Industrial sales reps, it’s time to optimize your LinkedIn profile

Manufacturers reps and distributors: Here’s how to optimize your profile to engage prospects

Last month, LinkedIn — the business-focused social network — reported it has 562 million users. That’s up from the 500 million figure it recorded in 2017.

While the total number of LinkedIn users is interesting, what’s more relevant for today’s sales rep is the number of senior-level influencers (61 million) and corporate decision makers (40 million) that use the platform on a regular basis.

Despite this, many sales reps fail to take full advantage of LinkedIn’s capabilities to court buyers and engage prospects. We often see profiles listing skills, achievements in sales and employment history — fine for someone who is job hunting.

But those who want to leverage the business networking value of LinkedIn — and thereby improve their sales performance — need to go further.  If you are in a sales position and your LinkedIn profile looks more like your resume, you’re most likely leaving leads on the table. Same goes with profiles that are outdated, lean on content or mistake-riddled.   

Go beyond your resume

If you think of your LinkedIn sales profile as a digital business card or online resume, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to engage with potential buyers. The key shift here is to see LinkedIn not as a record of your work history, but as a reputation builder.

Essentially, your LinkedIn profile is the platform to shape how others see you.

Sales reps who use it most effectively present a digital version of themselves that is meaningful and useful to the buyers they hope to attract. This might including sharing how they’ve enabled their buyer’s achievement, providing helpful information that boosts their credibility and establishing themselves as a product expert or trend spotter.

What should a LinkedIn sales profile look like?

Here’s are five key areas to help optimize your LinkedIn sales profile for better sales performance.

1.  Write an attention-grabbing headline

Remember, the aim is not to recite your resume. Use this highly visible real estate to demonstrate how you add value to your clients and customers. A concise summary of who you help, and how, is more compelling than a standard job title.

2. Put your best face forward

Your LinkedIn profile image is the digital equivalent of a first impression — so choose an image that is warm and genuine.

Profile photos should be:

  • High quality and cropped to 400×400 pixels to fit the space
  • Of you. No friends, children or pets.
  • In front of a neutral background.
  • Professionally captured, if possible. (LinkedIn profiles with professional headshots get 14 times more profile views.)

3. Summary = Your Value Pitch

Like the headline, the aim of your summary is to convey the value you add to your customers and clients. Here, you can provide more details about your products, your clients’ success, and your results. You can also include a clear call-to-action that communicates why and how a buyer should get in touch with you.

4. Add content that builds credibility

Does your company have a case study that highlights a satisfied client of yours? Do you maintain a blog? Aim to have at least two pieces of content displayed on your profile, including links to blog posts, videos, or landing pages. Think of your profile as your opportunity to educate prospects about market trends, products comparisons, or other content that will solidify your reputation as an expert in your field.  

5. Seek out recommendations

One of the best sales tools on LinkedIn is the ability to get third-party recommendations and then prominently display them on your profile. Ideally, clients should mention specific benefits from their association with you, either in terms of a statistic, dollar figure, or achievement. LinkedIn recommendations are especially powerful because they are tied directly to people’s profiles — making it quick and easy for your prospects to see that the review came from a real person in the business community.

Once you’ve optimized your LinkedIn profile for selling, it will quickly become one of your best sales tools. Given LinkedIn’s reach — particularly among corporate decisions makers — it’s worth investing a little time to update your profile so that it works as an engagement tool and reputation builder.

Distributors, it’s time to increase revenue with a well executed sales pipeline

Here’s how to build a sales pipeline that converts opportunities into revenue.

At its most fundamental, a sales pipeline is simply insight — the ability to see every stage of your sales process front and center from prospect through to deal closure.

Why should today’s distributor define a formal sales process?  

The more control and visibility you have into your sales pipeline, the more revenue you’ll bring in. That’s according to HubSpot Research, which found that the more opportunities in your pipeline, the more likely you are to reach or exceed your revenue goals.

A Harvard Business Review survey generated similar results. It found an 18 percent difference in revenue growth between companies that defined a formal sales process and companies that didn’t.

Therefore, if knowledge of your pipeline is based on best guesses or last month’s figures, you’re probably leaving money on the table.

“Knowing your numbers in sales is like following a good recipe,” writes Laurel Mintz, CEO of Elevate My Brand. “When you know what components are going in, you know what’s going to come out. But, if you forget a few ingredients, you’re going to have a tasteless flat cake that no one wants to eat. It’s the same thing in sales.”

What is a sales pipeline?

A sales pipeline is a specific sequence of actions that a sales rep needs to take in order to move a prospect from a new lead to a customer. Once each stage is completed, the prospect is advanced to the next stage. Sometimes depicted by a funnel, the wider top indicates a prospect or leads that then narrows to decision and purchase.

An opportunity moves from stage to stage of your pipeline based on concrete actions, which can be represented visually in your CRM or other shared platforms. Because sales processes differ from company to company (and even product to product), your sales pipeline should be unique to your business and reflect your typical buyer’s journey.

How to build your sales pipeline

1.  Clearly define the stages of your sales cycle

Start by defining stages and milestones that are universally understood by your salespeople. Your sales team shouldn’t have to guess where a particular deal stands or how they should be managing deals in each stage. In addition, your sales process should align with how your customers move through their buying process. Too many sales teams use generic sales processes and consequently get generic sales performance. Invest the time in developing a unique process for your team, and make sure that they understand how to use it.

As a distributor, your customer’s journey may vary, depending on the manufacturer, product or region in which you’re selling. For example, sellers that partner with manufacturers to obtain sales leads, lead generation, prospecting and in some cases qualification might be unnecessary steps in your pipeline. Instead, the top of your pipeline may begin with initial contact or proposal.

2. Calculate your numbers

How many deals do you need to add to your pipeline to meet your objectives? If you know how many deals you win on average, you can easily calculate the number of deals you need in each of the early stages by following these steps:

  1. Identify how many opportunities typically advance to the next stage
  2. Working backwards, calculate the number of opportunities you need at every stage to reach your goal
  3. Pinpoint the common reasons an opportunity converts at every stage — including the actions the rep takes (performing a demo) and prosper response (request for a proposal).

Decide on a shared platform

Pipeline visibility gives salespeople a snapshot of pipeline performance. It is often a CRM feature — but can be done on any shared platform, such as Google Sheets — and allows reps to determine how pipeline activities are tracking towards overall goals. Based on this insight, reps can adjust pipeline volume and budget expectations for more accurate sales forecasting.

Whatever method you use, be sure to ask:

  • Does the CRM help salespeople focus on activities?
  • Are salespeople able to see everything that’s happening in their deals?
  • How does it allow salespeople to stay organized?

If your system is not meeting these baseline objectives, invest in a shared sales pipeline visibility platform that does. The return will be worth the investment.

Once you have your sales pipeline established, the world is your oyster. You’ll be able to forecast revenue more accurately, manage your sales team more effectively, increase deal speed, and increase total deal volume, size and revenue.

A well-managed sales pipeline is about continuously improving the process and honing the skills of your salespeople. Everyone’s aim should be to keep the pipeline moving from one stage to the next – and of course, to close sales.