Convention Contention: Who Gets Opp Credit — Event Managers, SDRs Or AEs?

Kelli Diffenderfer

Seventy-six percent of individuals consider events to be one of the best activities for generating qualified leads. But the process of lead generation and opportunity credit at conferences and trade shows is broken. 

There’s contention among the individuals and teams involved.  

The event managers who coordinate behind-the-scenes logistics.

The sales development representatives (SDRs) who conduct outreach to schedule meetings. 

The account executives (AEs) who hold demos at the event.

Who then gets credit for the leads? How is event ROI tracked?

If you relate to this struggle you’re not alone. Events are messy and knowing who gets credit for the leads and ROI generated is often complicated and inefficient.

Let’s look at it from the beginning. 

POV: You’re an event manager

You’ve selected the best event to attend with all your top ICPs, designed a killer booth, and just purchased the attendee list. 

And that’s where you hit a snag — you get handed a spreadsheet with no specific names attached to the list, only generic titles and companies. For organizations that see events as a demand gen activity, making sure you have the right contacts for pre-event outreach is critical.

From there, you’re tasked with cross-referencing the titles and companies on LinkedIn, ZoomInfo, or Clearbit to try and figure out who will actually be at the event. 

Once you have your list (with the names of people who might be attending), you upload it to Salesforce and assign the leads to your SDRs.  

POV: You’re an SDR

You get a list of contacts from the event manager and drop everything you’re doing to try and book meetings for the AEs attending the event. This means putting your work on hold for days or even weeks.

Your outreach is painfully manual, and your messaging is a shot in the dark. 

You might make 100 dials, and maybe 20 of those people are actually attending the event. Of those 20, perhaps two pre-book a demo at the booth. 

You go to make a note in your CRM and now you have to reconcile the lead and the campaign it’s attached to with the existing contact. This gets tricky because leads can be attached to multiple campaigns and who actually generated the opp is not always clear — was it the event outreach? The demo at the booth? A previous drip campaign?

POV: You’re an AE

You get to your booth and start chatting with people walking by and collecting their business cards. Unfortunately, most of them are unqualified or uninterested. 

Luckily, the demos the SDRs pre-scheduled were all with qualified decision-makers and the conversations go great. 

But you hit another bump in the road. Your sales team is divided into geographic territories and the companies you met with aren’t part of yours. 

The leads weren’t properly routed and now you’re fighting with the reps who own the accounts, ultimately losing out on the deals.

What went wrong?

The SDR who set the meeting and the AE who held the demo have both lost out on opportunity credit and commission, and the event manager is struggling to prove ROI.

While the exact challenges may differ among organizations, the pain points remain the same. Event marketers struggle to tie their event strategies back to the overall success of the event. 

So while 52% of marketers say events are more valuable than any other marketing channel, only 23% can prove ROI. 

This largely stems from the way pre-event outreach is handled and how opp credit is calculated. SDRs and AEs spend a lot of time and resources working tradeshow leads that convert at a low rate or are lost due to poor rules of engagement (ROE). 

Because it’s so broken, SDRs and AEs often don’t care about the meetings and let them fall to the wayside, leaving revenue on the table.

The root of the problem

A big factor is a lack of alignment among SDRs and AEs. 

SDRs think their opportunities aren’t progressing because AEs aren’t doing a good job with their demos. And AEs complain that SDRs are setting up demos with unqualified individuals, affecting their ability to hit quota. 

However, it goes deeper than simple finger-pointing. The biggest issues begin at a leadership level and must be fixed from the top down.

Let’s look at some specific points of this contention: 

1. The opportunity credit and compensation structure

SDRs spend a lot of time researching event contacts, establishing cadences, and booking demos. And this is usually done with only one or two weeks’ notice, leaving little time to work their other accounts. They’re also trying to make sure the meetings are actually showing up at the event and being handed off to the AEs. 

Unfortunately, with the way most organizations are structured, this isn’t when the SDRs get paid commission. First, the AEs holding the demos have to mark it as a qualified lead and move it into their pipeline. If that doesn’t happen, the SDR doesn’t get credit or commission. 

2. The SDR to AE handoff is broken 

Until the AE determines a lead is qualified, it lives in limbo — regardless of when the meeting was handed off by the SDR. After the demo takes place at an event, the AE needs to determine whether it was qualified or not. 

AEs want to keep opportunities in the qualifying stage as long as possible so as not to affect their close rates, and they’ll often only move them forward once they feel confident they can close them. 

This is obviously not great for SDRs who are held accountable for the quality of demos they’re setting. But there’s little they can do to move the deal forward.

To make matters worse, AEs are often dealing with territory disputes, resulting in even less of an incentive to work the lead. 

Is there a solution?

Organizations need to make sure all stakeholders involved in events are aligned on what metrics to evaluate and how commission is paid out. There is often a lack of accountability between different teams, as well as a lack of clearly defined objectives and KPIs.

Here are some actionable things you can do:

1. Establish the right metrics for determining success

It’s important to determine upfront how you’re going to measure SDRs and AEs and structure commission. This helps promote healthy relationships between your sales team since they know exactly what they need to do to earn opp credit and commission. 

One way to do this is simply by output:

  • How many meetings did the SDR book for the AE?
  • How many closed-won deals does the AE have? 

While activities are certainly important, it isn’t necessarily the best way to measure success or the most telling metric of a good SDR. 

Activity should definitely be included since it’s the part the SDR has the most control over. However, relying on this alone can encourage bad behavior. SDRs should not only be booking a high number of meetings but also successful meetings. Judging solely on activity leads to bad demos being scheduled, and frustrated AEs. 

If SDRs are booking unqualified meetings just to hit a certain metric and get their payout, they will contribute to a weak sales pipeline. Something to think about is judging your SDR team by collective revenue generated as well as individual output.

To help ensure your team is achieving their goals, consider creating a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between your SDRs and AEs. 

Clearly define what constitutes a qualified and unqualified lead, such as:

  • They use Salesforce or HubSpot
  • They have at least 100 employees
  • They belong to X industry

This way, you’re not leaving it to the AEs discretion to determine if a lead is qualified. This reduces the likelihood of the opportunity remaining in limbo since each and every meeting that passes the criteria becomes the AEs responsibility. 

AEs become more incentivized to work the lead and SDRs source better quality meetings since they can’t rely on volume alone.

2. Utilize a CRM and event management tool 

If you want to properly attribute leads and ensure both SDRs and AEs receive opportunity credit, you need to note your touchpoints in a CRM. 

SDRs should log all their information regarding each prospect, and AEs need to add their notes from the meeting stating whether it was a qualified lead. This way, SDRs are held accountable for setting up high-quality meetings, and AEs can’t let the account sit in the “qualifying” stage until they’re sure they can close it. 

1. Create a standard operating procedure (SOP) for logging notes

Schedules inevitably become busy, reps forget, and information isn’t always logged as it should be. If you run into this problem, it may be useful to create a process in which the SDR sets an action task for the AE to complete in your CRM once the meeting is held. The sales manager can enforce that both parties are following the SOP.

This will allow everyone greater visibility into what is happening during the demos.

2. Invest in event technology

If you’re serious about fixing the gap between SDRs and AEs, consider investing in technology that will automate processes and help teams to schedule qualified meetings better. If you can reduce the manual processes for SDRs, they’ll have more time to better source qualified leads that pass your SLA criteria. 

Consider using an event tool that helps you pre-book meetings and track touchpoints at the event itself such as check-ins, no shows, and cancellations. A tool like Chili Events will automatically sync your campaign information to Salesforce, further ensuring SDRs and AEs receive opportunity credit for event leads. 

Closing thoughts

One thing many organizations fail to realize is what you do before an event is just as important, or even more important than, what happens during and after the event. This is especially true if you’re leveraging events as part of your demand gen strategy. 

To solve the issue of opp credit, you need a better handoff solution starting with a scheduling tool that has advanced lead routing capabilities. This will enable SDRs to be tied to the event opportunity from the beginning, and AEs will receive leads that were properly routed so they don’t miss out on commission. 

Event marketers are often judged on the overall performance and ROI of events, so fixing these problems between SDRs and AEs will be a huge benefit to them — and the entire organization. 

About the author
Kelli Diffenderfer

Kelli Diffenderfer is a Content Marketing Manager at Chili Piper. She is passionate about the power of words to tell stories and bring ideas to life. A Michigander at heart, she spends much of her time traveling to the mitten state, spending time outdoors and enjoying sunsets over the water. Connect with Kelli on LinkedIn.

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