As buying and selling environments evolve, the importance of social networking and personal branding only continues to grow. If you're a sales professional or customer manager in 2017, it's critical you understand how to leverage LinkedIn to support your efforts. When used well, LinkedIn can be an incredible tool - one which can help you drive efficiency, create competitive advantage, and grow your sales.
There are innumerable ways LinkedIn can support your efforts - from conducting research to gaining access to higher-level decision makers - LinkedIn is a great tool to have in your arsenal as you work your sales process. Over the next few months, I'll be publishing a series of articles to help you maximize your use of the platform.
But first, facts are facts.
You aren't the only one leveraging LinkedIn to help you do business. Clients and prospects are using social media like never before, too. And, while you always want to work to control the sales process, it's important to recognize you aren't the only one doing things like research online - in fact, more than 80% of buyers are using the internet to conduct their own research.
Depending on which source you consult, buyers are actually somewhere between 67% to 75% through the buying process before engaging a salesperson at all.
If your clients and prospects are on LinkedIn - searching, viewing profiles and making assessments of their own - it's important you are, too, and that you position yourself with strength & credibility.
Let's start with the [profile] basics
Now that we've established why LinkedIn is key, let's talk about what it takes to create a strong sales profile. To be taken seriously, your profile better be complete, current & compelling.
Here's where the majority of salespeople go wrong: most often, their LinkedIn profiles are written like a resume.
If a majority of people are making this error, why is it such a big deal? Because - the things your clients and prospects are interested in are inherently different than the stock resume information hiring managers find valuable. So, let's approach your profile with a "sales mindset", and consider it an opportunity to:
- Help clients and prospects engage with you
- Build relationships
- Provide valuable information
- Brand yourself
For you to be effective, your presence needs to be strong. With that in mind, here are 5 areas to update immediately to strengthen your LinkedIn presence.
1. Profile Imagery.
Get a (professional) profile pic. Having one legitimizes your profile and contributes to others' perception of its professionalism and "completeness". (Plus, your profile is 14x more likely to be viewed if you have one.)
The photo you choose says a lot about you, so make sure it creates a positive impression. You don't need to be wearing a suit - in fact, showing a little personality & creativity is great - but you should look like someone a prospect can trust with their business. (PSA: while totally adorable, profile photos with your families/pets are better left to other social networking sites!)
Expert tip: Add a LinkedIn background photo. This is a finer detail, but one that creates huge visual impact. Unique to you, your LinkedIn background is another great place to show a little personality (but of course, keep it appropriate to a professional networking site).
The majority of people are still just listing their title for their LinkedIn headline - but great LinkedIn users recognize there's a better way to use this space.
Elevate your presence & differentiate yourself by using the headline as a place to share your own brief personal value proposition. Instead of listing your position like everyone else, feature a sentence that answers the question, "Who do I help, and how do I help them?"
Most people either a.) leave this section blank, or b.) treat it as a place to copy/paste their resume summary. For social sellers focused on strong personal branding, a different approach is required. To create a compelling summary, use this section as an opportunity to position yourself in relation to the value you bring to your clients and prospects.
Through all the hard work you do day-to-day, how do you, personally, help the companies and contacts you work with? Summarize your thoughts & let those be the things highlighted in this section.
Expert tip: As a best practice, end your summary with a call-to-action - tell people you welcome the opportunity to connect & have a conversation! Don't forget to conclude with your business contact information.
Use this area to highlight previous positions you've held, but, like all the other tips so far, write the description of each with potential buyers in mind. In addition to listing your position and title, include a few sentences summarizing your role & the results you were able to help clients achieve.
LinkedIn Groups are a great way to show customers and prospects you care about the same things. Join & participate in a variety of groups - especially ones they're members of.
Group observation on its own is beneficial, but proving yourself to be a valuable resource through active participation is where the real payoff can be. Members post different questions and topics looking for the input of others - this is a place your voice and industry experience can really add value. Respond with insight, share resources, & answer questions... show you're there to help! This is critical opportunity to position yourself as a trusted thought-leader.
A critical point on Group participation - be careful not to get too "sales-y" while engaging in discussions. Group conversations are not a place to deliver a cold pitch - in fact, doing so can come off as insincere & self-serving, which can harm your reputation in the long run. Instead, focus on providing valuable insight through your posts. If you sense there's a potential fit based on a Group discussion topic, consider posting a comment that adds value while also requesting the opportunity to connect offline to further discuss or do additional research.
And there you have it!
By updating these 5 profile areas, you're well on your way to establishing a strong sales LinkedIn presence. Do you have profile questions or additional best practices? I welcome you to share them with me on LinkedIn here.