Enablement Spotlight: Learn What it Takes to Be a Successful Enablement Pro
July 1, 2022
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People often ask me how I started my career in enablement. I always begin with the same caveat: When it comes to launching a career in enablement, no two paths are the same. It’s usually a windy, jagged road.
I didn’t plan a career in enablement. I started after college as a receptionist, but I always had a passion for teaching, and I saw myself going into a sales support role, providing training. At the time, enablement was often called sales productivity, and I began to apply to those types of positions. Unfortunately, I was turned down for the first job I interviewed for–they were looking for someone more experienced. But I didn’t give up, and here I am.
Before we share some advice on launching a career in enablement, let’s take a look at what it is, why it’s awesome, and what skills you need to be a successful enablement pro.
What is enablement?
Enablement is all about increasing internal employees’ productivity. Working cross-functionally, enablement professionals ensure the teams they support have the skills, resources, and processes in place to achieve the organization’s goals, typically revenue goals. Enablement encompasses training, process documentation and improvement, tool effectiveness, and other professional development that employees need along the way. While most enablement teams typically start out supporting the sales team, many organizations are expanding that role to include the entire revenue organization, including customer success and support teams.
I thrive on the variety and excitement enablement brings. Sales and revenue departments are dynamic, and the people are outgoing and energetic. There’s always something happening–and a lot of change. It keeps you on your toes! I also relish the satisfaction of helping people. To onboard new employees and give them the tools and training they need to succeed–then watch them grow and advance in their roles–is what it’s all about.
If you’re the type of person who enjoys being the “wizard behind the curtains”–the coach on the sidelines watching people putting what you teach into practice—you’ll find a career in enablement fun and fulfilling.
Do you have what it takes?
Since enablement is a relatively new function, most people come into the field through different professional backgrounds. They may stumble their way into an enablement role, like I did, having veered away from careers in teaching, operations, marketing, or other fields. The beauty is that they bring a wealth of diverse skills and experience with them. There are, however, some specific characteristics and hard skills that will help them succeed.
First and foremost, curiosity and creativity are essential. While these characteristics may seem somewhat ambiguous, they’re critical for performing day-to-day enablement activities. While you’re building relationships with stakeholders in other departments and determining what kind of support and training the various business units need, it’s important to be curious and ask the right questions. For example, say sales wants training on a new product. You’ll need to ask questions about how they’ve handled training in the past, including what worked and what didn’t. You’ll need to dig deeper to learn about manager preferences and how the team works. Once you’ve completed your investigation, creativity is essential to build a solution that aligns with the team’s needs.
You’ll also need some hard skills to succeed as an enablement professional, namely project management skills. Identifying a problem, understanding what the solution looks like, managing the various tasks and activities to deliver the solution, and holding people accountable for their contributions are all necessary to ensure enablement programs are successful. It’s a common joke that enablement is like “herding cats.” It can feel a bit chaotic at times. Therefore, prioritization, delegation, and time management are top of the list for an enablement skill set.
Even though enablement typically involves training, past training experience is lower on the list of skills and qualifications. I can help somebody be a better trainer—that’s pretty easy. But understanding how to manage projects and stakeholders and conceptualize and execute an initiative are harder to teach. Nevertheless, people with these skills typically excel in enablement roles.
Some people assume enablement is easy. Maybe a struggling sales rep sees it as an easy way out or fallback if they struggle to make their quotas. Then they get into an enablement role and realize it’s pretty demanding. It’s best to not think of it as a backup gig but go into it with a passion and desire to support sales and revenue teams and help them succeed.
Some tips for getting started
If you’re considering a career in enablement, here’s some advice on getting started:
- Do your research. LinkedIn is my go-to resource for finding professional information about any field—and enablement is no exception. Search for enablement professionals, read a bunch of articles and get a feel for the topics and trends. Then search for open roles and learn about them by reading the job descriptions.
- Find your niche. As you learn more about the field, begin to formulate an opinion on what enablement means and its value. I’ve discovered that it means something different to different people, so instead of trying to shove a square peg into a round hole and mold yourself to what a hiring manager thinks enablement should be, find a company whose ideas align with what you understand it to be. Are they focused on onboarding? Training? Tools and processes? What part of enablement interests you most? Think it through and develop a narrative before you start interviewing.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out. I’ve covered networking in a previous column, but its importance can’t be overstated. The great thing about the enablement community is that we’re givers—and love to lend a helping hand. While doing your research, don’t hesitate to reach out to an enablement professional (or two) and offer to buy them a virtual coffee so you can pick their brain.
- Shadow a pro. Since enablement is becoming more commonplace in many companies, find out if you’ve got an enablement function in yours. Then, ask if you can shadow a team member or help with some side projects. Not only will you be helping out the team, but you’ll also build your skills and knowledge and be better qualified to apply for future opportunities.
- Consider getting certified. Enablement certifications are starting to become more common. Consider signing up for courses that offer certification or the related skills mentioned above. A certification on your resume will set you apart from other candidates and demonstrate to hiring managers that you’re serious about launching an enablement career and have taken the initiative to learn the necessary skills.
On the road to enablement, there’s no clear path. But you can take steps to move in the right direction. Don’t discount your background or existing skill set, even if you lack experience. Most importantly, don’t get discouraged if it takes a while to find a good fit—enablement roles vary widely, depending on the company and its specific needs. Remember that as the enablement functions grow within organizations, a runner-up for a more senior role may be a perfect fit for a different role down the road.
We’d love to hear about the enablement trends you’re seeing in 2022. Send me a message on my LinkedIn page to share your thoughts and keep the conversation going!
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Stephanie Middaugh is the Director of Enablement at WorkRamp. Stephanie is a fearless and spunky sales enablement professional with more than 11 years in revenue operation and enablement functions. Data and results-driven with a desire to break the mold of what enablement and training typically look like, she isn’t afraid to try new things and has a track record of building impact-making and scalable programs and training at startups that have led to successful IPOs and acquisitions during her tenure. Stephanie also has a strong passion for professional community building and is a prominent voice on LinkedIn. She co-founded an Enablement Slack channel for professionals to network, share best practices, and get advice from colleagues across industries and the world.
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