6 minutes
March 12, 2024

Account executives and sales reps: how to structure 1:1s for ultimate alignment

Getting the best results from your sales teams means ensuring that both Account Executives and SDRs are aligned. Here’s how to structure effective 1:1 meetings between these two roles to keep everyone on the same page.
Sean Murray
Director of Sales Development, LeadIQ
Table of Contents

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Key Takeaways

  • Regular, well-structured 1:1 meetings between AEs and SDRs are crucial for aligning strategies, discussing messaging, and evaluating performance to improve pipeline development while also building team rapport.
  • Both AEs and SDRs should prepare for meetings by setting clear objectives, creating agendas, and sharing responsibility to maximize productivity and ensure meaningful dialogue. Usually AEs are further along in their sales careers, but this doesn’t mean that both parties should not be equally involved in the process.
  • Teams should work together to continually refine the meeting process to adapt to changing business needs and market conditions, which helps in maintaining effective collaboration and achieving sales targets.

Why 1:1s are important between account executives & sales reps

Effective alignment between sales development representatives (SDRs) and account executives (AEs) is essential for targeted prospecting and pipeline development. 

This is where 1:1 meetings can make all the difference in the world.

Regular 1:1s help SDRs and AEs align on strategy, discuss messaging, build target account/prospect lists, exchange feedback, and track performance. By regularly meeting in one-on-one settings, SDRs and AEs can ensure they have a clear understanding of goals while optimizing lead handoffs and driving accountability for achieving sales targets.

But more than just meeting regularly, SDRs and AEs need to ensure their 1:1s are productive. Unfortunately, ineffective one-on-ones are a key reason why sales teams fail to reach their full potential. If you notice AEs are bailing on meetings with their SDRs, it’s likely a sign that they don’t feel like the meetings are worth their time.

If you’re looking to improve 1:1 meetings for your SDRs and AEs, you’ve come to the right place. This post provides actionable insights SDR managers and sales development leaders can use to structure productive 1:1 meetings across their teams — ensuring that SDRs and AEs are highly aligned because of it.

Account executive vs. sales representative: an overview

First things first: If your goal is ensuring productive AE and SDR 1:1s, your team needs to understand exactly what these roles are responsible for.

At a high level, SDRs are tasked with prospecting, lead qualification, and engaging prospective customers. Most of the time, they’re focused on outbound outreach. Once they’ve qualified a lead, they kick it over to an AE to run discovery and the rest of the sales cycle. While SDRs used to focus on generating as many leads as possible, they now prioritize quality over quantity, doing everything they can to educate prospects and provide value in each interaction.

AEs, on the other hand, are responsible for nurturing existing clients and landing new ones. Once an SDR finds a potential customer, the AE spends time understanding their needs and figuring out how to solve them. Historically, AEs were all about closing deals. Today, they’re putting their customers before their commissions and selling solutions to problems instead of talking about pricing and product features like they used to.

Setting the stage for effective 1:1s between AEs and SDRs

In our webinar, Ron Halbert, Vice President of Sales Development at Sirion Labs, said that 1:1’s are extremely important because both SDRs and AEs need to know what the other is responsible for and what they’re working on at any given moment. 

However, it’s not enough to simply have these meetings on your calendar. According to Ron, sales leaders need to do everything in their power to set the stage for an effective meeting in order for 1:1s to be fruitful.

To achieve AE–SDR alignment, it’s important to ensure each meeting has clear objectives about what both parties expect to accomplish. Doing this increases focus and encourages productivity; instead of rambling aimlessly or thinking off the top of their heads, both SDRs and AEs can come to the table ready to collaborate.

On top of this, both parties should work together to create an agenda ahead of the meeting; each side contributing gives both the SDR and AE a sense of ownership. By ensuring the meeting is focused on relevant topics — like target accounts/prospects, progress, and any challenges — SDRs and AEs can maximize their time spent in 1:1s. 

Keep in mind that the entire meeting doesn’t have to be all about business, either.

“The first part of the meeting should be getting to know you,” Ron says. “You should know each other personally and have a relationship on some deeper level than just a colleague.”

Core components of a 1:1 meeting for AEs & SDRs

As you begin the process of increasing alignment between SDRs and AEs, start with optimizing these four core meeting components.

1. Review previous goals and discuss progress

Set aside some time in each 1:1 to review previous goals and discuss progress. This enables teams to assess performance, identify successes, and address challenges. By analyzing past efforts, SDRs and AEs can refine strategies, target account/prospect lists, and drive continuous improvement across prospecting and pipeline development initiatives.

2. Review pipeline and align on strategy

AEs and SDRs also need to review the current state of their pipeline and align on their strategy. Each meeting should include a detailed walkthrough of current deals, potential challenges, and strategies to move forward.

By assessing pipeline health, identifying bottlenecks, and making sure they have the same priorities, teams can optimize resources and maximize efficiency in pursuing the best opportunities. Aligning on strategy ensures that SDRs and AEs are working toward common objectives, focusing on high-value opportunities, and coordinating their actions effectively to drive progress and achieve sales targets.

3. Review targeting and prospecting strategies

Teams should also use each 1:1 to review targeting and prospecting strategies and define who the SDR should target. Make sure AEs and SDRs collaborate on ICPs, tactics, and personalization strategies to keep messaging aligned. For the best results, AEs and SDRs should work together to identify accounts — and also identify targets within those accounts.

By evaluating targeting criteria and prospecting techniques, teams can refine their approach, identify new opportunities, and enhance effectiveness in reaching potential customers.

4. Set goals for the upcoming week

Additionally, SDRs and AEs should also spend time setting goals for the upcoming week. Both need to leave each meeting with a list of action items they’re ready to tackle.

By establishing clear, achievable objectives, teams can align on priorities, focus efforts, and drive progress toward key milestones and targets. Goal-setting also helps SDRs and AEs become more accountable to each other and, thus, more motivated. It also ensures that they’re working toward the common goals of accelerating pipeline and closing more deals.

Building Account Executive and SDR alignment: additional tips

As you continue defining your meeting structures, keep these tips in mind:

  • Include time allotment in 1:1s for skill development and coaching. Doing so allows employees to receive personalized guidance, address areas of improvement, and develop their professional capabilities. It fosters individual growth, boosts morale and camaraderie, and meets employee expectations around professional development.
  • Encourage open communication and feedback. When AEs and SDRs can speak to each other openly and honestly, it fosters trust, strengthens relationships, and promotes transparency. By creating a supportive environment where employees feel valued, heard, and empowered to share ideas and concerns, reps become more engaged and accomplish more because of it.
  • Leverage tech and tools. Having an integrated tech stack streamlines processes, enhances efficiency, and optimizes communication. When meetings take place, AEs and SDRs can easily pull up and share relevant data and resources while tracking action items and measuring progress. By leveraging the power of purpose-built tools, 1:1s become more productive, engaging, and effective, which ultimately improves performance across the team.
  • Continually improve and review the meeting structure. No matter how good the next 1:1 might be, the one after that can be even better. By making it a habit to review the meeting structure and iterate as needs change and markets shift, you can help create a culture committed to continuous improvement and get incrementally better results over time.
  • Make sure you are clear to AEs how you expect a meeting to run. Even your best AE can’t read your mind. By providing clear guidance on meeting structure, objectives, and protocols, you can ensure AEs can prepare effectively for their meetings and contribute meaningfully — while ensuring their efforts align with organizational goals. This keeps the whole team on the same page — making it that much easier to achieve sales objectives.

The biggest secret to more effective 1:1s for sales teams

Unlocking peak performance from AEs and SDRs is only possible when they’re entirely aligned. 

And the easiest way to make that happen is by ensuring AEs and reps have productive 1:1s on a regular basis — and that those meetings are structured in a way that helps the team achieve sales goals.

For more tips on how to improve AE–SDR 1:1s — and how both of these critical roles are changing in today’s landscape — check out our on-demand webinar: The evolving role of AEs and SDRs in building your sales pipeline.