Inverta investigates to uncover the truth: Who Killed ABM?

Chapter 5

Death of a Sales Funnel

In our last episode, we investigated Strata Ji, a marketing leader who praised ABM in public, but still practiced the demand waterfall in secret. She claims that she changed her ways after a test proved the value of ABM, but her motives seem suspect. Nonetheless, we can’t make any accusations until we collect more evidence. Which brings us to our next suspect, Sal Parson, alias “Sales.” While Sal is a talented sales leader, there are whispers that she never liked ABM or wanted her around. In fact, Sal has already been accused by some of our other suspects. Everyone seems eager to pin the blame on her—perhaps a little too eager. Let’s hear Sal’s side of the story and see what she has to say for herself.

No items found.

The next clue: A suspicious sales team 

Did ABM die because sales didn’t hold up their end of the bargain? It would be so convenient if the explanation was that simple (and would vindicate a lot of frustrated marketers). But we’re interested in the pursuit of truth, not playing the blame game, so let’s try to look at the situation objectively. 

Sales and marketing alignment is essential for ABM success. But it’s also really freaking hard. Alignment, in essence, is trust. Sales needs to trust that the leads marketing sends them want to buy and are ready to do so. Marketing needs to trust sales to take over and work those leads in good faith. And unluckily for us, there’s a lot of deep-rooted, historical mistrust between the two. 

But wait a second, aren’t sales and marketing supposed to be on the same side? Where did all this mistrust come from?  

Blame it on the MQL (marketing qualified lead). 

While sales teams have always been measured on revenue, measuring marketing has always been a stickier subject. For teams who followed the demand waterfall, volume was the name of the game. While MQLs were supposed to capture customers with real intent (as exhibited by filling out forms, opening emails, and interacting with content), volume-based goals meant that marketers were incentivized to qualify more and more MQLs, leading to lower and lower lead quality for sales. 

Sales got overloaded with junk leads—most of which they had to say no to—which sucked up valuable time and prevented them from doing the real work of booking meetings and closing business. At the same time, marketing’s enthusiasm for often-spammy early marketing automation tools put even the good leads in jeopardy, because they got so sick of receiving so many darned emails. (Unfortunately, this practice still happens today.) 

When ABM came around, it was supposed to be a balm for those ills. Instead of operating in two different silos with different sets of assumptions and measurements, marketing and sales would be a part of one big happy revenue team. Right? 

Alas, sales was not enthused about the idea of collaborating more closely with marketing. And you can’t really blame them. They were reluctant to share their best (read: most ideal for ABM) accounts because they didn’t want marketing spamming them and risking their quota. 

Quota is a key point here. Unlike marketers, who tend to be salaried, salespeople’s compensation is tied to hitting their numbers. If they have existing processes that are working, why would they risk their hard-earned wages on something that might work? 

It’s a bit of a hard sell, pardon the pun. 

Things are not looking good for our next suspect, Sal Parson. We have it all here—means, motive, and opportunity. But even if her dislike of ABM is understandable, is that truly a reason for cold-blooded murder? Let’s investigate. 

Sal Parson’s alibi

“Leave it to a marketer to pin the blame on sales, huh?” Sal Pason crosses her arms. “You’ve already made up your mind that I’m guilty.” 

“We just want to know the truth,” we say. 

“The truth—that’s complicated,” she raises an eyebrow. 

“Try me.” 

“Well,” she starts, “I admit I was not the greatest fan of ABM. I’ve been at Conan Doyle Industries for years and I know how this goes. Every so often marketing gets their hand on some shiny new scheme and they want to rope us into it—but who suffers the consequences when it doesn’t work out? It’s never their quota that’s at risk. So it’s true, I tried to shut it down. But I wasn’t successful.” 


“Marketing had come up with this 1:few ABM plan and I said, absolutely not. It’s a big risk, we have a plan that’s working, and we’re going to stick to it. So that was that, for a little while, until they went ahead and got started on a 1:many campaign without my support anyway! Can you imagine the nerve?” She shakes her head. “I hate to admit it, though, but they were right.” 

“What happened?”

“It blew everything we were doing out of the water. When a salesperson reached out to an account that had reached the marketing qualified account (MQA) stage in their 1:many campaign, they were seven times more likely to get a meeting than in any of the prior journey stages. Seven! No salesperson is going to say no to numbers like that.” 

“That does sound compelling.”

“Sure was—all of a sudden all my salespeople had ABM fever. We were doing 1:many, 1:1, and even eventually went back to that 1:few campaign I had tried so hard to shut down. Long story short, marketing had to persuade us, but they got their way. Somehow, they always do,” she shakes her head. 

“Ms. Parson, thanks for your time.” 

Now this does complicate things. A self-described ABM hater-turned-devotee? Either Sal Parson is telling the truth or she has the wildest imagination. 

So, did Sal Parson kill ABM? 

Sal Parson had more reason than anyone we’ve spoken to so far to want ABM gone. She had means, motive, and opportunity. Her story about having a change of heart is touching…but is it true? 

Still, she had no motivation to be so open about her dislike of ABM—it seems like a detail she might try to cover up if she had something to hide. 

Our collection of clues is growing, but we don’t yet have a clear picture of the events that transpired leading up to ABM’s demise. For that, we’re going to need to collect more evidence. 

Join us next time where we’ll investigate Trent Zishin, alias “Change Management.”

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