How thought leadership can elevate sales teams and increase lead gen.
An interview with Dani Buckley about creating thought leadership content that salespeople can use.
Thought leadership is a great source for lead generation.
So how do you create content that a sales team can easily access and assess?
And how can you measure the success of it?
To discuss these topics I’ve invited Dani Buckley the Vice President and General Manager of LeadG2 to join me. LeadG2 is a sales performance agency helping businesses sell smarter and faster. Dani is also the host of the podcast Sell Smarter, Sell Faster where she offers insights, strategies, and real world example to help her audience take sales enablement to the next level.
Our conversation begins by establishing a baseline of how thought leadership and lead gen intersect. Dani talks how powerful thought leadership can be and how it really needs to come from a philosophical belief in wanting to help people and your industry, even if you never get anything in return.
Next we discuss reaching your audience and focusing in on them. Dani shares how they have a created persona they keep in mind while creating content, but also how a few times a year they look at who their largest clients are. Discuss what their needs and problems are, even reaching out to them to gain greater insights on what they are looking for. Then incorporate that real world information into the content they create.
Often the bridge between sale and thought leadership can be a tough one to cross. Dani tells us why it doesn’t have to be. Having a sales background she offers examples of what sales team love to see from thought leaders, from the time of content they seek, how technology can make it accessible and even help evaluate how popular or useful content is.
Three Key Takeaways:
- When creating thought leadership for sales teams take the time to understand their role. Listen to sales calls, get to know what they do and what sales conversations sound like.
- Thought leadership has a compounding effect year over year. Start making content early and be consistent in sticking with it.
- Thought leadership needs to be created with a very specific audience in mind. Look at the clients you’ve had success with and use them as a template of who you should be speaking to.
If you need a strategy to bring your thought leadership to market, Thought Leadership Leverage can assist you! Contact us for more information. In addition, we can help you implement marketing, research, and sales. Let us help you so you can devote yourself to what you do best.
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Bill Sherman Let’s talk about the intersection of sales and thought leadership in most B2B organizations. One of your primary lines of communication with customers and clients, well, it’s your sales team, but often sales is focused on closing today’s sales opportunity. How can you equip sales to be talking about your orgs insights that will lead to future opportunities? Today I sit down with Dani Buckley. She’s the VP and general manager of Lead G2. And as you’ll hear, she’s a salesperson at heart. She’s got her eye on the numbers and she relies on thought leadership to help grow the business long term. We’ll explore how she makes it work.
I’m Bill Sherman and you’re listening to Leveraging Thought Leadership. Ready? Let’s begin. Welcome to the show, Dani.
Dani Buckley Thank you. I’m excited to be here.
Bill Sherman So you’ve spent a lot of your time on the lead generation perspective. And I think a lot of people think thought leadership. And they want to associate it with lead gen. So I want to hand this question to you to begin with, of where do you thought leadership and legend intersect? Because I think we’re going to spend a good amount of time talking about that today.
Dani Buckley Yeah. Yeah. So I think the we’ll see the way I like to think about this is that thought leadership can be used as a form of lead generation but isn’t and I think shouldn’t be only measured based off of that. I think that true thought leadership has to come from like a philosophical kind of belief in wanting to help people and sharing your expertise, possibly without getting anything in return. Always right. But knowing that it’s for the greater good of your potential clients, maybe even not your potential clients, your market, your industry, whatever that might be. But I do think that when done strategically, you can tie thought leadership into your lead generation strategy and be effective at it.
Bill Sherman So and we’re going to go deeper into this. I think one of the things that we should first balance on this is the concept that while if you’re doing thought leadership in your organization, somebody is going to ask you, is it working and how do you know? Right. And so if you want revenue in terms of resources, if you want people to help you, etc., you’ve got to know that it’s working. So Legion is one of those things that gets teed up often of D Look, we got this lead from the white paper or we got that from this activity. We did. And I agree with you, it can be a pitfall right on that. So how do you balance that altruistic sort of giving versus, hey, we’re in a business, we got to measure things.
Dani Buckley Yeah. How do you how do you balance it? I think you’ve got to have the right people that are on the leadership level have to be bought in at the true kind of meaning and understanding and value of thought leadership and have to truly understand that it’s not all trackable. That is just the truth. And then I think you also need to just determine, agree upon and regularly evaluate what are the metrics that you want to track and that you can track. You know, there’s plenty of things that are, you know, done from a data standpoint. You can see how many people have listened to your podcast, you can see how many impressions you’ve gotten on a LinkedIn post or how much engagement. I mean, of course, there’s lots of metrics you can use that I think are valuable to see your your reach and to see how things are being kind of is it making traction and is it resonating? I think that’s something you can definitely do. But when you really get to tracking for lead gen, like did we get a lead and then did we get a lead that turned into a customer? I think that there you have to be you have to be creative and you have to be diligent in how you gather that information. And so the truth is for a lot of us, I mean, for internally, even at our company, we invest a lot in thought leadership across our three divisions. We have podcasts, we speak regularly at events. I mean, we’re doing all the things and we also just have an old school spreadsheet where when we hear anyone mention they listened to something or they were from this, we put it in there and we try to be really good about that. And that that is actually one of the best ways to do it, because it’s not always going to be directly through a form like a white paper per se.
Bill Sherman Right. And so let’s sing the praises of this simple spreadsheet. Yep. For a moment. Because in many cases, when an organization starts deploying thought leadership, the spreadsheet is your friend. Just start collecting anecdotes. And that’s while anecdotes aren’t hard data they can at least have. Signal patterns. Right. And so I like to think of it from a crawl walk run perspective of if you don’t start with the spreadsheet, you never have anything more sophisticated for data collection. And you have to be willing to accept that early on the data is going to be fuzzy and it’s not going to be what you want. Yeah, yeah.
Dani Buckley I agree.
Bill Sherman So you’re doing a lot of activity on top leadership as a practitioner yourself, then you’re also supporting clients and customers. I want to talk on the inbound side because you’re talking from a vault leadership perspective to make yourselves visible and tell your story. How are you shaping that story? Because you talked about modalities, but you didn’t talk about the Who in the where.
Dani Buckley Yeah. So you’re asking specifically for our own organization?
Bill Sherman Exactly. For.
Dani Buckley To start there. Yeah. So. So our kind of strategy or I’ll start with for league two because we do have three divisions, but I’ll just kind of focus on the one that I’m most a part of is which is league two. And yeah, so the modalities, right? I regularly do public speaking at conferences both in person and you know, like virtually I, you know, will join panels, be on webinars, be interviewed on podcasts, host my own podcast for League two. So all of these are right blog post, you know all the things but how are we kind of yeah keeping that in line like we’re not just putting out a bunch of stuff, right? I feel like it’s kind of.
Bill Sherman You know, well, and who, who are you trying to reach with it? Because there you can always be caught on this treadmill of creating content. Right? And so how do you know and how do you focus?
Dani Buckley Yeah. So for us, we got really clear early on. You know, we’re essentially a marketing consulting firm and agency, right? We do a lot of things related to sales and sales enablement. But really the core of what we do is marketing and lead generation. And so what makes us different and we like I said, we learned this very early on at League two was that we because our parent company is a sales training and sales consulting firm and many of us like me at the company at League two come from a sales background. We’ve always kind of worked an angle with our prospects and clients that is actually on the sales side of things, which is not typical for marketing media. They’re usually talking to the CMO, you know, the marketing director really on the marketing side of things, and we tend to talk to the director of sales, you know, sales leadership, CEOs like those that are really focused on like revenue. Often if they have a marketing department that they’ll get pulled in. But we really go in kind of a different angle. And so that’s been our strategy from some of the get go and who we talk to and who we focus on. And those are those are the people’s problems that we’re trying to help solve. So with that in mind, when we’re thinking about thought leadership or when I’m thinking about thought leadership, it’s with those folks in mind. And that’s really helpful. In particular, when I think about myself, it’s easy, even though I’m a marketer. Absolutely. I run a marketing agency, I am a sales person at heart and I, I can talk to and understand the needs of those that are in charge of driving revenue in that way. And so we build our thought leadership strategy that leads you to around talking about the things that matter that are valuable to those folks. And we really focus on that. Yeah, that kind of like persona out there. And it doesn’t mean we’re not also addressing and talking to those in marketing, but we do think it’s important to like have a very clear kind of person that you’re talking to. And for us, it’s like the director of sales.
Bill Sherman So one of the things that I find works well and I’m curious if you do, is almost when you’re creating that content, not just to have a director of sales, but almost a real person, someone you know, who would care about the answer to this question. Do you do that? And if so, how does that work for you?
Dani Buckley Yeah, 100%. So we do kind of two ways. One is we do we do have like a created kind of fictional real person, right? That is like.
Bill Sherman Right, right that. And that’s your persona. That’s our.
Dani Buckley Persona. And they’re very detailed stuff. But I like to really think about and we do this probably a couple of times a year, we say, Who are our best clients right now? Okay, we’ve got I’m not going to say real names, but we’ve got Bill, we’ve got Susan, we’ve got, you know, Tim and these are three that we want more of. And so we really try to think of those folks and we’re writing sales, prospecting, emails, I mean everything. But definitely when it comes to thought leadership, what do they care about? Would they tune in to this? You know, is this even a value to them? And then, of course, I even think, you know, can I talk to them? What can I ask them? What can I learn more from them? What am I not? What do I maybe not know? Or maybe am I making assumptions? And I actually like to be in touch and get real information and real data and they’re not listening to my podcast. For instance, I might ask them why. What would be interesting? Is there a topic they might like? So I really do actually like to engage with those folks and keep them in mind when we’re making decisions around content.
Bill Sherman And I think that’s one of the bridges between the fictional persona and really creating value. If and this is the bridge between marketing and sales on Legion, right? If you’re out there talking to real prospects, to real clients and you know what’s top of mind, you can create content that serves them personally as well as service people like them. And you can say, Hey, I wrote this with you in mind, here’s the link, you know, and you could just back channel it and all of a sudden it’s very flattering. They can see an article and it’s like, Oh, this was written for me, but you know, one step ahead that it’s not. Not just that.
Dani Buckley Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Bill Sherman So I want to go back to the sense of generosity, which I absolutely believe is one of the pieces of thought leadership. But also you talked about or implied, I don’t think you use the word patience. Right. So I want to talk about this in terms of you can put a lot of content out there and you can be a content creation individual or you can even make it part of the DNA of the organization. But how long should you be waiting? What should you be looking for from signs from the market? And you know when the universe is giving you feedback, right?
Dani Buckley Yeah. You know, And isn’t that the question? Everyone wants the answer.
Bill Sherman Right, exactly. Yeah. So.
Dani Buckley Yeah, it’s, you know. Yeah. But I think I’ve a fair answer is mine. My opinion is. So I think you have to look at the I guess use the word modality. Right. The. That can change it. I think the audience going to think how long you’ve been doing something changes it. Right. If you have not put out any thought leadership, any kinds and your websites out of date I mean all the stuff like that’s going to have a lot longer of a curve to like be able to even get traction. But let’s say you’ve been blogging, you’ve had a great website, you’ve had other kind of, you know, your your social media is doing well, like things like that, but you haven’t really focused on like thought leadership content. You’re going to be a couple steps ahead because you’ve been a content producer, you’ve got some audience. I mean, so many things like that matter. But I think that ultimately it’s not about like how much time has to pass. I think it’s that you should be ideally seen progress just consistently. That’s what I think from the get go. We got ten people listen to our first podcast episode.
Bill Sherman Right? Exactly. Now we got.
Dani Buckley 15, right? It’s like it might be very small.
Bill Sherman We increased by 50%. That’s fantastic.
Dani Buckley But like seeing growth and seeing that stuff, I think that’s what really matters early on. And then I think as you get further into it, you can actually set goals based off patterns you’re seeing with the data.
Bill Sherman Well, and there’s a long tail that comes from this. So when you put that content out there, as long as you’re writing from an evergreen perspective rather than something that’s tied very directly to a news cycle or an event and I see this on a regularly we’re 500 episodes deep in the podcast, but it’s not like episodes one through ten are out of date and like two month old sushi.
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So Dani, you mentioned that you’re wired as a salesperson and you spend a lot of time working with heads of sales in organizations and thought leadership practitioners within organizations are not always wired as salespeople, right? So my question for you is, based on your experience on the sales side of the House, what do you think salespeople would wish their colleagues and thought leadership would be doing or would want them to know?
Dani Buckley Yeah, that’s a great question. I think there’s a few things that come to mind. Number one is I think they wish that they knew and understood sales a little more. Right. And I think that that hard to do. It doesn’t mean they have to have a background in sales. But one of my favorite things is like folks that are supporting sales in any way, whether it’s content creators, marketers never listen in on sales calls, like have some experience, like just get off. Actually, it’s amazing to me how many folks have never done that. So just just having a better idea of what a sales person is doing and what those conversations sound like. I think that’s one. Number two is I think actually really understanding kind of what we talked to you about a minute ago, who the customer is, who we’re talking to. Have they had conversations with them? Are they going I mean, even as simple as, you know, is their business acumen up to date to understand the needs and problems of the folks that we’re talking to? Or are they just kind of talking to a CEO because they think they have an idea of what that is or what that matters? I think really having that business acumen and understanding of these roles and who this audience is, and then I would say the third one that comes to mind is making the content, the resources really easily accessible and easy to share, spelling it out for salespeople. They if you create something, it just gets put in a folder. They’re probably never going to use it. But if you’re reminding them regularly, it’s like, this is a link, or Here’s technology that helps you send it in an email. Here’s the scenarios. You should use it. This is why I love sales plays because it pulls in thought leadership content to be used in the sales process. So I think that’s something that I don’t even know salespeople would be able to say that’s what they need, but that’s like a solution to the problem they often say is, I don’t know where things are. I don’t know what’s updated, I don’t know where to find it. I don’t even know it exists, that kind of thing.
Bill Sherman I don’t have time to go reading everything and figuring out if it’s relevant to my client or customer. Make it easy for me to know what to say and don’t leave me in a situation where if I get asked a question, I look stupid.
Dani Buckley Yes, yes. Yes.
Bill Sherman Yeah. So accessibility. And at first I thought you said easy to assess, right? But I think accessibility and accessibility are two things that salespeople need to do with whatever you give them, right? Yeah. So let’s double click on that. What is accessibility really look like and how do I know from a thought leadership perspective, my sales team is getting it and using it. Yeah.
Dani Buckley I mean, I do think it is just I mean, it starts with just simple organization, right? Of how is this stuff available? And there is a lot of technology that actually can help you make this stuff really available, organized in ways that make sense, that can be filtered by topic, by persona, by step of the sales process, and also tools, sales, other tools that I love that allow you to track. And I don’t mean track like management track if salespeople are sharing it, I mean that would be data points that they would end up having. But I think what’s even more important, it tracks how prospects are engaging with the stuff being sent. And then you have that data to evaluate how valuable was is how popular is it If we when we use this email template that has this case study gets five times more opens, you know, that kind of stuff. So that kind of ties into the accessibility because it’s there. It’s easy to do the technology. The organization is all just kind of laid out.
Bill Sherman And I think you’ve hit on something that I want to underline here, which is the structure and formats that you use to make things easy for you and your team to find from a call leadership perspective is not what’s going to be useful for your sales team, whether they’re living in a CRM or they’re going into a sales enablement tool. You’ve got to figure out when, where and how they’ll be drawing from, right rather than going, Well, it’s in this folder that we created. Come look in it. Yeah.
Dani Buckley That’s never the answer, right?
Bill Sherman No, it never is.
Dani Buckley And it’s exactly what works, unfortunately.
Bill Sherman Well, and salespeople generally are wired to have multiple balls in the air, multiple conversations as they’re working conversations through the process of is this solution a fit? You know, can we make the sale, especially on a B2B side? Right? And so the more you can help them and choreograph and then be asking the questions, was that shared at the right time? Not for the blame the salesperson, but maybe the piece needs to be recast earlier in the sales process or later in the sales process. You’ve got to be understanding and to your point on business fluency, understanding how the sales process goes and where objections are coming in.
Dani Buckley Yeah, yeah. And this is why I feel any time we’re creating content, dollars of content, whoever is creating it, you should be involving your sales folks early on in the process, like whether it’s just having conversations brainstorms. My favorite simple thing is ask them to jot down the questions they hear in real time. Send forward you an email. Oh, here’s a good example of objection or a question I got from a prospect. And just like really making having them be part of that so that when they see the output that you have, they can say, Oh, that was something I shared, that they listened. They really heard me, that this is something that matters. This is a resource I’ve asked for 20 times and I finally have it.
Bill Sherman Absolutely. And I love sort of the difference between you sit around and brainstorm a list of frequently asked questions versus the sales team, gives you the list of frequently asked questions and you’re building resources against that. And that’s the difference between a push and a pull approach. And I really like the idea of you receiving information and having the antenna out to hear what’s really being talked about.
Dani Buckley Yeah, I think I think it makes it difference. I think both are valuable and should be done. And I think when you put them on a spot in a brainstorming, you get some good stuff and also they forget.
Bill Sherman Right. Right.
Dani Buckley But yeah.
Bill Sherman I want to ask you a question. How did you make the jump from sales into having a passion for thought leadership? What is sort of the connective tissue for you?
Dani Buckley Yeah. How personal and deep do I get here?
Bill Sherman As you wish.
Dani Buckley Yeah. You know, the there’s a couple things that have always I mean, first and foremost, I have always loved public speaking. So I have a natural inclination to be on a microphone. I went to college for radio. That’s where I first started working, was in radio. I wanted to be on the radio. And then I saw all the people down the hall making a bunch of money selling advertising, and I was like, Maybe I should try that. And then I also really love that too. And so it’s kind of funny. So I worked in radio sales for quite a few years in my early career. And so I’ve always loved public speaking, always loved that. And so those types of things make sense and are something that just like I’m passionate about. So that’s an easy leap. You know, there’s some so many smart people with so much to share. And that’s the hardest part because they don’t naturally enjoy that stuff. So I have to get over that fear or that discomfort. So that’s one thing. And then I think for me, it’s just also that I really I really value the folks who are doing it. And so instead of just being a consumer, I want to be a contributor to, right? So I want to be in the, I guess, the arena. And so that drives me that like there’s so much I don’t know, I’m constantly learning from so many smart people out there across topics and industries. And I know I’ve got a little bit to share too, that I’ve learned along the way, and I want to kind of contribute as well, and I see the value in it.
Bill Sherman Fantastic. So last question what advice would you give your younger self maybe in that time in radio, either radio talent or sales that would help you on the journey now in your practice of thought leadership?
Dani Buckley Yeah, I know exactly what I’m going to speak to. When I was in radio sales and it was in those years, you know, this is coming up 15 to 20 years ago, Is that around that time frame for me? And so like, you know, still in college, getting out of college, I wish I knew in early sales really took advantage of building my own thought leadership. Like I was really into the idea of like blogging. And that’s when things were really kind of coming about with that. And I did probably more than the average person because I was young and eager. But I really wish that I like jumped into it a little bit more. I had actually created like a personal business website at a pretty young age and did that, but I didn’t really like commit to it. And so if I look back, that’s only what I would have done. I would have gone even further. I would have I my gut was that this stuff is going to work and I should do it. But I actually didn’t have a lot of people supporting the idea in the business space. It seemed like, Oh, this is going to pass, this isn’t real. And I think I could have really killed it even earlier on if I stuck to kind of my intuition that this stuff makes a difference.
Bill Sherman Well, and it has such a compounding effect year after year. Right. So very much like building a network. The sooner you start doing it, the better you are. Yeah. So, Dani, I want to thank you for joining us today and talking about thought leadership and sales and legion and the joy of all three.
Dani Buckley Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. This is a great conversation.
Bill Sherman If you’re interested in organizational thought leadership, then I invite you to subscribe to the OrgTL newsletter. Each month we talk about the people who create, curate and deploy thought leadership on behalf of their organizations. Go to the website. OrgTL.com and choose ‘join our newsletter.’ I’ll leave a link to the website as well as my LinkedIn profile in the show notes. Thanks for listening and I look forward to hearing what you thought of the show.