If you are in sales, you’ve probably heard of “social selling”. Over the past few years, social selling has gone from being a theoretical concept to an integral part of the modern sales process.
In an IDC whitepaper, analyst Kathleen Schaub states that 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level executives use social media when making purchase decisions. They’re looking for ideas, answers, and a trusted partner to help them achieve their goals.
The first step in getting started with social selling is by revamping your LinkedIn profile. Just as you are scouting for more buyers on LinkedIn, trying to learn more about them, they are looking at your LinkedIn profile to judge whether they’d want to do business with you. With seven out of 10 professionals describing LinkedIn as a trustworthy source of professional content, having a relevant, up-to-date LinkedIn profile is a no-brainer.
Optimize your LinkedIn profile for search engines:
Even before you actually begin the process of optimizing your LinkedIn profile per se, it is a good idea to take a look at your LinkedIn profile URL. LinkedIn allows you to customize your profile URL to an SEO-friendly version following the format: www.linkedIn.com/in/tejaskinger. If your name is taken try something that resembles it closely.
It is also a good idea to zero-in on a relevant long-tail keyword for your professional headline, job title and optimizing your job description around a variety of secondary keywords to improve your profile’s visibility.
Add your LinkedIn URL to your email signature, other social channels and any other web pages you maintain and create inbound links to your profile.
Include a high-resolution professional photo:
Your LinkedIn profile picture is the face of your professional brand.
It’s likely to be one of the first things people see when they search for you by name on LinkedIn. By uploading a professional photo you can increase your LinkedIn profile views by 11%.
A “professional” photo doesn’t mean a boring one. Ensure that you are smiling, you appear approachable, relaxed, and friendly because that’s just the kind of person someone would want to work with and buy from. While this isn’t a rule of thumb, it is a good idea to ensure that about 60% of the photo is taken up by your face and it is shot against a simple and clear background.
Make a strong statement with your LinkedIn headline:
The first step to making the content on your LinkedIn profile “sales-ready” is to craft a strong headline. Ensure your headline projects creativity, appeals to your target audience, attracts the right people and helps to answer the question, “Who do you help and how do you help them?”.
In a nutshell, don’t use your headline to convey just your designation, instead ensure your headline reads like a mini value proposition statement.
Use your LinkedIn summary to solve for specific pain points:
Ideally, use the 3×3 formula for your LinkedIn summary.
3×3 = Three paragraphs with a maximum of three sentences each.
Reiterate your purpose from your LinkedIn headline in the first paragraph of your summary. Use the summary to expand on your personality and experiences, by describing what you do and why you do it.
Use the second paragraph of your summary to elaborate on specific projects that you’ve undertaken which have helped solve for specific pain points.
Use the third paragraph as a concise call-to-action that makes it clear as to why and how a prospect should get in touch with you.
Make it easy for your prospects to contact you:
While this one might seem obvious, not filling out contact information is one of the most overlooked aspects of a LinkedIn profile. Make sure to list your email address, phone number (optional), Twitter handle, blog, and company website to make it easy for prospects to get in touch with you.
Plus, LinkedIn gives higher authority to profiles that are 100% completed.
Engage prospects with your experience:
Use the experience section of your LinkedIn profile to intrigue your prospects and build credibility.
While this looks like your run-off-the-mill résumé, you should write it keeping your ideal buyer persona in mind.
List your professional positions and your job titles. List 3-5 big-ticket responsibilities under each using industry-specific long-tail keywords and supplement these with statistics. Focus on the value that you bring, the results you helped customers achieve, and the methods and tactics used.
LinkedIn allows you to embed content and videos right into the experience and summary sections of your profile page. This is a great way to display promotional videos, demos, whitepapers, ebooks, or any sales collateral that your company has created.
Honors and awards:
Okay, so maybe you haven’t won that Oscar yet, but if you have won any career-related awards, use this section to your advantage. List any work-related award you have won and with each listing add a short, two-line description.
But remember, don’t get too carried away and keep it strictly professional (high-school awards are a big no-no).
Use education, skills, endorsements, and recommendations to build credibility:
Your prospects are looking for someone with the right skills and knowledge, plus users who list their education appear in searches up to 17 times more often than those who don’t. List your educational qualifications in reverse chronological order. Don’t hesitate to mention additional certificate courses/online courses and workshops that you have undertaken.
LinkedIn allows you to add practically ANY skill to your profile, before you add a skill, make sure it matches your job role and responsibilities as shown in your LinkedIn profile. Your prospects are likely to notice an obvious mismatch if it exists, and that could send your credibility nosediving. While LinkedIn allows you to list up to 50 skills, and while there are no best practices that point to the ideal number of skills that you should list, you need to be selective about the skills you list at the top.
Endorsements are a simple way to prove you’re genuinely proficient at the skills you list on your profile. The more endorsements you have, the more legit you appear. But the million-dollar question here is, how do you get more endorsements? The answer is straight-up simple. Simply ask (politely, of course), and you will find many people willing to help you out. Strive for a high quantity of endorsements that your buyer personas would be impressed with. Make sure to identify which skill is of importance to your prospects and start by trading endorsements with the people you know.
Recommendations are a high-quality trust signal. While you obviously can’t write a recommendation for yourself, you can most certainly request for one. However, try not to ask for a recommendation unless you’ve worked with someone for at least six months. Aim for at least two recommendations for each of your most important former positions. While recommendations from co-workers are great, recommendations from former customers are even better as they may help by bringing in more business in the form of referrals.
Your groups, connections, and the people and companies you choose to follow:
Show your prospects that you share common interests by joining groups that they are in and by actively participating in them. In addition to groups in your industry, consider groups that share common backgrounds or beliefs, like an alumni group for your alma mater.
Build your network focusing on quantity as well as quality. Use the ‘add a note’ option while sending connection requests to people you have interacted with either in-person or online. While it is okay to send connection requests to anyone you have never interacted with, make sure to personalize the connection request and be upfront about the reason you wish to connect with them. Build your network by connecting with all of your prospects, existing customers, and co-workers. Also, accept connections liberally that are plausible to maximize second or third level connections because the more people you are connected to the more likely it is you will appear in other people’s searches.
Finally, the people and companies you choose to follow can tell prospects more about who you are as a salesperson. Follow thought leaders in the sales profession to show your commitment to professional development. Follow companies that are your existing customers as well as those that would make good potential prospects.
Optimizing your Linkedin profile for inbound sales is the first step towards successful social selling. While it might seem like a daunting task at first, once you set the ball rolling, keeping in mind a few best practices, you can easily create that killer LinkedIn profile and wow your prospects.
Next steps: Now that you’ve optimized your LinkedIn profile, how do you go about building your network? Here’s a video from Morgan J. Ingram, Director of Sales Execution and Evolution at JBarrows Sales Training to help you do just that.
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