Episode 130: Radhika Parashar on How Enablement Can Remove Barriers and Enhance Equity

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I am Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so they can be more effective in their jobs. Today I’m excited to have Radhika Parashar join us from Figma. Radhika, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Radhika Parashar: Sure. Hey everyone. Thank you so much for having me, Shawnna and Olivia. So excited to be here. This community is so vibrant and so wonderful. My name is Radhika Parashar. I currently lead sales enablement at Figma. A little bit about myself, I come from a learning and development sort of learning operations background. I’ve spent some time doing this work now at ByteDance, at TubeMogul and in the past at Couchbase. And I think a lot of my interest in this world and my interest in sort of training generally comes from the burning question of learning, how to learn, which I think a lot of us share as a community.

For me personally, it comes from my time as someone who was homeschooled actually from kindergarten to 12th grade. So, I think it’s something that I’ve always thought of like just what are the intrinsic motivators? How do you get people to participate? And more importantly, how do we create a culture of learning and a culture of curiosity that can allow people to succeed and motivate in their roles? So that’s a little bit about myself.

SS: Well, I’m excited to have you and I now have a whole nother level of respect for your parents homeschooling you because I’ve been thrown into a remote homeschooling situation this year, and it is not easy. But that’s fantastic. I’m so excited that you’re here and I want to broaden this out a little bit with everything that’s occurred over the past several months, driving a rich and diverse culture is becoming a critical priority for a lot of organizations, which I’m extremely excited to see. I think it’s about time. How can enablement help companies embrace this to continue to grow in the next year and beyond?

RP: Yeah, that is a really powerful question. I think I would start answering that question by kind of saying that we have such a powerful role in enablement because we kind of sit in this very unique opportunity to be at the forefront, the vortex of everything going on in a company, our role, our opportunity, or our job description. It touches upon literally, I would say, every single role within an organization I think from when you’re thinking of every onboarding, you’re not only talking to HR and ops, you’re talking to product managers, you’re talking to, you know, product marketing. You’re talking to education teams, support, business development.

If you have that, your company, it is such a sort off far-reaching scope that with that lens, it’s also our job, I think, to gently remind people about being inclusive and modeling that in our own way. So, one thing I think about a lot is sort of education and onboarding are your first impressions when you join a company and as someone in the enablement world, and especially as like that first face that someone meets. You just being there, you being a person of color, a woman of color, or even just you are modeling that behavior with what you say, can be so, so indicative of what the company’s culture is. So, for us, Figma has a lot of special traditions, I think one of the first things I will say about Figma is like our mission is to make design accessible to all.

And I think just that mission alone is such an inclusive mission in that it’s trying its best to make sure that this skill can be something that can empower anyone to do their best work on our tool. And I think if you really think about that, it inspires this really vibrant community of people who are so conscious and who are so open to learning and are so open to being educated, because that’s also a huge part of this, right. Education is critical to diversity, and inclusion initiatives in the sense of that if the more you know about something, the more you are curious to learn about something. The more that culture can sort of be created where other people are also curious. And a lot of that modeling comes from up top.

It comes from leadership. It comes from folks who are willing to take a step back and say, wait, I don’t know much about that. I need to be educated. And having that humility to also, you know, take that time, take that effort to learn more about what’s going on. So, I think for us, like when we think of creating that rich and diverse culture, so much if it sits in enablement’s hands. So much of it can be modeled in the way we show up the way we create programs, the thoughtfulness with which we create those programs, right? Hey, have we made concessions for X, Y, and Z? If someone doesn’t know this, how are we going to make sure that we can teach them that? Right.

We recently had maker week at Figma, which is this wonderful, twice a year opportunity where the whole company takes time off. Well, not time off necessarily, but takes time away from their day jobs to create something that will be better for Figma as a company. And in that it was just so inspiring and beautiful to see people thinking through like, wait, how do we make this product more accessible to folks? How do we make sure that our values are encompassing of everyone? How do we make sure we’re making tiny tweaks to the processes that we do that will help candidates have better access to the company?

How do we make sure that we are being inclusive in everything we do? And say, whether that’s even something as simple as the representation on the website or the skin tones we chose, or the names we choose, all of that stuff matters. And I think that trickles down into the programs we run as well. So now that was a really broad answer to the question, but I think there’s no single answer for this. I think it is a set of behaviors that is a set of values that can ultimately change the way we make this a critical priority.

SS: Absolutely. I could not agree more. And you’ve touched on so many of the ways in which sales enablement can play an important role in this, but I want to double click into one of the areas where sales enablement can play a role in driving change and that’s really in hiring and retaining the right sales reps. So, I’d love to hear from your perspective, what are some of the key skills and characteristics that you’re working with your talent team to look for as you’re recruiting new folks and onboarding them into your organization right now?

RP: I think the two things we look for honestly are flexibility and curiosity, right? I think right now, flexibility in this current atmosphere is so critically important because not only is everything changing so quickly, and not only are our tooling, our sales motions, our ability to do outreach. Everything is shifting in so many dramatic ways that being able to be flexible and adaptable to everything that’s happening is so critical. And then that curiosity, right? Again, with that change, if you have inherent curiosity, if you have an inherent desire to learn how processes run or learn how something is done.

Whether that’s in the space, that’s the product buyer behaviors, whatever it might be, that curiosity will take you so far. So, I think a great way to think through some of this is what can and what can’t you train for. And when we think through onboarding, when we think through the initial sort of introduction that a person might have to a sales team, if they have those two, I think if they have flexibility and curiosity, we were put in a much stronger place to train on, better behavior is trained on. All of the soft skills that you know are important as well but are no replacement for those two major characteristics.

And then I think moving on in terms of retaining the right reps, I mean that’s a critical part of the conversation as well. And I think right now mental health is something to really think about. I think there’s so much going on in that world. I know there’s so many folks right now in the network and the community, or who are talking about this, but it’s at the forefront of everyone’s minds, because retaining grips in this current climate, especially good reps, is going to require a lot of empathy of leadership. It’s going to require an empathy of understanding that like circumstances are not normal. There are added stresses and pressures of all sorts that are weighing upon everyone, not just the sales team, but literally everyone within an organization. So, what are some ways you can create that support? Right. And, and for me that’s been, you know, creating those safe spaces we mentioned earlier, but also, you know, we have the sales, leadership council for people to come in and very vulnerably share.

Like, do I feel connected to my team or do I not? There’s a check-in on that. Are you feeling overwhelmed with the current state of events, are you not, how are you dealing with that? Share some of those best practices. And I think within that small group sharing, we really have the opportunity to forge a little bit of understanding, but even more microscopically, I think the buddy program, right? Like something as simple as creating buddies with onboarding, creating those mentorship opportunities for folks can create that really strong connection between people that I think really helps in retaining folks because I think so much of the retention challenge is making sure people feel heard.

And I think if you can find opportunities to kind of create those spaces for folks to feel heard and to feel valued, past just attaining quota or hitting their number. That goes a long way as well, especially in the current climate where I think anxiety levels, as we all know, are at an all-time high. Everyone’s worried about everything. So how do we quell some of that? How do we make it easier for them to come to work?

SS: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. I have absolutely loved this conversation. Like I said, this is a topic that is near and dear to me. And so, I’d like to close, and just kind of get your advice on how enablement can help remove barriers to ensure that there’s more equity in the opportunity to exceed for all reps in organizations.

RP: Yeah, this is such a huge question and I think enablement is in such a powerful place right now. It is poised to be such an asset to any sales organization. And I think it’s an indicator, at least for me, a lot of maturing sales organizations that the team is getting ahead of onboarding. It’s getting ahead of thinking through how reps are going to be successful. So, when it comes to removing barriers, I think onboarding is such an equalizer, right? Like creating a really robust onboarding program about an industry, about a space, can really help, at least at the very beginning, remove some of those barriers of understanding how to sell a product, training for skills.

It can also reveal so much of what’s missing, what the gaps are, where there are coaching, mentorship opportunities. it can create such an immediate eye into how you can remove those initial barriers and how you can start molding you’re really successful rep. I also think, like I was saying earlier that enablement has the opportunity to create these really safe spaces for folks to ask for help. I think that’s such a difficult thing for sales folks, especially, but I think for anyone who considers themselves a professional, sometimes the hardest thing you can do is say, wait, I don’t know what this is. Is there some way I can ask for clarification, can I ask for help and creating the Slack channels, creating those virtual rooms?

Something I did was also creating like a sort of sales power hour. I know the power hours are traditionally reserved for sort of the out bounding efforts and this time for the teams to get together and sort of aggressively and proactively go out. But for me, I think a power hour is also reflecting internally. So, what I did was I created time for the team to get together. It was an open sort of office hours slash power hours, whatever you’d like to call it once a month, because we didn’t want it to be yet another Zoom meeting for everyone.

We get them together and just throw out a topic like it might be, “Hey, what decks are people using?” Someone wants to share. They don’t need to know what’s working, what’s not working. How are you feeling? Right. Just creating again, those spaces for folks to sort of say this really resonated well, or this piece of copy is really making the rounds, or this is really working for me. Like I think just that opportunity again helps remove those barriers between even something as simple as the most junior ups and the most senior apps or folks you may never have met before, because we’re all onboarding virtually.

Another thing I was thinking through was we had to open up our London office, completely virtually, right. We hired and, and also trained reps overseas in what I think ordinarily would have been just coming into the office here and going through the same onboarding and meeting folks and that sort of thing. And I think just that, even that physical barrier of not being able to come to the office like that in itself can feel so overwhelming and daunting for folks who are not physically or not within the same time zone can’t necessarily attend everything. So again, when you think of inclusion, when you think of culture, I think it’s broader than just the realms of the barriers of this country. I think we also have to think of our teams who are abroad. We have to think of how to bring them in. We have to think of how do we create a program that’s just as robust for the EMEA sales team as it is for the US sales team.

And how do we create those moments of sort of cross-cultural or cross-team or cross-function collaboration that can, again, create the opportunities for folks to ask for help can create these equalizing opportunities for everyone to sort of level set on what the expectations are. I’d actually like to end this question and the answer to this question by, actually sharing a quote that I think has been so pivotal to the way I approach my role, both in this world and in my previous world and where I was in the nonprofit community for a while. I think everyone’s familiar with Van Jones, but he talks about how there are two kinds of smart people in this world. There are smart people who take very simple things and make them sound very complicated so they can enrich themselves. And there are smart people who take very complicated things and make them sound very simple to empower others.

And I think the enablement world has that unique opportunity to make very complicated things very simple, to enable or empower other people. And sometimes we forget that, but that’s probably I’d say one of the most critical parts of our field is that we literally get to share the mission, the vision, the value, the product, the market opportunity with the rest of the sales team, as they sort of share our message with the broader community with the broader customer base.

SS: I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more fitting quote for sales enablement. So, thank you so much for sharing that with us, Radhika. Thank you so much for joining us today. I learned so much in this conversation and I greatly appreciate your time.

RP: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me, Shawnna. I really appreciate the work that you’re doing.

SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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