Episode 252: Ankita Tiwari on Skills That Every Enablement Leader Needs

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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 we are having Ankita Tiwari join us. Ankita, I would love for you to introduce yourself and your background to our audience.

Ankita Tiwari: Thank you for having me today, Shawnna. I’m Ankita, originally from India. About five years ago, I found myself starting my enablement journey in France. It’s funny because of how I stumbled into enablement, just like many others in the field, back then it wasn’t a very clearly defined role, and I sort of ended up in it by chance. It’s been a fun journey so far, and I never looked back.

So far I’ve had the pleasure of working with scale-ups, super multicultural, and international companies. The growth that I have experienced in these organizations has been rapid, exciting, and challenging. That’s just roughly who I am and my experience so far.

SS: Wonderful. Well, we are excited to have you on our podcast today. Thank you so much for taking the time. I want to talk about the current economic climate. I think a lot of organizations are trying to do more with less and enablement teams are really needing to prove their value now more than ever. In your opinion, why is enablement mission-critical for businesses today?

AT: It’s funny because like you just said, we are in this economic climate trying to do more, but with less, and isn’t that an enablement person’s job? It’s basically our job to do more than less. If you see the ratio of enablement to the salespeople that we have in organizations is roughly between 1 to 230, 1 to 250. Overall, that’s more important right now than before I feel, because there are so many companies that are finding themselves with 50 fewer salespeople, maybe 25 fewer salespeople because of the entire situation right now in the market. This is like the time when enablement can actually prove its value most because now is the time when the leaders and C-suite of the organizations will need to figure it out.

How do we actually work with 50 sales instead of a hundred? That’s when enablement will come into the picture. That’s our main job. Of course, I think all practitioners would agree with the fact that it’s something that’s been defined. I mean the enablement role has been defined like what recently maybe four to five years ago. That’s when I started my enablement journey. That’s also why it has been like an ongoing effort to prove our value, and because of this economic climate, I feel like we’ll probably be able to do it well now as compared to before. The solution right now is basically our job.

SS: Absolutely. Why would you say, from your experience, is it important for organizations to have at least a dedicated enablement person or function available for their teams?

AT: If I have to put it in one word, definitely yes. If I have to put it in a couple of points just to explain myself, I would say this. Firstly, I like to put it in a way that we are here as enablers to convert strategies into things that can be executed. It’s a very important bridge between strategy and execution in an organization. If anything you do in life, if the execution has not done well, any great idea will never be appreciated.

First, I think the alignment between these two things, is super important, and you need a dedicated person or a team to do that. Secondly, your main role as an organization is to generate revenue. That’s what the main goal is, and where does that stand? Like, who’s exactly doing that? It’s your sales team. If you don’t have that entire sales force empowered enough, it just doesn’t make sense. Having someone who’s able to empower the sales force, and especially with the rapid pace of technological advancements that’s been happening, you have to have someone that’s super dedicated to that part.

Lastly, I feel like each project, and everything that we do in an organization, whether it’s a learning program, whether it’s just like introducing a tool, are all related to a change. A lot of adaptation is needed there. A lot of change has to be welcomed there. You need an enablement person or a team to actually be the catalyst for organizational change and adaptation, in my opinion.

Three things, in my opinion, are super important being the alignment between strategy and execution. Secondly, having a dedicated team to empower your sales team. Lastly, having someone dedicated to driving these changes and being a very good catalyst for all the organizational changes and adaptation that takes place, that’s dedicated to the enablement team, basically.

SS: Absolutely. Now what advice would you give to organizations that are looking to build out an enablement team or function? Where should they start?

AT: I would say overall you need to build that function and to be able to scale it later the foundation needs to be really strong. Having the right talent and the right ratio is really important. Nowadays, I feel that, as I said before, the ratio is usually like 1 to 60, and it ends up being too intense, especially in the beginning. If you’re starting off, you need to have a couple of people who are skilled in specific pillars of enablement.

When I say pillars, let’s say some like content, someone who’s really good with content. Second, someone who’s really good with onboarding. Lastly, somebody who’s had the experience of sales before and can’t coach well. I would say having skilled people for different functions is really important if you’re starting off. Of course, there are zillions of other things to do, but in my opinion, this is the key in the beginning.

SS: I think that is great advice. Now, you were recently included in our recognition of women making an impact in enablement. As a leader in the field, what are some of the key traits that make for a good enablement leader?

AT: I think the list can be endless, especially if you have an opinion about how and what a leader should be like. For me, the top three worked out really well, which of course came with experience, which came with a lot of mistakes. So first, I would say that there are three that I can actually shortlist. One is the knowledge and the experience that you have bringing that to the table. Now, when I say knowledge and experience, how will you get that?

Knowledge, I would say, inside the company, what is your company doing? What is your product doing? What are the people inside of the company wanting to sell? How do they want to sell it? Being in your sales team’s shoes is the key. Get all the knowledge you can from that perspective, because your customer is your sales team at the end of the day. When you’re selling a product, how you see it is that, okay, I’m trying to solve a problem for my customer. It’s the same thing internally. I’m here to solve a problem for the sales team. Knowledge about everything that’s related to a sales role and the product they’re selling internally.

Now, knowledge for the outside world, use the knowledge of the experience of the experts that’s out there and are happy to share. I think that’s one thing that really changed the game for me because when I started, there were hardly any certification courses or anyone speaking explicitly about enablement or an enablement session. It was just starting to take shape. For me, each time I would go on the internet nothing would properly explain what I need as a beginner. These days, slowly, we’ve been lucky to have communities who are so happy to share. Each time I have actually gone on my LinkedIn and tried to see that, okay I’m a little confused about how do I measure this initiative of mine, I’ve just looked up on my network and asked people who I think would know. I don’t think there’s ever been a point when I’ve not received an answer. I’ve been receiving and giving help so much that in my opinion, you always learn by teaching after a certain point. That is the key.

One is the knowledge that is inside of your company outside and the second is the experience overall. I like to take it from outside when people are ready to give it. That’s the first thing you should be open to knowledge and experience. Now the second is what you think and how you plan, like strategic thinking and planning. Now, you are literally a pivot between the sales team and so many other departments. If I have to give you an example, if I want to choose a learning platform, I have to think about so many things. It is not just that this is good for my sales or not, but that is something the sales and the others will experience when they enter the company in the beginning.

How will HR deal with this? How will the marketing team make use of this? After a certain point, can this become a really good part of our tech stack? It’s basically thinking and trying to have a helicopter view. I think in the beginning, I struggled quite a bit and had the helicopter view and at the same time doing everything hands being the first enabler in most of the companies I’ve joined. It was very hard to switch between these two, but then eventually I got used to it. It’s a really good skill to have. Being able to think strategically and plan according to all your future plans, making sure it aligns with the business objectives, and making sure it aligns with what other departments are doing. That’s the second one, strategic thinking and planning overall.

Then lastly, I would say communication and collaboration. That is gold in enablement. I cannot emphasize enough how important that is for you because when you’re communicating as an enabler, one hour you’ll be speaking to maybe the CEO if you’re in a scale the very next hour, you’ll be speaking to your sales. In the next hour, you’ll be speaking to a marketing team who’s doing a case study or something. Your audience is literally changing every hour with every meeting. You should be able to understand how and when to speak about certain things and when not. Do you need to mention very small details? Do you have to only talk about all your initiatives, like strategically being able to communicate? There’s a very good difference between communicating and talking. Don’t just talk, you have to communicate. Learning about the difference between these two. I would say it’s very important.

Then collaborating. If you are able to communicate and understand what your role is, you should be able to collaborate well. That’s also where change management comes into the picture because you’re speaking to a different department every single hour like I said before, and it’s really crucial. For me, I like these three things, your knowledge and experience, strategic thinking, and lastly, improving your communication and collaboration. These three, I would say, are the big ones for me.

SS: Those are fantastic skills to look for in an enablement leader. What about skills that someone looking to enter into the enablement field? What should they focus on potentially trying to advance from a skill set perspective?

AT: I wish that we had these kinds of things like four to five years ago because I used to think about this all the time. I would think, okay, I need to communicate and I know what tasks need to be done, but it’s so hard to do it in an organized manner. When I say organized, you have to be so organized when you are an enabler because you’re doing tasks that are from this radar to that radar. It’s just everywhere.
Then slowly I started to come across articles and stuff that started to articulate things that were in my mind, but in a really nice way that’s where I started to pick these things up and understand that, okay, these are the skills that are needed as an enabler. It will be like, basically, I think there are a couple of organizations or certifications that exist today, but I don’t think there’s anything that exists that gives everything all together at once.

For me, those will be like maybe four to five main things. One, your content and learning strategy. Understand what content is. How do you manage content? Are you okay with creating content? Everything related to content and adult learning strategies. Second, as I mentioned as a leader, it’s a very interesting role. Communication and influence are very important because you might have to convince somebody in your sales team that everyone’s doing it in one way. You’re not doing it the same way and how do you do that? It’s very risky and you should be able to influence and communicate.

Third, as I mentioned in the leadership skills, sales, and industry knowledge. Just be on it. Things are changing. It’s related to tech most of the time. Things are changing rapidly. If you stay on top of the news and everything, speak to all the experts outside of your company. It’s going to do the job. It’s really, it’s gold for me. That’s very important.

Then the other thing is project management. Go out, do a course on project management. Yes, it doesn’t say explicitly that an enabler needs a project management skill when you see a job description, but it’s really essential. Each time you’re trying to change something, whether it’s a learning program, you’re trying to introduce a tool. Each time you’re trying to make a change, whether it’s small or big and that’s where change management comes into the picture. That’s also something never written in a job description or will never be demanded, but it’s so crucial when it comes to enablement. If you know it, it’s going to be super helpful.

Then lastly, I would say, how do you do numbers with data? Is something that seems a little scary to a lot of people. Like I said, speak to a lot of experts and try to understand that, okay, not all data needs to be used, but some, yes, because at some point or the other, you need to show that enablement is important and it is definitely changing the revenue game as well as the analysis and the measurement part. Be comfortable with numbers and just learn how to use them. I would say these five to six things just do, like different courses out there, and try to get more comfortable with it.

SS: Fantastic advice. Absolutely love that. Last question for you. How can enablement practitioners hone some of these skills? Are there professional development resources that you might recommend?

AT: Like I said before, there are very few platforms that are giving a complete, proper course on enablement. When I say that, like there are a lot of videos on YouTube or maybe 10 minutes about what enablement is, but actually giving modules, like Sales Enablement PRO, for example, they are doing a very good job with this part. There are a couple of certifications that you can do, but if you’re not able to pay for courses or if you don’t feel like investing, I would say actively look for the skills that I’ve mentioned, do individual courses on them, and then you just get that skill to your job the next day. Just do it, execute it and you’ll know that it’s working.

In my opinion, I would say get all these skills separately. There’s LinkedIn learning. There are a lot of other platforms that are going to give you this for free. If you feel like no, I’m very serious about this, there may be one or two certification programs that people have actually put together. You can use them as well, and of course, there are zillions of articles you can read.

SS: Wonderful. Thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciated the conversation.

AT: Thank you so much for having me. I hope that my comments were insightful and at least they’ll be valuable to somebody.

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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