How to Grow your Tech Sales Career as a Sales Development Representative at Appian
Starting as a Sales Development Representative (SDR) opens doors to many other career paths in Sales and across departments at Appian. You’ll have the opportunity to grow quickly, with the support you need to be successful.
Brett Barlow is one of our all stars on the Sales team who started as an SDR and is now Partner Sales Manager. He shared his career journey that led him to the Sales team at Appian, paths you can take starting as an SDR, and his top tips for how to grow in your tech sales career.
Meet Brett Barlow
- Joined Appian in 2019
- Partner Sales Manager
- Located in McLean, Virginia
From hospitality to tech sales.
After I graduated from James Madison University as a hospitality major, I had no idea what I wanted to do.
I began my career at a tech startup, but found that the environment was too small. I then pursued the hospitality tract at Sysco as an Account Executive, but even with this new position there was a lot of commuting for my accounts and I didn’t have many growth opportunities.
I wanted a change and a new challenge somewhere that I could grow into, a company I could see myself at long-term. I applied to work at Appian without knowing much about the product, but after the interview process I was sold on the culture, growth opportunities, and the supportive, smart people I’d be working with.
The executives I talked with in the interviews had been with the company for some time which was comforting because I wanted a place where I could stay for 5-10 years. I quickly learned it’s common to get promoted, and even change cross-functionally across teams at Appian. It felt like a great size company under 2,000 people globally, so it had lots of opportunity but with an intimate community feel. In the early interview stages, they asked me, how can we invest in you so that you want to stay here?
I could tell starting as an SDR was all about growth potential which is what I was really looking for, so I accepted the position and am so glad I did!
Four career paths starting as an SDR at Appian.
When you join Appian as an SDR, there are countless routes you could take to grow your career. Here are just four of the many ways you can grow professionally at Appian:
Account Executive in Sales
- This is a common path where you’re at the top of the sales individual contributor roles, and get to own customer relationships and close deals. My colleague Dalante Jackson took this route and is now an Enterprise Account Executive, read about his story here.
- The Enablement team is amazing at providing support for Sales to be successful, from resources to templates, training, and onboarding. My colleague Ashley Butler is Senior Sales Enablement Manager after working in Customer Success, Marketing, and Sales, all in training functions. Read about Ashley’s career journey here.
Partner Sales Manager
- This was my path! I love working with a variety of partners who resell our product, and being involved in every deal. I get a lot of autonomy and responsibility being on the small and growing Partner team and I’ve learned a lot about our product in new ways.
- You can go cross-functional and join our Marketing team to help tell our Appian story to customers and partners across industries.
Moving from SDR to Partner Sales Manager within three years.
Being an SDR is about finding new opportunities for our Sales team, and it’s a role where you get to interact with different teams and there’s so much to absorb and learn. Working in the low-code software industry is an exciting field to be in because it’s always evolving and growing, which is why it’s a great time to be in Sales at Appian.
To get promoted starting as an SDR at Appian, there is a structured program and criteria to move from entry level to Senior and then Senior Sales Development Representative. It encourages you to learn more about the product itself, instead of just booking meetings. It’s great that it’s structured, they give you the steps to be successful, and it’s up to you to apply them. It’s usually about a two year program and helps you understand if you want to be an Account Executive or explore another career path.
For me, I wanted to get promoted as soon as possible. Typically an SDR is linked to two to three Account Executives to support them by being the first contact with potential clients (often cold calling). I was eager to always say yes to new Account Executives being added to my roster, and learned so much from my Sales team colleagues. After about nine months, I was promoted to Senior SDR.
At this point, I was intrigued by the Partner team. I learned it was more about building trust with partners so they can help sell for you, rather than directly selling the product as an Account Executive. I reached out to colleagues on the Partner team to introduce myself, understand more about the opportunities, and it sounded super interesting. There are many career development programs set up at Appian, but people here are also very willing to chat with you, answer questions, and get to know you. I went to them to sek out the Partner team to learn more and get to know them before I was looking for a new role, so when the time came, they already knew who I was.
Now, as Partner Sales Manager, I’m responsible for a portfolio of partner organizations that bring Appian software and solutions to market through resell and co-sell strategies; supporting our customers from a sales perspective but also offering professional services to ensure customer success on the platform.
My role is to support our Partners through the sales process, but also assist them in building out their partnership with Appian and enable their go-to-market teams. Our Trusted Partner Program allows us to sell our product to more customers with greater reach than we would be able to sell directly. It’s a smaller team so I’m very involved with every single deal and I’ve learned so much in this role already — it’s been like drinking from the firehose that’s always on!
Take initiative and be willing to change.
Working in tech sales can be challenging work, and there are times where you’ll be under a lot of pressure where you need to be agile and adapt quickly. Don’t get comfortable doing one thing continuously and expect to get results. Keep up with market trends, and don’t be afraid to experiment.
Another tip for SDRs that seems simple but is so valuable — focus on listening. You’re on so many calls, you can learn so much from your Sales team colleagues. Every bit of knowledge you have about an organization and the product goes such a long way and shows you’re keen to learn. I picked up so many skills from the Account Executives I worked with from listening to calls, and asking a lot of questions as people at Appian are always willing to help. We’re one team, so your success is their success too.
My greatest advice if you’re looking at a job and debating whether it’s for you, is to go out and talk to somebody who’s done it. Take the initiative and you’ll learn so much from someone’s personal experience.
If you’re interested in being an SDR at Appian, reach out to someone on LinkedIn who’s in that role or someone like me, who started there! It will help you get an understanding of what the role is like, what they do, and the growth opportunities you’ll be set up for.
If you’re in this position, I hoped this helped by hearing about my own experience! Interested in joining our team? See our current opportunities here.