BDRs, SDRs, and AEs: Sales Acronyms Defined

February 15, 2024

Understanding Sales Roles: SDR, BDR, and AE Explained

In the dynamic world of sales, understanding the specific roles and responsibilities of a Sales Development Representative (SDR), Business Development Representative (BDR), and Account Executive (AE) is crucial for both businesses and individuals looking to build a career in this field. These roles, though interconnected, have distinct functions and objectives. Let’s break down each of these roles to understand their unique contributions to the sales process.

Sales Development Representative (SDR)

Key Focus: Lead Qualification and Prospecting

SDRs are typically the first point of contact between a potential customer and the company. They play a crucial role in lead generation and prospecting. Their primary responsibility is to reach out to potential leads via cold calls, emails, or social media to gauge their interest and qualify them as potential customers. This process involves ”qualification” and “discovery”: identifying if the lead fits the target market, has a need for the product or service, and has the budget and authority to make a purchase decision.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Generating and qualifying new leads.
  • Setting up appointments or meetings for the sales team.
  • Managing and nurturing leads until they are ready to engage with an AE.

A successful SDR is also generally an efficient communicator, active listener who can quickly grasp customer needs and modify their product pitch accordingly, as well as an efficient time manager.

For more info, see What is a Sales & Business Development Representative? (SDR & BDR roles), by sales trainer Patrick Dang:

Business Development Representative (BDR)

Key Focus: Lead Generation and Pipeline Development

BDRs, like SDRs, focus on the initial stages of the sales process. However, their approach is slightly different. They primarily concentrate on generating new business opportunities by exploring new markets or customer segments. BDRs often work on creating strategic relationships and partnerships that can lead to sales opportunities. Their role is more about expanding the company’s reach and finding new avenues for growth.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Identifying and targeting new markets or customer segments.
  • Building strategic relationships for business growth.
  • Collaborating with marketing and sales teams to create tailored pitches for new opportunities.

BDRs tend to also have strong organizational and analytical skills, a problem-solving mindset, and ability to network quickly and effectively with not just customers, but also partners, the internal team, and any potential suppliers.

For more info on a typical day in the life of a BDR, watch several Salesforce Enterprise Business Representatives describe their job description in their own words:

Account Executive (AE)

Key Focus: Closing Deals and Managing Customer Relationships

AEs are the deal-closers. Once a lead is qualified by an SDR or BDR and enters the sales pipeline, the AE takes over. Their role is to understand the customer’s needs deeply, present the right solutions, negotiate terms, and ultimately close the deal. AEs need to have a thorough understanding of the product or service, the market, and the customer’s business challenges.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Conducting in-depth needs analysis and product demonstrations.
  • Negotiating contracts and closing deals.
  • Managing and expanding customer relationships for future business opportunities.

AEs are often considered to be successful negotiators with strong closing skills, have in-depth knowledge on the service or product being sold, and can think strategically about expansion opportunities.

For more info, see What Does An Account Executive Do? (A Day In The Life) by Will Barron, founder of

Teamwork and Interactions Across Each Role

While the roles of SDR, BDR, and AE are distinct, they are highly interconnected. SDRs and BDRs lay the groundwork by identifying and nurturing potential leads, which are then handed over to AEs for the final execution of sales. This division allows each role to specialize and excel in specific areas of the sales process, leading to more effective and efficient sales operations.

Pod Approach

A pod approach is where an SDR is "paired" with an AE. In this approach, an SDR will work closely with one or more AEs. The advantage is that there is close communication and a quick feedback loop. However, this approach is not very common. In most situations SDRs and AEs work independently. For example, If an SDR books a meeting, they will essentially "throw it over the wall" to the AE team, with limited back-and-forth communication.


SDRs and BDRs are the engines that drive the initial stages of the sales process through lead generation and qualification, with SDRs working on primary the face-to-face customer relationship, cold calling and emailing leads, and generating interest in the service or products and BDRs finding areas of growth and new fields to advertise the company to. AEs, on the other hand, bring these efforts to fruition by closing deals and maintaining customer relationships. Understanding these roles and their collaborative work with one another is key for anyone looking to navigate the competitive sales landscape effectively, whether as a business seeking to optimize their sales strategy or as an individual pursuing a career in sales.

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