Collaboration is one of GitLab’s values, and all team members and users are encouraged to embrace collaboration to drive the speed of innovation. When joining GitLab, SDRs are paired with a Strategic Account Leader (or AE) for the purpose of maximizing sales opportunities from prospective companies. An SDR sets meetings for the SAL, and the SAL closes the deal. Making an effort to get to know each other, as both professionals and individuals, helps to build an understanding of expectations and develop effective communication skills, resulting in a strong working relationship and more business for the company. An SDR and SAL should collaborate to build a strong relationship. They should be a dynamic duo. Think Pippen & Jordan, Lennon & McCartney, Mary-Kate & Ashley. During my time at GitLab, I’ve learned a few ways to help my SAL and I become like Timon & Pumba Batman & Robin.

Mutual respect

Developing a mutual respect for each other’s unique roles is critical. SDRs and SALs both have difficult jobs, and it’s important that there is an appreciation for what each other contributes to GitLab. SDRs meticulously research accounts, comb through lists of potential prospects to target the right one, craft targeted messaging that conveys GitLab’s value to the prospective customer and their role. It’s not as simple as calling and sending an email. The role can involve 10 touches, including calls, emails, and social messages for a large number of prospects. The challenging part is that these prospects do not always welcome an SDR with open arms. After all of that hard work, an SDR might set a meeting and the prospective customer may or may not show up. It’s a grind.

On the other hand, the SAL doesn’t exactly stroll through the park on any given day, since it is the SAL’s responsibility to close the deal. If there’s a prospect that was hard for the SDR to get ahold of, the SAL has the challenge of following up after an initial meeting. An SAL has to monitor both prospective and existing accounts. They have the long-term game in their hands and have to keep customers happy, which includes fielding complaints, answering questions, and checking in to ensure satisfaction. SALs are the point of contact for large organizations, requiring them to monitor so many moving parts it would make your head spin. Between building relationships with each stakeholder, understanding concerns, and getting the green light from each party, an SAL has a long road to navigate, and it behooves the SDR and SAL to take note of each other’s roles to understand the tasks and challenges that both jobs require, aiding in the development of mutual respect and empathy. If you are able to empathize with your team member, you’ll able to manage disagreements and collaborate to find solutions.

Make Time

It can be easy to get caught up in the details of your role and only call your SAL once in the entire week. Communicating so little is not conducive to success, and it’s difficult to get to know someone with such limited interaction. When you don’t know someone well, you don’t know how to best communicate with them.

Miscommunications can drive people apart, but a great way to avoid this situation is to spend time together. I’m not suggesting a 15-minute talk about account-related news or updates and then staring at each other for the better part of an hour. I mean get the account stuff out there by discussing what’s new, coming up with strategy, and tinkering on messaging. It’s also important to ask questions! My SAL is always asking, “How can I help make your job easier?” That’s a great question! I want to make it a point to ask him the same thing. I also highly encourage SDRs and SALs to talk about non-work related topics. Learn about each other’s interests, talk about travel plans, family, sports, reality tv, whatever you’re into! People light up talking about their passions and hobbies. It might feel weird at first if you haven’t done it before, but it helps break the ice and will get easier as time goes on. Forging these habits of taking time to discuss what’s happening outside of work ensures a more positive working relationship moving forward.

Maximizing effort

Making time and developing mutual respect takes some serious effort, but they’re critical factors in succeeding in a role and helping an organization flourish. Like anything that’s worth having, trying these techniques may not be comfortable or easy, but putting in the effort to build a solid working relationship is important in developing and growing as a sales professional.

This relationship is a great foundation for a productive workflow, and these techniques can ripple through interactions with customers. SDRs and SALs build a partnership around GitLab to solve a business problem, and they continue to work together to resolve an organization’s future challenges. If you put forth the effort, make time, and empathize, you can present a united front when helping your customers and prospects.

-Z. Michael Miranda-

Mike Miranda went from studying cell biology to traveling Russia, to selling windows door-to-door producing the grit, confidence, and desire for new challenges and experiences which brought him to an SDR role at GitLab.