Sales Tips

AE to CEO: The Journey

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February 15, 2024

3 mins read

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AE to CEO: The Journey

When you’re first starting a sales career, the most obvious trajectory is to go from SDR to AE to Sales Manager (and up from there). But what about for those of us who want to take the path less traveled?

My journey diverged at the beginning of 2023 when I decided to go “all in” on my role as CEO of my business of two years, Women in Sales. This journey over the past year had so many ups, some downs, and a lot of surprises along the way. Here are some of the major lessons I learned.

Quota never goes away

The very first thing I did as CEO was to set my quota and stretch goals for the year. 

I set the numbers to be difficult, but possible to reach- and then created a digital thermometer to track progress. Something about still having a quota after 10+ years in IC roles is really comforting. I always have something to work towards, build upon, and re-evaluate year after year.

Managing time reigns queen

Much like AE life, CEO life requires you to optimize every minute of the day. 

Time is precious and finite. A few big takeaways in this category for me were:

  1. Protect your calendar 
  2. Determine ICP early and focus time there 
  3. Block your calendar based on activities. 

One of the hardest parts of the last year for me was learning to say no to requests for unnecessary meetings and introductions. But saying no more has allowed me to say yes to much more impactful activities that will benefit not only me, but my community at large.  

Wearing all the hats

Your computer just broke- who do you call?

It’s tax time- how do you calculate all of your annual expenses? 

Early CEO life means you can’t afford to outsource or hire a ton of people, so all of the hats are yours to wear. I learned very quickly where I am and am not strong. Becoming CEO means you also become CTO, CRO, CFO, COO… you get the idea. 

This is an area that was incredibly painful for me initially, but strengthened me faster than anything else. I figured out quickly where I needed to pull in outside help (ie: CPA, Legal Counsel) and what I could own (at least temporarily). 

In Conclusion

This article could be hundreds of pages long, but for the sake of brevity, these are three areas that have really stood out to me in this journey from AE to CEO.

Being an AE for 10+ years prepared me to be CEO in so many ways. I’m grateful to have taken the leap, and I’m getting more comfortable accepting that I don’t know what I don’t know. Learnings are a gift I’m truly grateful to receive at this season of my career.

Follow Alexine here, and check out more content from Women in Sales here.

We also asked Demandbase CEO Gabe Rogol the most important lessons that he learned from his journey from sales roles to CEO. Here are his top takeaways:

  1. Continue to aspire to be your company’s best salesperson.
  2. Run to the biggest business challenges.
  3. Hire people you can learn from.

If you want to hear more from Gabe, check out his blog on AI. 

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Alexine Mudawar

Chief Executive Officer, Women in Sales

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