Once upon a time, salespeople would have a large rolodex or address books full of names and contact details. Nowadays, they’re just as likely to utilise their LinkedIn connections.
Knowing how to make and build connections on LinkedIn could be a whole article by itself, but before you worry about that, it’s important to make sure you look the part. If you went to a face-to-face networking event, you’d make sure you were well dressed, armed with a few talking points. Making sure your profile looks good and reads well is the LinkedIn equivalent of checking your best outfit is clean and ironed.
It’s vital that your profile acts as an effective representation of your professional self, your company and what you have to offer. It’s your digital business card and your CV all in one. It should be given the time and respect it deserves.
We’re going to go through the most important elements of your profile, so you can be confident when using it to make connections with new clients.
Have a professional photo
We all know we shouldn’t, but everyone makes snap judgements based on how people look. Everything, from what you’re wearing to how you’re smiling can have a huge impact on people’s perception of you. Your profile picture is the very first thing most people look at, so make a good first impression.
The picture you use should be clear and high-quality. This is a professional headshot, not a fun Instagram photo; a smart image of your head and shoulders is best. Smile - it makes you look much friendlier and more approachable, and don’t have anything distracting in the background.
You should be dressed appropriately for your job and industry. If you work in a corporate role, then you should dress smartly in a suit. However, this might be too much for some places. Many technology firms, for example, have a more casual dress code. You know your business, so you know how to look the part.
Use your background photo to sell yourself
The background photo is the horizontal image at the very top of your profile. It should convey a sense of who you are and what you do. What you put there will depend on what you do and what you’re trying to get out of LinkedIn.
One of the main commandments of marketing is to talk about benefits rather than features. In the case of your LinkedIn profile, you can actually do both. Your ‘About’ and ‘Experience’ sections are your personal features, but the image you pick can illustrate your benefits.
If you’re using LinkedIn to actively represent your company, then using a company logo will help build the brand for you and them. If it’s more of a purely personal account, you could use an image that highlights what you do and how you can help your customers, or online connections. If you’re selling a product, show people using it. Or if it’s a service, use a picture showing how much better and easier life is after using it. Are you promoting a particular event or special offer? This might be worth adding to the banner too.
Your company may have an image library you can borrow from, or the internet is full of stock images you could use. This is your chance to be creative. The image serves a business purpose, but this is also your own profile and it’s a good opportunity to give it a personal touch and show off your personality.
Your headline is more than just your title
A ‘headline’ is the one-line description that sits under your profile picture. Traditionally, it’s used to give your job title, but it can be so much more.
By using action orientated words, you can turn it from a basic job title to a dynamic description of what you do and the value you bring. For example, instead of describing yourself as a ‘Sales Executive,’ you can transform it into a short and snappy explanation of what you really do. ‘Managing accounts and driving sales for a global client base’ sounds much more exciting!
Notice the use of verbs ending in ‘-ing.’ This gives the reader a more active feeling, switching the phrase into the present tense and grabs them into your story. It’s a subtle difference, but one that will make your account stand out just that little bit more.
You know your role best, so think of the one or two main things you do and say it in an interesting and memorable way. You want to give people a reason to read further, not to think that your profile looks like all the others they’ve been looking at. Stand out from the crowd.
The About section is your elevator pitch
Your ‘About’ section is easy to overlook – it sits between your picture and contact details, and the ‘Experience’ section – and yet, it’s probably the most important part of your profile. It’s your place to create a summary for who you are, what you do and what you offer.
It’s free-form and gives you the opportunity to write about yourself however you want. Without a set template to follow, it can be daunting to know where to start or what to say. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to say whatever you want. It’s your elevator pitch to anyone that looks you up. It’s your manifesto for what they can expect if they get into a conversation with you. The only real rule is to keep things relevant.
Use this space to describe your expertise, experience, interests and achievements. The ‘Experience’ section shows what you’ve done and when, so use this section to add the personal, human element. Show off the things that don’t fit anywhere else, like your hobbies and passions.
Show off your Experience, Education and Everything Else
The majority of the rest of your profile is, essentially, a digital version of your CV. It runs chronologically through your current and previous roles, education, professional qualifications, voluntary experience and more.
It can be incredibly tempting to simply copy and paste your CV onto the website and call it a day, but this would be a mistake. The document you send to a potential employer is a different medium than a LinkedIn page – even if you want them to do a similar job.
You want your profile to be informative but not too long. A written CV should generally be under two sides of A4, whereas a LinkedIn profile has a bit more room to breathe. It shouldn’t be bulky. The webpage and the style are designed to be quickly scrolled through, so while you can certainly add more detail, you should keep each individual point short and sweet.
As with everything else, keep what you write relevant. It can be tempting to fill it with absolutely everything you’ve ever done, but when using this as a networking tool, you want to show you’re skilled and experienced at what you want to talk to them about. When you make contact with a new person, you want them to be able to see from a very quick look that you’re knowledgeable, experienced and worth their time. It gives them a reason to accept your request or reply to your message.
LinkedIn is an incredibly powerful and useful tool, and your profile has much more than we’ve covered in this article. Spend time looking through yours and see what you can update or improve. Getting endorsements from colleagues and other members of your network is a great way to promote your skills. Adding other achievements and interests gives you space to show off the things you’re proud of, even if they’re not 100% linked to your career.
In general, when you’re using LinkedIn as a platform for social selling, you need to make yourself look professional, worth working with, and most importantly, human.
To discover even more practical ways to improve your Sales and Business Development skills, take a look at our wide range of Learning Solutions.