Allison Sword

Enablement Leader, Accelerate

The Importance of Networking

Accelerate: Over the past two years, you’ve focused on working with enablement practitioners and built out the Accelerate community.  In your opinion, what are the top reasons members have joined? 

Allison:  Over the past two years I have had the pleasure of talking with hundreds of enablement professionals and the one thing we all seem to have in common is the eagerness to continue to learn from others to continue to provide the best support for our sales teams. Hands down the main reason people have joined the Accelerate community is to learn what best practices others are implementing with their teams.  Enablement means different things to different companies, and we all have different focuses. The Accelerate community allows us to come together to find great resources and thought leadership that strengthens us as enablement professionals.  


Accelerate: What changes have you seen in enablement in the last two years?  

Allison:  The last two years have brought so much change in the rapidly growing enablement industry.  When I first started building out the group we focused on building and sourcing a lot of our content to help the industry understand what enablement is and how it is different from sales training.  Today, I’ve seen the field grow from only enabling sales teams to enabling entire go-to-market teams. Thanks to top analysts like Tamara Schenk, most companies understand how important a formalized enablement role is to enablement’s success and that a charter is needed to secure C-level partnership and full team buy-in.  The enablement industry is still in early stages if the past two years have brought us this much growth I can’t wait to see what the next two years bring.  


Accelerate: In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception of sales enablement? 

Allison:  This question can go so many different ways because enablement means so many different things, depending on who you ask.  I would say the main misconception that I’ve heard over the past few years is that enablement is in place to assist the sales management team.  In my opinion, this is true, to a point, however, I feel our main role is to act as a supporting partner to work throughout multiple company functions (marketing, sales, leadership) to provide our teams with the best solutions, learning, tools, and training to work towards our company goal.  I think every enablement professional in some way or other deals with maintaining a good balance between partnership and order-taker, as enablement evolves I feel you’ll see a great deal more of us taking on C-level leadership positions as enablement leaders.  


Accelerate: Can you share your best practices for companies thinking of initiating an enablement role for the first time?  

Allison:  The first thing any company should do when initiating an enablement role is to assure senior leadership is a stakeholder in the role and has a crystal clear goal in place for the role.  I’ve seen multiple companies put someone in a newly created position and tell the person ‘go do enablement’, many times these people end up lost and the company is in a worse spot than they were before.  If a company is serious about the enablement function, I suggest senior leadership in marketing and sales, get together and discuss exactly what they want the function to solve, what teams the enablement leader will work with, agree on what the role will and will not do, and above all assure everyone has bought into the function. An extra step that I’ve seen to be effective is to establish an outline for an enablement charter that details what activities, metrics, stakeholders, and program components the role will address.   Accelerate has a lot of great charter resources that can be accessed in the resource library including this downloadable charter template.  


Accelerate: How important is networking in the enablement field?  What are some tips you can offer for someone to start networking? 

Allison:  In my personal opinion, one of the most important things you can do in enablement is to network.  The enablement function has been around in one way or another for decades, the formalized enablement role is newer and rapidly growing, we can all learn from each other and share best practices that strengthen us as professionals and continues to help our teams. 

There are a lot of places people who are in enablement, or looking to get into enablement can go to network: 

I’m a member of Accelerate, where I’ve helped to build the community over the last two years.  I like Accelerate because it is virtual, as a mom of two I don’t have time to attend meetups on a regular basis.  Accelerate gives me the ability to connect with others virtually and share best practices. I also like that Accelerate offers me a full library of downloadable templates, checklists, and resources.  When I’m in need of something for my team I don’t have to recreate the wheel. 

I’m also involved in WiSE (Women in Sales Enablement) as a chapter lead in Chicago.  Through in-person meet-ups and an active LinkedIn group, I’ve been able to meet other people who do what I do and share best practices.  I’ve been in the sales industry for the past 15+ years and in a role heavily dominated by men, it’s nice to have a network of women to connect within my field. 

Accelerate: How did you get into enablement?  

Allison:  My passion to help others has been a guiding force of my road to enablement.  Throughout my sales and sales management career, I’ve always been interested in the psychology of the sale.  I was happy when my clients were happy, to me that was my driving force to succeed. I enjoyed working with my clients and teams to help uncover the main root of the problem and from their customizing solutions that could solve their individual problems through providing the right content, data, messaging, and exploration I could figure out if my solution was a fit for the client.  My personal drivers for success are a reflection of what the enablement role is today. 


Accelerate: Can you share your best practices for someone looking to transition into an enablement role.  

Allison:  If you’re looking to transition into an enablement role I would suggest talking with as many companies and professionals as possible through networking before accepting a position.  The enablement role is still evolving and because of this, no two enablement roles are exactly the same. Over the last two years, I’ve talked with many companies looking to fill a role that had remained unfilled, the main problem that I kept seeing was the role was undefined and too vague to be successful.  Sometimes companies are still trying to understand what they want in an enablement role and try to focus on everything instead of the main issue they want to solve.  

As your interviewing, don’t be afraid to ask the company hard questions about the role’s specifics including leadership buy-in, how the position will work between departments, and what exactly the role is responsible for.  These questions will help you weed out roles that are and aren’t a match for your background.  

Many of us in enablement get caught up in what we like to call ‘imposter syndrome’, we may not feel like we’re a fit for the role because the role isn’t a fit for us, and that’s okay.  I’ve found that there are 10+ functions that typically fall under the enablement umbrella, not every enablement professional is going to excel at every function. If I looked at my personal skill-set right now I am versed in 70-80% of what is considered enablement functions, the other 20% I’m still learning.  The best part of the enablement role is it requires us to never stop learning and growing, and I love that about our field.

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