Before you embark down the path of 'social selling' you must first stop using LinkedIn as your online CV and instead create a strong personal brand as the foundation upon which you will attract and engage a credible network and prospective clients.
This is important because 75% of buyers use social media to research sellers before engaging (Source: IDC) and 74% of buyers choose the seller who first provides insight and value (Source: Corporate Visions). It begs the question: What do people see when they find you online? Do they see a transactional pushy sales person with a profile designed to secure their next sales role or do they see a warm professional person offering insight and value?
No-one wants to be sold to but we all value assistance in making the right buying decision – we want to manage our risk and ensure best value. Here are the essential things you need to do with your LinkedIn profile to cover the foundation of creating a credible personal brand to enable social engagement:
- Disable notifications to your network when changing your profile (account / privacy and settings/ turn off your activity broadcasts). This is important because you will be making lots of changes and you don't want to be bombarding your network as your change and refine your profile.
- Ensure your photo is a friendly close-up head and shoulders shot. It needs to be in focus and well lit (without a bright background). Note that my profile photo has been updated compared with the screenshot a few points below. I moved from 'professional power' to professionally friendly.
- Instead of your title and company, have a headline under your name that describes what you do for customers. What's the difference you make for clients?
- Have a Summary panel that describes the business value you deliver and the values by which you operate. Write it in the first person and don't be too over the top. This helps to create trust and set the agenda even before a single word has been spoken or an e-mail exchanged.
- Complete your contact details and personalize/shorten your LinkedIn profile link (the URL that takes people to your profile). This link should be included in your e-mail signature.
- Encourage people to both endorse and recommend you for skills that matter to potential clients rather than employers.
- Move your employment history to the bottom of the LinkedIn page (panels can be dragged up and down when you hover over them).
- Create three Publisher posts as this fills the panel in your LinkedIn profile as per the illustration below (again note how I've changed my photo).
Aim for 600 to 900 words in your posts (that's just over one page in Word) and here are three topic categories to stimulate your writing:
- Proactive objection killers. List the common objections you recieve and then adopt the positive counter position. As an example, this post helps set the agenda for a recruitment consultant about why the customer needs to meet with them and take the time to define and explore 'cultural fit'.
- Insights that hook interest. What are your potential customers concerned about in the areas of risk, commoditization or disruption? This post talks about disruption and the need to have the right culture internally to remain relevant even if you dominate a market.
- Something topical that leverages current events. I published this post within 30 minutes of Harrison Ford's plane crash hitting the news.
Once you build this foundation you're ready to identify the thought leaders (as regarded by your target market) who you will begin to follow in LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with to ‘curate’ their content and share with your network. You can begin to be a "forager for the tribe", as Michael Hyatt describes it, to be a content hub for relevant quality information about a topic domain or industry. You then have a reason why people should connect with you because you provide insight and value relevant to those in your network.
By changing your LinkedIn profile to be a personal branding microsite, you enhance the way you sell but with no downside for future career change with potential employers.
Personal brand reputation has always been important and even before the internet it was possible for it to be trashed. This very funny Budlight advertisement highlights how Jim Scott's social profile was destroyed. It's so much easier for brand damage today in the era of mobility and social media.
Seriously, think very carefully about what you post in Facebook even if you do regard it as a social platform for your personal life separate to LinkedIn for business. It's all one big discoverable pot for those who want to see past the persona you've carefully created.
Does your LinkedIn profile show why people should invest their time, energy and personal credibility connecting with you?
If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:www.TonyHughes.com.au.
Main image photo from Flickr.