As part of our social selling initiatives in IBM Inside Sales, we help our sales reps learn to build a personal brand online, showcase their expertise and engage with clients and prospects through social networks and collaborative technologies, all while learning about the market through “social listening.” My focus is raising the skill level and social savvy of our Inside Sellers on external social networking sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn.
The ROI of Social Selling
Besides the anecdotal evidence from the social selling success stories we track, research that IBM Inside Sales conducted in partnership with Duke and Rutgers Universities revealed the tangible ROI that our organization is reaping from our sellers’ use of these social networking sites. By using LinkedIn in particular, in combination with IBM Social Business tools, our reps were able to generate more leads and close more opportunities compared to reps who did not. You can learn more about this IBM study in Ed Brill’s recent book, Opting In (Chapter 9, section “Measuring Return on Investment”).
Why Focus on the Profile?
When training someone in “social selling,” it can be easy to get lost in the features and functions of various tools and social networking sites. I prefer to take a broader perspective and get our sellers to focus on their personal brand and digital footprint. Over the years, I’ve observed that marketing oneself does not come easy to people, especially those in sales. This may be surprising, as putting our best face forward is typically common sense.
Why settle for good enough when you can have amazing? That’s what I tell the Insider Sellers and all others that I train on LinkedIn during what I affectionately call “Operation Profile Makeover.”
But if it were that easy, there wouldn’t be countless blogs, articles, eBooks, webinars and consultancies out there trying to help people optimize their LinkedIn profiles and build a personal brand. That is why it’s doubly important to go through the profile/bio with your employees in detail, step-by-step.
Another important and timely reason to rethink your profile is that LinkedIn has migrated to a new profile design. The new design offers an opportunity to think through how information is displayed in the new format and to take advantage of the new, rich media capabilities to showcase your leadership.
Lessons Learned from Profile Makeovers
Because there are so many other resources on the web for you to reference on the topic of LinkedIn profiles, I won’t go into the “How To’s.” What I will share are some observations, common myths and key takeaways that may help you see your own profile in a new light or give you some ideas on how to help coach those in your company.
When was the last time you thought about your profile?
Most people don’t give their profiles much thought. They seem satisfied that they even have a profile on LinkedIn or a bio on Twitter and are unaware of the benefits of optimizing or improving one’s profile.
Profiles can make or break whether someone wants to connect with you, and that’s critical if you’re in sales, business development or a job seeker. Give them a reason to be impressed, rather than underwhelmed.
Having a great profile doesn’t mean you’re looking for a new job.
Many people don’t invest time in improving their profiles because they say, “People are going to think I’m looking for a job” or “I’ve been with this company for X number of years and I’m not going anywhere. How does this benefit me?”
Even if you’re happy at your current job, you still can benefit from investing time in filling out your profile. Clients, business partners, prospects, colleagues, upper management, your direct reports, colleagues and community members are checking out your profile. People go on Google search and on LinkedIn to check you out.
Whenever I meet someone new at IBM, I immediately check our intranet page and LinkedIn to get a sense of their background. It’s very enlightening to see how they present themselves externally. I also view our executives’ profiles on LinkedIn as a gauge to see if they participate actively in social networking.
What makes you stand out?
As I mentioned above, people seem to struggle with writing an effective headline and summary of their career and work experience, one that differentiates them from others who have similar roles. Your summary is an opportunity to highlight your achievements, your passion for what you do and tell your story. Give it careful thought, read it over a few times and edit for typos.
Won’t people think I’m bragging or being boastful?
I hear this one often because people around the world don’t view the concept of the profile in the same way. One of my colleagues in South Africa said to me recently when I suggested that he include an award he won on his profile, “Isn’t that being boastful?” And I replied, “Isn’t this the place to showcase your best achievements?”
I do think there’s a difference between putting down awards you have won and saying, “I’m an unparalleled expert in ABC.” We all have more to learn in our fields, even if we have deep expertise or more expertise than others. Be mindful of the way you phrase things on your profile so you portray yourself as someone with deep expertise and not someone with too much hubris.
Perceptions of “effective” profiles vary
This one is tough. Many of our reps think their profiles are fine and don’t realize there’s an issue. Making them aware of the gaps and how improvements can help them be more effective in social selling can be challenging. As I mentioned above, we can say, “Go fix your profile,” but marketing themselves doesn’t come naturally. So, we took a more prescriptive approach and created a “Profile Makeover Checklist,” and one by one, we reviewed people’s profiles and offered specific suggestions on what to improve. We made this investment of time because we believe it’s that important.
I’m hoping by now you’re officially pumped to make your profile AMAZING! And remember, if it’s not, ask for help.