Submitted by jclishe on
OK I was just trying to get your attention with that subject line:)
How do I respectfully say no to account executives that ask me to perform tasks that they should be performing themselves?
I'm 35 and have been in IT my entire career. For roughly the first half of my career I was doing billable consulting, and for the past 5 or 6 years I've been doing technical pre-sales whereby I support account executives in the field as the "technical expert" to help close opportunities. I'm a high C / High D. I've also spent some time personally owning a pipeline and quota. I completely understand and respect the high I behavior and this post is not at all meant to be derogatory towards high I's.
Our account executives own various processes, for example filling out an online form to request pre-sales technical resources. There is absolutely no ambiguity around the account executives ownership of this. My team has actually been given specific instructions by our leadership not to perform these tasks for the account executives. There's a reporting element involved that's the primary reason; if I complete certain processes on behalf of the account executives, then the paper trail doesn't track back correctly. But that doesn't stop the AE's from continuing to ask us anyway. :) But also, if my team starts doing this work for the AE's, then the AE's will obviously keep asking us to do it; which is why the technical organization has been given explicit instructions not to do this. We don't want, nor do we have time, to become data entry clerks for the AE's.
So when AE's ask and I push back, they'll continue to push back on me to do it. And once they realize that I simply am not going to do this work for them, they oftentimes will act as if I'm being uncooperative or not being a "team player".
Obviously this is classic high I behavior and I get that. And, I have many AE's that I support and I simply cannot do this work for all of them anytime and everytime they ask (nor should I). I've tried various "excuses" such as "I'm travelling this week", etc. But those are short-lived excuses and don't prevent AE's from attempting to delegate their work to me the following week. So ideally what I need is a way to definitively set the expectation that I'm simply not going to do this work, without giving the impression that I'm difficult to work with. I don't hold it against them that they're asking me to do this, because I understand the high I behavior, but at the same time, I don't want them to hold it against me that I WON'T do this. Any ideas for how I can accomplish this?
Check your position then stonewall
I see how this can be difficult, Sales people (including 'Account Executives') are trained and practiced at breaking down resistance and getting people to do things (like buy stuff).
I think the best thing to do is to first speak to your line boss and check that the bar on doung the work for the AEs is still in place. I'm not suggesting dropping dimes or trying to upwardly delegate the problem. Just make sure that you're stood on a firm foundation and prime them for any complaints they might get. When you're sure of your foundations and get another request respond with something like "That is out side of our remit and causes problems with reporting. As you know we have instructions to decline any requests to complete those forms." and keep repeating variations of that. If they come back with a comment about not being a team player throw in a comment about different teamemembers having different roles and specialties, if they try to do each other's jobs it's not a team anymore (the examples you might choose woudl depend on what sports are popular where you are, my experience is with Rugby so I'd probably say something about not expecting a winger to sudenly jump into the scrum as hooker). After a number of requests follow up with peer feedback, maybe in the area of how their repeated requests are harming relationships and making them look bad (from what I understand of DISC that's a dagger to the heart for an I).
Skype: stephenbooth_uk | DISC: 6137
"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack
Sounds like you are on the right track
Jason, it sounds like you are on the right track. Sales people are high I's as you point out and part of thier communication style is to try and "delegate" work. It is what they do. I would explain to the account executives why the process needs to be followed ie.. the paper trail thing. It would ehlp if you had an example of how the processes not being followed resulted in a missed sale. If a sales person understands that a certain way of doing something works against their sale, they will be less likely to fight it. If the problems persist, you may want to talk with the sales manager. The sames manager will often see things from a higher level and can direct his or her reports to follow the process.
Say No, While Building Relationships
Sounds like it would be okay to say no, but that creates relationship problems.
So think about how you can strengthen relationships as you start saying no.
Are your AEs on commission or bonus?
Can you share a bit about how they are rewarded/compensated/recognized?