Episode 220: Rehmat Kharal on Accelerating Your Enablement Career Growth

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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 that they can be more effective in their jobs.

Today I’m excited to have Rehmat Kharal from Harness join us. Rehmat, I’d love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Rehmat Kharal: Thanks for having me, Shawnna. My name is Rehmat Kharal, a lot of you probably know me by Rem. My current title is VP of Go To Market Strategic Enablement. I’m also a mother of three originally from Toronto Canada, but now reside in the Bay Area and am working for a fantastic startup by the name of Harness.

SS: I’m excited to have you here. You were recognized earlier this year as one of our women making an impact in enablement and as a very accomplished enablement leader and woman, I would love to start off by learning in your opinion, how women in enablement can support each other in growing their careers and achieving professional success?

RK: That’s a really great question and honestly, I feel like enablement is still a very new career that people have entered into probably in the last 10 years or so. It used to be very male-dominated. I would say in the last maybe three or four years there are a lot more females who are entering the enablement space and females who are entering the enablement leadership space. I would say the biggest way that women can support each other is by honestly learning and asking questions and being there for each other. If you’re an enablement leader and you lead a team and you have other people on that team, you should be a mentor to everybody regardless of gender, but if there are females on that team and they have questions about growing in their role and their function, first of all, they should be very open in asking those to their leader and second, there are a lot of different forums that I’m actually just becoming aware of now that are for women. There’s an organization called WiSE, Women in Sales Enablement, and being part of those forums and just having very open, candid conversations about what it means to be great at enablement and how to have a career in that space.

SS: Absolutely. In a video you shared on LinkedIn, you talked about how you personally have been able to work your way up the ladder and get a seat at the table. In your career, how have you been able to prove the value sales enablement provides so that you could earn that seat?

RK: That’s a really good question as well. I mean listen in any role you have to understand the importance of your role and function and how it plays a part in the overall success of the company that you work at. I honestly think that is step one. If you just think, you are just on the enablement team and that you are just an individual contributor and what I do doesn’t really matter, it’s funny because there are a lot of people who do think in that way, you’re not setting yourself up for success. When you’re able to prove your value and I don’t mean proving constantly having to prove yourself because I think that’s that’s a whole other topic, but proving your value in the sense of if you are somebody who’s working on building out internal enablement content or you are running the LMS tools for the sales organization, being able to show the impact of your work and how it is affecting the overall goal of the company, I’m going to dig into that a little bit, if the company’s goal is to make sure that the reps are ramped in X amount of time, how is your LMS tool that you have put together that you are very deliberate about what the UI looks like and what the paths look like for new hires and even current sellers to be going through, if you can show that impact and say because I built this LMS out deliberately in this fashion, we’re able to shave off 10 days, one week, 10% 15% off of ramp time for new sellers and increase productivity by 10 or 15% whatever it is of existing sellers, you’re proving value. You’re showing value to the entire organization by doing that.

Understanding that regardless of what your role or function is on the enablement team, I’ve always said, if they have enough budget to give me a job to sit and be a part of this team, I have to show my value and show that I can not only can I do my job well that I know otherwise I wouldn’t be hired for it, but how is it actually impacting the overall goals of the organization that I’m supporting. I think honestly that’s how I’ve been able to move up in my career. It’s very metrics-driven, proving the value, so I mean, again, using the different metrics whether you’re building an LMS system and proving value there or if you’re building a FED practice enterprise, being able to show that because of this onboarding program that I introduced to the FED sellers or commercial sellers, we were able to convert deals so much faster or convert them from the different stages in the sales process so much faster.

I honestly think that’s the way you move up the career ladder in enablement, quite frankly in anything right, is if you can actually prove value, it’s not just, “I’m really smart, I’m really good at this,” it’s about whatever I’m working on, it’s actually having an impact, not just on my direct team, but it’s actually having an impact on ARR or ACV for the entire company.

SS: I think that’s phenomenal. In this rapidly changing industry, can you share some advice for professionals who are trying to seek executive buy-in?

RK: I think this is a really hard one for a lot of people that are in the enablement space. The way that you’re going to really get that executive buy-in is if you’re a part of the conversation that’s being had behind closed doors and not an afterthought. What I mean by that is depending on who you roll up into, for myself, I roll up into our CRO, and be able to be a part of those closed-door conversations that are talking about strategy, numbers, and how we’re going to get there, by having that level of insight it actually helps you build out the enablement strategy to map the strategy for the entire company. Listen, if you’re brand new in your career or brand new in your job at this company, getting that executive buy-in from the very beginning can be very hard and it is something that you need to be able to prove over a course of time.

Let’s just say you have a history of climbing the enablement ladder and are now joining a company, you can actually show what you were able to accomplish in past roles. If you were able to reduce the ramp by so much if you were able to actually show how sellers are able to move from the hardest sales process, conversion of moving from a prospecting phase into discovery and taking that discovery, converting it into a first meeting, I think those numbers are always the lowest for every company, but if you can say the numbers were 20, 30, and 50% and I was able to change them to 50, 60, and 80% at the other company, you’re going to get the ear of the executive. If you just go in there with ideas and thoughts, not so much.

If you can prove it with the numbers and what your track record has been, I think that makes a really big difference. Again, if you don’t have a track record, this is the first time you’re in a seat and in this role, it’s about being a really good listener getting invited to those closed-door conversations, listening, and then building your overall enablement strategy around the strategy of the overall organization.

SS: Do you have recommendations or best practices around how to stay plugged in on those top priorities of the business and how can this help enablement leaders to continue to position themselves as strategic partners to executive leaders?

RK: I think saying plugged into the business is all about establishing relationships with the broader ecosystems. Establishing relationships with your marketing counterparts, your customer success counterparts, and with your engineering counterparts. It’s funny because a lot of the time from an enablement standpoint, we’re not really having conversations with product and I think that’s a really big miss. Having those conversations with product to understand what’s coming down the pipe, what the product road map looks like when a beta release is coming out and when that’s going to translate into a gradual or full GA release, these things matter. The reason I kind of start with the product side and building out those relationships is to listen, you’re going to have a lot more buy-in, you’re going to be able to work better with the rest of the ecosystem and understand what the top priorities of the business are is if you’re part of every single one of those conversations. Without there being a product to sell there is no business, but if you’re brought into the product timeline and the road map, that gives you a better idea of what kind of enablement you should be building around it.

If you’re brought into what the marketing campaigns are, it gives you a really good idea as to what’s being pushed and what is the priority for the company. Hence I’m gonna build an internal enablement program around it or use those marketing campaigns to drive users to my university site or whatever it might be. The same thing with customer support, understanding what’s top of mind for the customer support team is interesting, where the customer support team is really honing in on x. It might be implementation, it might be coming down to renewing as it gives me the level of visibility that I need, as a leader to say, hey, this is how I can help and how I can contribute, and Shawnna, it goes back to the question that you asked before, how do you get the executives here, how do you get executive buy-in? You get executive buy-in when you actually understand the strategy of the ecosystem around you and how you play a part in that. Otherwise, every component on its own is not so strong, but when you take all the ecosystem components, like the ones that I mentioned, when you work collaboratively and you work together you have a much, much bigger impact on each of you individually and you can take that to the executive and that’s how you get that executive buy-in and that’s how you get people to listen to how you can contribute and make a difference.

SS: Absolutely, now I’d love some advice. How can enablement leaders build strong partnerships cross-functionally as well to gain that support and continue to expand the value that they deliver so that they can keep that seat at the table?

RK: Cross-functionally building those partnerships comes down to honestly building trust amongst the ecosystem. So how do you do that? How can you better support that ego system? If marketing is working on a particular campaign, how can you build the trust of the marketing team to say, Okay, great, I love what you guys are building externally for the external audience, I think that this campaign would be a great way to build internal courses as well for our internal audience and working very closely with them or even honestly participating in the conversation for adoption, so bringing them into enablement conversation. If we are focusing on marketing and a lot of enablement leaders have different customer enablements under them, and so how do you work cross-functionally with marketing org and bring them into those customer conversations.

Like everything in life, it’s a give and take right, and building trust and building strong cross-functional partnerships is when we all have the same goal in mind. We all want to be successful, we all want to see our companies be successful and you can only do that if you have open transparent conversations. If I’m building out an enablement strategy, there’s got to be different components to it, including product, customer success, the partner org, the marketing org, and of course the sales and engineering orgs. Sharing that with cross-functional leaders to say, hey, I can’t do this by myself, you guys play a really big part in this as well, and bringing them into the conversation and I honestly think that level of transparency and communication is so important.

Sometimes we’re running so fast that we don’t have it, but I would say slow down, have those conversations, build those relationships, gain that trust and it’s going to make a world of difference and build those strong partnerships across the organization. We are much much stronger together. Being heard, getting a seat at the table, having an impact in the overall company strategy of how you’re going to achieve that ARR, that vision, becomes much clearer if you’re having those conversations and you have those types of strategic alliances within the company.

SS: Last question for you, what advice would you give early in career enablement professionals who are looking to build their leadership skills and climb the ladder in enablement?

RK: I’d say if you’re early in your career for enablement, the best advice I could give you is to figure out what you like, but figure out what you’re great at. There are a lot of different rules that are part of the enablement organization. Everything from building content to managing LMS as to being a program manager to doing field enablement, partner enablement, technical enablement, customer enablement, there’s a ton. Really know what you’re interested in and become the master of that. Don’t spread yourself so thin that you only understand the basics of the different components of enablement, dig in. Dig in deep and say you know what, I’m actually really good in front of customers, I’m really good in front of people, maybe field enablement is what I should be doing, and then grow your career and field enablement, prove yourself out.

The same thing when it comes to partner enablement, understand what partner enablement means. If you are really good at building strategic relationships and maintaining relationships with people over a long duration, you’re really good at live training, maybe partner enablement is something that you’d be interested in. Take your strengths and say, you know, where would my strengths do really well, what part of it? Don’t try to take on too much. Start off as a specialist. Really home in on that and then figure out from there what the next step is, but be very clear and deliberate about where you start in the enablement space.

SS: I love that advice. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate it and I learned a lot from you.

RK: Thank you, Shawnna.

SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there is 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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