Episode 160: Terri Petion on Advocating for DE&I as an Enablement Leader

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast, I’m 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 that they can be more effective in their jobs.Today, I’m excited to have Terry from Hyperscience join us. Terri, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Terri Petion: Hey, everybody. Thanks so much for having me. My name is Terri, and I work at Hyperscience. I currently lead our Sales Enablement function, which is part of our Revenue Operations department. I’m a team of one, supporting around 90 in total in the sales org.
A little bit about myself, I got into enablement through training roles where I did internal and external product training and onboarding. It’s not something I imagined doing growing up, although for a while I thought I would become a teacher, but it is something I truly enjoy. Even more, I enjoy seeing the impact of the work that I do.

SS: Excited to have you here. You and I connected on LinkedIn because you are such a strong advocate for DE&I in the workplace and I think that that is an absolutely critical thing for organizations to get right. From your perspective, how can sales enablement nurture DE&I efforts within the revenue organization in both a meaningful and authentic way?

TP: It’s a really great question. Sales enablement’s primary focus is typically on onboarding and obviously ensuring reps have what they need in terms of tools, processes, and resources to effectively sell your solution or product, whatever it may be. It also serves as an extension of company enablement. There’s so much opportunity to expand the scope of enablement to cover things that impact the world outside of sales.

Part of that includes talking about the impact that we as individuals and as a company can have. I think the first step in creating opportunities to speak about DE&I efforts has to come from leadership and it has to be authentic. It’s important that we think about current events, mental health, and the overall impact that the state of the world has on the people with the closest ties. Doing things like having company all hands, workshops, DE&I groups within an organization both within and outside of sales, those all are things that are key to making sure that there is space for people to share their experiences, but more importantly, find support amongst their peers.

I think there’s an opportunity for enablement leaders to advocate for company funding of these types of initiatives outside of the direct organization as well. On the Revenue Operations side of the house, we’re all very closely aligned to the success of the business. Using that position to push for action is definitely something that you can do to encourage more participation and definitely create more awareness in the space.

SS: Now, how can enablement though go about helping to remove barriers to ensure that there’s equity in the opportunities for reps to succeed and advance their careers within an organization?

TP: The most important thing, and sometimes the hardest thing to do in enablement I think, is to listen for things that are not said. Paying close attention to areas where reps need support the most, but maybe they don’t recognize it on their own is critical. You have to be able to read between the lines in some cases, and in others where it is more explicit, you can create programs that are tailored to the specific needs of the organization and of those reps.

It’s also about holding everyone equally accountable for the success of the team. It’s about celebrating wins, coaching when there are losses. Enablement has a unique perspective that puts us in a position to support reps and how they’re treated, how they’re coached, and in the opportunities that we help create within the organization.

It should always be about the team success, driving that point home as much as possible because ultimately that means the success of each individual and the fair treatment of each individual matters within that. While enablement doesn’t necessarily create “career ladders,” we can influence those who do by being a voice for the reps and an advocate for fairness across the board.

SS: Absolutely. Now, on the point about being an advocate and a sales enablement leader, what has been your experience in navigating the industry and rising to levels of leadership throughout your career?

TP: Sure, it’s a really great question. Working in sales as a woman of color is not easy as I’m sure a lot of people know. I think working in tech isn’t easy as a woman of color, and really, working period is not easy as a woman of color. I think there are so many challenges that we face just being a woman. I’ve had to ask myself over and over again, do I speak loudly enough without being too loud? How do I do that? How do I ask a question without seeming incompetent?
There’s so much doubt and second guessing and questioning your ability when in truth, you have what you need within you. I think once I realized that, it stopped being about what people thought about me and my capabilities and my knowledge, and it became about what I needed to do for me. That’s where I had to shift my focus and that’s the place that I’m in today.

SS: I love that. As the Sales Enablement team has been expanding over at Hyperscience, you’ve also been involved in some active hiring for enablement roles on your own team. In your opinion, what are some of the core skills or attributes that practitioners need to be successful in sales enablement today?

TP: I love this question. There’s such a long list of skills, but I can focus on a couple. I think enablement requires someone who is agile because of the ever-changing world that we live in, we work in, we exist in. They need to be a critical thinker because a lot of times the role expectations and needs of the organization are undefined. I’d say technical, because there are some complex aspects of the jobs such as working with product teams. I’d say process oriented because the goal is to create scalable programs, so processes go hand in hand with that.

I think one of the other things I’d highlight, because as I said I can go on and on, but the last thing I’ll say is that the person needs to understand the impact that enablement can have on the company’s bottom line. Someone who is a clever thinker and really understands the work that they put into something can directly have an impact on how the company sees success and experience success overall.

SS: I couldn’t agree more. What advice would you give professionals interested in pursuing a career in sales enablement that maybe haven’t come from this space before? How can they build up their skills or maybe position themselves for success?

TP: Yeah. There are certifications and books out there that you can reference. If you’re interested in learning more about enablement, I’d say check out courses from ATD, Sales Enablement PRO, Roderick Jefferson also came out with a book this year called “Sales Enablement 3.0.” It’s a really great book.
There are podcasts you can listen to, the one that we’re on. There are blogs and articles. I’m also available to chat with anyone interested in joining the space, but beyond learning enablement, I think it’s important to understand sales. How to sell, the different methodologies that are out there, and to get a good understanding of what success looks like and the types of organizations that they want to be part of.

SS: Absolutely. I think those are some great resources, of course I’m not biased at all. The last question for you, how can enablement practitioners position themselves as leaders within their organization?

TP: Yeah. In order to do this, I think you have to develop good relationships with leadership, inside and outside of the sales organization. Meet with them regularly, listen to their complaints and requests, and show and prove that you’re truly an advocate for them and that you’ll do what is required to help make change happen. You’re the representative when they’re not present, so showing that you’re knowledgeable, credible, and will get the job done is how you’re going to position yourself as a leader.

SS: Fantastic advice, Terri. Thank you so much for joining us today. I learned a ton and I know our audience will as well. Thank you so much.

TP: Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me.

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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