Positively Planful: Cultivating Leaders from Within

Ahmed Awad
VP of Sales Development

Positively Planful: Cultivating Leaders from Within

In a business landscape characterized by aggressive look-alike competitors, budget constraints, limited resources, and more, it’s essential for companies to distinguish themselves. But that takes more than innovative offerings and creative branding; companies must also differentiate their culture.

At Planful, we’ve prioritized nurturing and developing in-house talent. That begins with a mindset where our managers and leaders, in every department across Planful, actively help teams stretch beyond their current roles. As the VP of Sales Development, my team and I have re-envisioned the Sales Development Representative (SDR) function not just as a pipeline production team, but as a training ground for future leadership. This isn’t just a business strategy for success; it’s an ethos of recognizing, nurturing, and rewarding dedication and skill across Planful.

The Leadership Pathway: From SDR to Account Executive

The role of SDR is paramount to any business because these employees serve as the initial touchpoint between the company and potential customers. SDRs effectively bridge the gap between marketing efforts and the sales process. Their ability to identify and qualify leads fuels the sales pipeline and lays the foundation for building strong, lasting customer relationships.

Recognizing the raw talents of our SDRs, we implemented a structured tiered system. This system begins with new SDRs working primarily with lower revenue segment accounts. However, through dedication and outstanding performance, they have the opportunity to advance and take on progressively larger accounts. This journey is marked by the acquisition of senior titles and increased responsibilities along the way.

This organic growth framework eventually enables them to assume roles such as team leads and managers. I take great pride in being a part of creating this well-defined pathway, emphasizing our commitment at Planful to not only nurture sales talents but also to cultivate future leaders within our organization.

As I ascended to the role of Vice President of Sales Development, I realized that my responsibilities extended beyond individual success. My role encompassed creating an environment for others to realize their ambitions and ensuring that everyone’s achievements were visible to the entire organization.

Two exemplary SDRs, each with their own unique journey, reflect the power of Planful’s internal development program and their personal desire to improve. Both started as SDRs and through our development program and their own initiative, have risen to the roles of Account Executives (AE). This is a key role in our sales process: AEs take qualified leads from SDRs and work with those potential customers to understand their challenges and goals and determine if Planful can help.

What Makes The Planful Way Different

We rely on what we call The Planful Way to influence how we work and interact. It’s a set of shared values and behaviors that act as a guiding light and a challenge to hold ourselves accountable. Everyone across the company uses it, but we also put it into practice when helping our teams foster a fulfilling career filled with opportunities.

Our values are a defining aspect of our organization, setting us apart from others. For example, my favorite would be: “We prioritize our teams above ourselves.”

A noteworthy example of this value in action can be seen in the leadership within our SDR management. Despite being based on the east coast, our SDR manager oversees a team of SDRs situated on both coasts.

Their decision to lead this geographically dispersed team entails personal sacrifices, including dedicating evenings, missing social engagements, and adjusting his personal schedule to align with the team’s needs. This dedication is not driven by a mandated responsibility but rather by a genuine desire to witness his team’s growth, development, and exceptional performance. This exemplifies the depth of our commitment to our core values.

How we consider internal development is also influenced and guided by The Planful Way. Here’s why our approach stands out:

  • Rewarding Success: When we support the growth of internal teams, we’re showing every employee that performance and success are rewarded at Planful. Our people can trust that their success leads to more opportunities.
  • Efficient Growth: Internal promotions have the potential to reduce recruitment timelines and minimize the expense of hiring new individuals for the respective roles. More importantly, promotions ensure a smoother transition as these individuals already know and live Planful’s values and see the importance of our customer experience.
  • Fueling Aspirations: Our SDRs understand that their current role is not the end but potentially the beginning of a long, rewarding journey within Planful. This outlook fuels motivation and ambition by ensuring everyone knows they have the opportunity to advance.
  • A Culture of Joy: A tenet of The Planful Way is that we plan, work, and play with intention. There’s a unique, palpable, and enjoyable energy across the SDR team. Each internal promotion is treated as a shared victory, amplified by the positivity and camaraderie shared by peers and colleagues.
  • Continuous Development: The role of an SDR is multifaceted and challenging. Those who excel demonstrate a blend of traits including resilience, empathy, and curiosity. Recognizing and rewarding those who can quickly ask questions, adapt, and improve isn’t just good business practice; it’s acknowledging that hard work and dedication create opportunity.

Rewarding Internal Success Drives External Success

During my tenure as VP of Sales Development at Planful, I’ve had the privilege of overseeing and celebrating over 20 promotions. It’s a testament to our commitment to our team members. We see the SDR team as a potent blend of today’s achievers and tomorrow’s leaders. That vision goes beyond revenue generation, delving into talent recognition, nurturing, and elevation. Here at Planful, we’re not just building a robust business; we’re building a legacy of leadership, dedication, and growth.

Keep your eyes on our careers page for upcoming opportunities on our sales team! At Planful, we don’t just cultivate pipelines; we cultivate future leaders.

CompanyPositively Planful

Latest Posts


Interviews, tips, guides, industry best practices, and news.

Get Started with Planful

  • LinkedIn
    How much time will you save?
  • LinkedIn
    How will your finance team evolve?
  • LinkedIn
    Where will technology support you?