Modern enablement teams come in many different shapes and sizes. Take one look in our Slack community, and it feels like you’re just as likely to chat with someone in a 30-person enablement team, as you are with someone running their organization’s entire enablement department!
While enablement professionals in all situations face difficult challenges, this article is primarily aimed at those in one-person enablement teams.
It’s a big task supporting the entire sales organization (or revenue-facing organization in some cases), and while the ideal scenario is more hires in the enablement department, that’s not always a possibility.
We’ve compiled some expert advice from top enablement professionals who are familiar with working in one-person teams to help you handle the situation as a solo enabler for as long as you need.
We’ll look at:
- Handling the workload
- Working with leadership and key stakeholders
- Cross-functional collaboration
- Asking for new enablement hires
- Some quickfire tips from our enablement experts
Handling the workload
As we mentioned at the start, enablement practitioners have a large workload, regardless of the size of their team. These days, enablement is such a vital department within organizations that it finds itself with an enormous amount of scope.
From onboarding and continuous learning to sales strategies and content, there’s a huge amount on enablement’s plate.
When you’re on your own, you don’t have as many possibilities to delegate. Knowing what to prioritize and how to organize everything you need to do can be difficult. So how do you handle the workload as a one-person team?
Michael Gugliotti, Global Head of Sales Enablement at Forter, said that “when working as the sole member of a team, it can be hard to know where to start. I have found maintaining an ongoing list of programs, training, requests, and so on allows me to keep tabs on what is outstanding without necessarily committing to everything up front”.
“You need to focus on the outcome you're trying to achieve. While you might create something that is truly extraordinary, if there is not a need you're meeting or an outcome you're aiming for, it could still be a miss.”
Viktorija Hartwell, Sales Enablement Manager at Accredible, highlighted the importance of prioritization: “The demand for your work will be high, make sure you’re able to complete the initiative before taking it on. Prioritize your workload.”
Viktorija also talked about the value of the enablement community.
“You’re not on your own. Join enablement societies, subscribe to enablement podcasts, and follow enablement professionals on LinkedIn, you can learn a lot of actionable advice through these methods.”
While you may not have a fellow enablement team member to bounce ideas off, or to delegate tasks to, Viktorija is right. There’s an abundance of enablement resources available to you if you’re in a one-person team, as well as the enablement community which is always eager to share advice and lend a hand.
Similar to Michael and his list of programs, Jonathan Tavella, Sales Operations, at Minna Technologies recommended building “a master plan to get a holistic view of the organization and to help you keep track of all the gaps you need to address”.
For Jonathan, “this master plan is the sales playbook. It highlights any needs for standard content and documentation, training and coaching, new tools or better collaboration across functions.”
Additionally, you should “map the status of sales at the organization.”
“You should interview anyone who has anything to do with sales, from account executives to leadership, to product and UX, to finance and legal.”
Jonathan says that doing that allows you to “understand how things are done, in terms of how deals are run, how content is created, how people educate themselves, and what the main challenges are.”
If you understand that, you’ll understand the priorities and where they lie.
So while the workload as a solo enabler is large, making sure you have a bird’s eye view of everything going on in the organization, and only taking on what you can manage is critically important and can go a long way towards easing the stress.
Working with leadership and key stakeholders
Collaborating with leadership is such an important part of enablement. The last thing you want is for leadership to see you as a cost-center because you’re not communicating with them enough.
Buy-in from leadership can be a challenge even for the best enablers, but Michael believes that once you can prove enablement’s value (supported by data), the buy-in will come naturally.
“More than anything, leadership wants to know that if they or their reps invest time into anything enablement related, there will be returns. After all, time out of the field for training is time not selling."
"Having a clear vision of what you're trying to achieve and the desired outcomes will often get buy-in from leadership. Following through and providing data that shows improvements reinforces that buy-in for future initiatives.”
Jonathan echoes these thoughts.
For him, you have to “put in the effort to build trust and credibility with internal stakeholders before you start a massive project” otherwise the buy-in from leadership will be harder to come by.
Viktorija is on the same page, believing that one of the most important parts of working in a one-person team is getting “your stakeholders on the same page as you from the get-go."
"Make it really clear what your role is and what you’re setting out to do. That way, everyone knows what to expect as well as understanding the scope of your work and resources.”
“Take time to understand the ins and outs of your company, and get your enablement charter written up from the beginning to reinforce that clarity about your role. That ensures you’re not pulled in different directions.”
The verdict is clear - as a solo enablement professional, not only do you need to have a clear plan of action to communicate to the relevant stakeholders, you also need to set the ground rules.
Make sure your role is understood so that no one is asking things of you that you just can’t do.
“Building relationships is the key”, Viktorija added.
While buy-in is important, we asked Michael if one-person teams were at risk of being left without a metaphorical “seat at the table” due to the smaller size of those functions.
Michael said the opposite was true: “I have been fortunate enough to work at organizations that strongly believe in enablement and therefore, have not denied me a "seat at the table". In fact, being a one-man team reinforces that you are the person to meet with if leadership wants to enact better enablement.”
If you’re a one-person enablement team, heed that advice and make it known that you are the go-to resource for anything enablement-related.
Cross-functional collaboration is another important part of enablement - and ending up in a silo is arguably the worst possible scenario to end up in.
As a lone enablement professional you might feel like you’re being stretched thin though, having to work across multiple teams in the business.
In reality, however, cross-functional collaboration can make your job as a one-person enablement team easier.
Michael told us he “often find[s] that enablement works best through collaboration. It is impossible to know everything, but leveraging subject matter experts (SMEs) and taking direction from leadership on what they're seeing in the field ensures you focus on what is needed.”
“In order to get the perspective of what enablement is needed, you need to work closely with sales managers to identify those needs, as well as work with departments like Product Marketing to provide expertise on solving those needs.”
“In some ways, when you're working independently, you act more like an air traffic control, directing the right people to the right place at the right time.”
For Viktorija, having a plan on how to get cross-functional support is just as important as actually getting it:
“When securing and organizing support, you need to have a very clear plan for yourself. Know exactly why they’re getting involved, what they’ll get out of it, when you need them, and what you need them to do.” she said.
“For example if you were tasked with training the teams on product knowledge while being the only person in enablement, you first have to evaluate the current skill set, find the individuals with the strongest knowledge, and get them to train the rest of the group."
"That way, they get practice, the knowledge is shared, and you’ve gained an extra resource."
“Bring in people from Product, Marketing, Engineering, Legal, and so on to cover any particular topics for which an SME is needed. Make sure to involve managers for any strategic initiatives such as rolling out a sales methodology. When a sales leader delivers the message, it's much more powerful.”
Michael and Viktorija both stress the same thing - the importance of using the teams around you to support you. When you have SMEs in the business already, it only makes sense to take advantage of their knowledge where you can.
Any good organization will encourage this collaboration between various departments as open communication leads to fewer silos and more efficiency. What’s there not to like?
Jonathan added another important element that will help you collaborate with anyone in your organization: mindset
“It’s important to understand people’s mindset. How they approach problems, what they believe in, and why”.
While cross-functional collaboration may at first seem intimidating, requiring you to keep up with a range of departments and functions, the truth is a lot more simple. Those teams are there to help you, and so it’s better to leverage them than not.
While you may be alone in the enablement team, you’re most certainly not alone in the organization.
How do you ask for more enablement hires?
The article up to this point has been about making the most of being a one-person team, and the best ways to meet your objectives when you’re in that situation.
However, depending on the rate of growth at your organization, there will come a time when you’ll feel the need to have additional support within the enablement department itself.
After nurturing your relationship with leadership as we talked about earlier, how do you take that next step and ask for new hires for your team?
Michael shared his thoughts, telling us that “the smaller the organization is, the more likely they are to hold off on investing in sales enablement or expanding the sales enablement team.”
“A metric I've heard in the past is that for every 50 salespeople you need 1 enablement person.”
“While I don't necessarily disagree with that, I can also say that organizations that invest in their enablement team are, by proxy, investing in their salespeople. So it doesn't need to just be a number you're aiming for before an ask is made."
"Instead, having a clear cut plan, like an enablement roadmap, can provide the justification for budget, whether it is for new enablement team members or tools”.
Quickfire tips from the experts
Before we wrap up, here’s some more tips, tricks, and advice from our enablement experts that are worth mentioning.
“Clean up the data! If the data in your CRM is a total mess, there’s no way you can build a data-driven RevOps function that makes decisions based on data and tracks every improvement. Focus on reporting early: identify why you’re getting weird results, and clean up the data. It’s a tedious job but it is needed, and while you’re at it you will also understand which data is the most important.” - Jonathan
“To organize people, utilize the tools available to you. Schedule regular meetings and create a separate communication channel. You have to be direct and clear about what you’re asking people to do. It helps if you already have a strong learning and support culture in your organization.” - Viktorija
“In regards to tools, the trap many organizations fall into is simply investing in tools without having a plan of how they will be leveraged. More tools does not necessarily equal more efficiency, especially if there is little training being done on how to best leverage those tools. Therefore, when asking for tools be sure to have a detailed plan on how these tools will be rolled out, how they will improve the day-to-day operations, and what metrics you will use to determine whether the rollout of these tools was effective.” - Michael
The aim of this article is to provide those small-but-mighty enablement teams out there with a reminder that they are recognized and that they are not alone. There are many one-person enablement teams across the globe currently, and while each is facing unique challenges, they’re also facing common challenges.
The advice from experts within the SEC community will hopefully help out anyone struggling in their role.
Join 2,500+ of your sales enablement peers in our Slack community. You'll be able to network, share ideas, and stay up to date on the latest in the enablement world.