SDR, BDR, and AE in Sales

In the sales development world, there are many roles, each with its specific set of tasks and responsibilities. Three of the most common roles in the sales hierarchy are the Sales Development Representative (SDR), Business Development Representative (BDR), and Account Executive (AE). These roles are vital cogs in the sales machine, but they each serve a different purpose. This article aims to provide an in-depth comparison of these roles to help clarify their functions within the sales process.

Sales Development Representative (SDR)

A Sales Development Representative (SDR) is primarily responsible for outbound prospecting. They are the ones who reach out to potential customers, aiming to create opportunities from cold or warm leads. Their goal is to set up meetings for Account Executives, not necessarily to close the deal. Key responsibilities include:

  • Identifying and qualifying leads through methods like cold calling, emails, and social outreach.
  • Setting up appointments with qualified leads.
  • Collaborating with marketing and sales teams to ensure lead quality and quantity.
  • Keeping a detailed record of their outreach efforts and results.

SDRs are typically at the beginning of their sales careers, eager to learn and develop. They are usually compensated with a combination of a base salary and bonuses based on the number of meetings or opportunities they generate.

Business Development Representative (BDR)

While the term Business Development Representative (BDR) is sometimes used interchangeably with SDR, there are often distinctions between these roles depending on the organization. The primary responsibility of a BDR is to generate new business opportunities.

Unlike SDRs, who might work with both inbound and outbound leads, BDRs often focus more on outbound activities and building new relationships. They seek to explore new markets, partnerships, or channels to increase company revenue. Key tasks include:

  • Identifying new business opportunities through market research, networking, and cold outreach.
  • Developing relationships with potential clients or partners.
  • Collaborating with marketing to identify new outbound tactics and industry events.
  • Setting meetings with potential business partners or clients.
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BDRs also often have a mixture of base salary and performance-based incentives, with their bonuses tied to the amount of new business opportunities they bring in.

Account Executive (AE)

Account Executives (AEs) are typically the closers in the sales process. They take over once the SDR or BDR has qualified a lead and set up a meeting. AEs are responsible for presenting the product or service to the lead, handling objections, and ultimately closing the deal. Their key responsibilities include:

  • Conducting product demonstrations and presentations.
  • Negotiating contracts and terms with clients.
  • Collaborating with SDRs or BDRs to ensure a smooth handoff of leads.
  • Managing a sales pipeline and accurately forecasting sales.

AEs usually have more experience in sales and have developed strong skills in negotiation, presentation, and closing. Their compensation is often heavily weighted towards performance, with a significant portion coming from commission based on sales made.


In essence, the roles of the SDR, BDR, and AE are all critical to a successful sales operation. While they each have different focuses—prospecting for the SDR, new business opportunities for the BDR, and closing for the AE—they all work together to drive sales and revenue for their company. Understanding the distinctions between these roles can help organizations structure their sales teams more effectively and set clear expectations and goals for each role.

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