Digital First

by Jason Ogden | Jan 18, 2022

B2B sales and customer service have changed for good. Even with an optimistic return to in-person sales opportunities (events, peer groups, networking…), traditionally the lifeblood of B2B prospect flow, those opportunities are not returning to pre-pandemic levels. If for no other reason, they’re often costly to attend, rely on the serendipity of meeting the right people and add both the time and financial cost of travel.  

“Digital First.”  That’s the emerging name for the new way B2B companies will sell. 

Nobody thinks or wants in-person events, networking, or having coffee to completely go away. They shouldn’t. “Digital First” is not an either/or proposition; it’s a how much of each will you need to grow in 2022 and beyond. It’s a leadership acceptance that more conversations will start online than in the past.  It means the future isn’t “back to normal.” In my experience, B2B companies typically have a minimum of 30% of prospect flow from in-person interactions, 50% is closer to normal and some I’ve encountered as high as 70%.  

To reiterate, this is not a matter of all or nothing, in-person versus digital. “Digital First” means that a greater number of conversations will begin from online activity than they have in the past. This point is certain. The only thing we don’t know is what % of prospect flow will come from in-person and online going forward. Time will tell.  

We have worked exclusively with the lower middle market (LMM) since Syrup’s inception. One common, almost universal, theme in this segment is, “If I can get them (prospect) in a room, I can close the business.” Can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that AND believed it almost every time. I understand why LMM is nervous about fewer in-person opportunities in this light. It could signal a limitation of one of their best sales assets. But that’s not what “Digital First” is. 

“Digital First” means that more of the conversations will start online than in person.

It is about the beginning of the conversation being online, not the entire conversation. That will still happen in almost all sales and continue to be a strength of the LMM.    

So, if a yet-to-be-determined number of prospect conversations are starting online going forward, you must be much more thoughtful in the potency of your message, where and how you reach out to your target audience. It’s these points that brand messaging comes into play for “Digital First.” 

To be effective, you need a potent message, focus on your uniqueness, your client needs and how you exist to address them.

  1. How has your blend of in person v. digital prospect flow changed during the pandemic? 
  2. What do you expect it to look like in 2022?
  3. Is your message, your one chance at turning a digital view into a real world conversation, the one you’d want?  Does it communicate your uniqueness?
  4. Are your digital efforts reaching the right audience? 
  5. Have you considered the impact of “Digital First” on your recruiting? 

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 by Jason Ogden

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