With the New Year upon us it’s time to get to work on our resolutions.  According to most polls the top 2 resolutions are to get in shape and get a new job.  To that end, I’ll be sharing a 2 Part series targeted at understanding and improving your online brand.  I’ll also be including tips for hiring managers looking to grow their team as 2015 promises to be a very competitive year in the war for talent.  These blogs previously appeared as guest blogs on pipelinedeals.com’s website but have been updated and revised for our blog.

When it comes to the world of B2B sales and the hiring of sales professionals LinkedIn stands alone as the King of B2B Social Media Sites.  Accordingly, these 2 blogs will focus almost entirely on that platform with goal of helping sales professionals, hiring managers and companies looking to differentiate and sell their services and/or increase their odds of landing a job or attracting a new employee.  Today’s blog (Part 1) is devoted to understanding and setting goals for your LinkedIn presence with Part 2 geared towards repairing or building your LinkedIn presence.

I’d like to start with a few stats that should motivate you to pay attention to your LinkedIn brand.

“93% of buying decisions start with online research.”

Marketo

 “57% of the decision-making process is made prior to any direct interaction with a sales person.”

Harvard Business Review

 “People do not treat Business or Career Decisions any differently.”

LinkedIn

 Whether you are discussing a candidate that’s considering joining your company or a buyer considering your service, 93% of the time their first impression of you will be delivered online.  What that should tell you is that you could be losing out on a sales or job opportunity (or a candidate if you’re a company) right now and you’ll never even know that the opportunity existed or why they chose to go another direction.  Yes, I’ve lost a lot of sleep with that realization.  On the plus side, it’s great news that you have the opportunity to be intentional with a potential customer’s first impression.

Before I dig in further I’d like to share some basic tips to help you better understand the LinkedIn platform.

  • 76% of page views on LinkedIn are members viewing other members’ profiles and 40% of that traffic is mobile (write with mobile viewing in mind).  Creating a strong LinkedIn brand begins with you and your fellow employees’ personal profiles.
  • LinkedIn is an extremely visual medium (profiles with pictures get 7x more views and profiles with appealing photos get an even higher viewage rate) which means that you have to pay as much attention to how your page looks as to what it says.
  • An effective Company page on LinkedIn will fall short if its employee profiles disappoint.  After all, a potential hire will ultimately be interviewing with a hiring manager and your customer will be buying from one of your sales reps.  Done right, a Company page and its employee profile images and messaging will reinforce each other.

 What goes into a polished profile or company page? An effective LinkedIn profile and company page should achieve 5 goals:

  •  Be Likeable
  • Differentiate You
  • Provide External Validation
  • Establish You or Your Company as a Thought Leader
  • Gain Followers

 Likeability – In the book Enchantment, by Guy Kawasaki, the author gives a straight-forward formula for influencing others.  Central to that formula is “achieving likeability”.  A perfect visual LinkedIn example of likeability (in my opinion) is shown below with the full LinkedIn profile found here.

2

Full disclosure, Sarah works with me at Sales Talent but that’s not why I give her as an example.  Her profile picture simply radiates likeability.  Just to verify my point, if you scroll down to the “Skills” portion of her profile you’ll see that she’s been endorsed over 30 times for her “Friendly Personality”.

3

Differentiate – to properly differentiate yourself, your company and/or your services it is critical that you understand exactly what it is that you do better than anyone else.  You will fail if you try to be everything to everyone.  Studies have shown that the average online user has an attention span of 8 seconds.  Yes, 8 seconds.  A very clever (and short) example of what to and what not to do online when trying to gain your customer’s attention can be found here.

The company page for ConversionLab (the people who wrote the example in the link directly above) does a fantastic example of conveying exactly what it is that they do better than anyone else.


4

External Validation – Establishing credibility with your audience is a critical ingredient for your company or personal profile.  According to extensive surveying by the Nielsen Group less than 20% of consumers trust companies’ claims.  Conversely, 92% of consumers trust peer reviews.  This is the genius behind eBay, Amazon and Yelp’s success.  Fortunately, LinkedIn gives you several tools to establish credibility with your personal profile.  I’ll focus on a few:  Skills, Awards and Recommendations.

I gave an example for the Skills section above with Sarah’s “friendly personality”.  The Skills section is actually a very important component in your profile’s effectiveness as it has a second purpose beyond allowing viewers to see what Skills you’ve been recommended for.  It is actually part of the algorithm that LinkedIn uses when determining the order to display member profiles when a member performs a search.

Recommendations are arguably the most important way that you can establish credibility on LinkedIn.  I believe it is critical to be intentional with who you ask and what strengths of yours or your company’s you ask to have endorsed.  I’ll discuss this and Awards in depth in Part 2 of this series when the conversation shifts to building and/or repairing your LinkedIn brand.

 Thought Leadership – Volumes have been written about using Linkedin as a tool to establish yourself as an expert in your field.  Google the experts and take their advice.  Before you write off this step in the process, understand that contributing valuable and authentic content that benefits others is the fastest way for a company or person to gain Followers on LinkedIn.  To see an example of a company that does a great job of sharing valuable content please follow the company updates from ConversionLab (the same company from the example shown above).

Followers – I have three stats for you regarding followers that demonstrates the value of establishing followers on LinkedIn.

  1.  79% of LinkedIn members are interested in updates on job opportunities from companies they follow.  These are ideal prospects from which to find your next hire.
  2.  Your followers are 95% more likely to respond to your sales team or recruiters’ InMail.  Our own experience with this at Sales Talent has convinced us to make gaining followers a priority.
  3.  Members are 61% more likely to share information as a result of following your company.  (all 3 stats courtesy of LinkedIn).  From the beginning, the promise of LinkedIn was access to the networks of your connections.  Followers help fulfill that promise.

 With over 100M members in the U.S. alone it’s hard to under-estimate the power of LinkedIn.  The challenge is staying relevant and in front of those members that you’re trying to reach.  I hope that the three stats above show the potential of growing your follower base.

 Now that you’re hopefully inspired to polish and perfect your online presence we’ll be shifting gears to help show you how.

About Chris Carlson

Chris Carlson is the founder and President of Sales Talent Inc, a Seattle based National B2B sales recruiting firm. You can click through to sign up for and follow his Blog or view Sales Talent’s current Sales Openings.