Updated for 2021

What is Drive-By Selling?

In today’s sales environment, B2B sellers struggle to hit quota. In fact, 57% of sales reps won’t meet quota this year. So what is really going on? While I won’t discount the difficulty of selling in a competitive landscape and during a global pandemic, much of the problem lies in rep behavior in their outreach methods. The biggest (and most common) issue is that reps are simply being lazy, sending ‘just checking in’ emails, avoiding the phone and missing real opportunities to really connect with their prospects.

Here are the top 3 signs that your reps are not really selling—they are drive-by selling.

1. Lazy Emailing

If your reps are using emails as a primary source of outreach and failing to fully customize the ones they do send, they are engaging in drive-by selling.

Emailing has become the de facto method of communication. While I certainly advocate using email as part of an overall outreach plan, there are 3 primary problems with relying too heavily on email:

  • It’s limiting. Emails can only be sent to a known database of people. There are likely other key decision makers in the company who could be reached by calling and speaking with the admin.
  • Everyone (and I mean everyone) is doing it. Everyone’s inbox is OVERFLOWING with unsolicited emails and can’t possibly read them all. It’s simply not a reliable way to communicate.
  • It’s not selling. Sorry to be blunt, but if your reps are just shooting off emails all day, they are just emailing–not selling.

A classic example of a lazy email:

“I am looking to speak to someone about increasing your connection speeds for a low cost. If you aren’t the right person to speak with, maybe you can point me in the right direction.”

Response rates for this ‘can you do me a favor’ email used to be higher (around 7-9%) but now they’re more like 2-3%. Reps using this type of email are just phoning it in (and I don’t mean with phone calls!). They are simply checking the boxes, doing the required number of daily touches—without regard to the of the quality of the interaction..

2. One and done calling

If your reps call, leave a voicemail, hang up and go on to the next prospect, they are engaging in drive-by selling.

Unless the organization they are calling is very small, why would they limit themselves to contacting just one person in the account? That’s a lack of effort.

Sales managers (and reps) know that an average of 6.8 people are involved in a B2B sale. Choosing to waterboard one contact with calls and emails simply doesn’t make sense. When reps leave a voicemail, the next step is to hit ‘0’ to get back to the receptionist or admin and ask for a referral to someone else in the organization who may be interested in the product. Taking this extra step could potentially uncover the real decision-maker. Don’t let your team go down the rabbit hole with calls, emails and presentations to a contact who has no authority to make a decision. Once you’ve reached out to all the key players, let the internal communication system of the company take over—they will forward emails and voicemails to others and spread your message for you.

3. Haphazard Follow-Up  

If your reps are following up on a sales demo with an uninspiring email instead of calling, they are engaging in drive-by selling.

Here is a typical follow-up email I receive after a sales demo:

 “Thank you for your time yesterday. Please let me know if there are additional questions I can answer for you.”

That certainly sounds polite, but this is drive-by selling at its core. This rep got the golden opportunity to speak with an interested prospect and the follow up is a bland email? No decision-maker will be moved to action with that approach. The follow-up phone call shows a higher level of caring, while portraying confidence that should the decision-maker pick up the call, the rep is prepared to answer any questions.

When I receive an email like this, clearly the rep didn’t take the time to uncover the specifics about my buying and approval process, such as:

  • What does the purchase process look like?
  • Who else is involved in this decision?

They also didn’t identify next steps and get an agreed upon time before the conclusion of the call. (A MUST!)

They just did the dog and pony show and hoped I liked it. That’s not selling.

Pick up the Phone and Get Engaged

The phone is often the loneliest tool in your team’s arsenal—but it is still the greatest sales acceleration tool that exists.

Happy selling!


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