master of their own fate because they are ones in charge of filling their pipeline with quality leads. Rather than being the AEs complaining about the quality of deals being tossed at them from marketing inbounds and SDRs, they can find possible new markets, try them out quickly and move on if they aren’t a good fit. They will also have better insights into when deals could close, what makes them move faster, and which prospects are the best to chase.

This isn’t to say there aren’t amazing SDR/AE teams out there, crushing their goals and working flawlessly together. There are companies out there who do well with a separated model. I just know that a good full cycle rep can be just as successful with a lot less bullshit. Why have two people doing the job of one? Teach one to do it better.

Put that coffee down and check out these lessons from Hollywood’s most toxic sales floor.

The Playing Injured Podcast – heavy stuff in my episode. Josh Dillingham is a great host.