Asking for a Friend? How long does it take to transition from SDR to CSM?

Rushi Member Posts: 2 Navigator
Name Dropper First Comment Photogenic

How long do you need to be an SDR before you can transition into Customer Success? A few days ago, I spoke with a friend who had 1+ year of work as an SDR at a SaaS company. Unfortunately, they got laid off and didn't believe their dreams of becoming Customer Success Managers would happen. I tried to reassure them they could still convert because they have tons of SaaS experience, but they weren't convinced. To me, having SaaS experience gives you some advantages compared to candidates that don't have any SaaS experience.

How long do you have to be an SDR to change careers within tech, precisely Customer Success? 

Does the recession make it harder for folks to transition from SDR to Customer Success?

Please share your thoughts below. I'm curious about what folks have found.


  • Michelle Wideman
    Michelle Wideman Member Posts: 54 Navigator
    First Anniversary 5 Insightfuls 5 Likes First Comment

    @Rushi, the thing that I love about Success is it should be a home for everyone and in my experience, the best Success teams are the diverse Success teams that are composed of folks that have had sales, support, PM, PSO, etc experience. I would encourage your friend to look at companies that have leveling or entry level positions in place. Past companies that I've worked at, we worked cross functionally to ensure the leveling between SDR, Support, Success, PSO were all similar to help support lateral movement. I would definitely hire an SDR that has SaaS experience for a Customer Success Advisor/Tech Touch or any role that is looking for zero to 1+years of experience. I do think the market is more competitive right now, but my coaching would be sell what you learned from being an SDR and the talent you'd bring to the role. It takes a lot of grit to be an SDR and that's an important skill for CSMs too.

  • MattSmith
    MattSmith Member Posts: 7 Navigator
    First Comment Name Dropper

    Do you know the product your company are selling? Can you explain it to someone who hasn't used it before?

    Are you comfortable working with people, listening and understanding their issues, and guiding them towards a solution?

    Can you bridge a gap between more technical teams, work on adoption, and then push towards renewal?

    Sounds like SDR would cover most (if not all) of these already, so I think the transition would be a good one.

  • ashley_martin
    ashley_martin Member Posts: 30 Navigator
    5 Insightfuls First Anniversary 5 Likes First Comment

    I wouldn't think that would matter. I would look at overall work history. There are a lot of great positions that transition well into being a CSM. I was a program manager for 10 years before becoming a CSM. When I transitioned to CS I had a mentor but found that many of the conversations were the same I had as a PM just now customer facing. I would think any sales role would be the same. They are already having most of the conversations need, and would just need to transition slightly to maybe a less "salesy" conversation.

  • Natalie Challier
    Natalie Challier Member Posts: 7 Navigator
    Photogenic First Anniversary First Comment 5 Likes

    Hi Rushi - Interesting topic! I am not sure that SDR to CSM is natural career evolution, as most SDRs in our company go into an account executive (net new or customer base) after cutting their teeth on the phones. Because it is a less traveled path, I am not sure there is a standard timeframe.

    Up until three years ago, it hadn't been done (at my company) but after the first individual successfully made the transition, we promoted an additional two individuals from the SDR team. Incorporating SDRs into the CS org have been a great asset to the team and introduced us to sales automations tools that we've evaluated and adopted (SalesLoft, Outreach, ZoomInfo).

    It is also worth noting is that after a few years in CS, all three individuals transferred back into the sales organization to become account executives.