Linkedin for salesChances are your customers and prospects are using LinkedIn to check up on you in the same manner you're able to use tools like LinkedIn and to learn more about them. What does your LinkedIn profile say about you? Is it enhancing your credibility or taking away from it?

Your company may have a whole team managing the brand on social media, but you're probably on your own when it comes to building your own credibility.  Getting the most out of LinkedIn takes just a little time thinking like a marketer, and a little tending and care over time.  Here are 4 tips to help you focus your efforts. (And don't forget to join us on 6/4 as we team up with LinkedIn to bring you Connect for Success: 5 Ways to Improve Outbound Sales Performance.) 

1. Know your audience.

What are your target customers like? What are they looking for? Knowing who you personally want to reach will give you a much better guide for what to emphasize, what to share, and what conversations to be a part of.  Your personal target audience may differ a little from what your company targets, that's ok.  In this case, you want to structure what you do to appeal to the prospects you would most like to connect with.  

For example, if your company's marketing tends to target CIOs, but you typically work with IT Directors for the market segment you own, you should take that into account.  When you're considering articles to share, ensure they are targeted to the CIO but still appeal to your IT Directors. Know you audience so you can speak to them more easily.

2. Clean up your profile. 

First impressions are important, especially when your LinkedIn profile is the first thing people see. Choose a photo that shows your face and looks professional and make sure the photo is representative of you and your audience.  If they typically dress business casual, formal business attire may make prospects think you're out of touch.

Your headline and summary are a way to optimize yourself for search.  Think in terms of what a prospect would type if they were searching, not what you'd type. And remember, this isn't your resume, there's no need to drown them in details. See Improve Your LinkedIn Profile, Improve Your Sales Results  for more advice on improving your profile.

3. Share with purpose.

Your LinkedIn updates are a way to reach your connection. Jill Konrath explains it well, "Every time you issue a LinkedIn update, everyone you're connected to can see it on their LinkedIn home page. It's a way to stay in front of your prospects and customers."  Whether your sharing a thought or a link to an article, each time you update your status it goes out to your network.

If the only updates your network sees are the rare times when you share company news, they're most likely to ignore them.  Knowing your audience gives you the freedom to share articles you find that you think would be of interest to them.  Making a point of posting an update regularly can help to remind your network you're there while letting you share information that appeals to them.

4. Get engaged.

LinkedIn Groups are a great way to expand your reach and share your expertise.  There are almost two million LinkedIn Groups, so how do you target? Start with your audience and the groups they would join.  As you expand beyond that, your possibilities are almost limitless.  I personally like the way Paul Castain  breaks groups into four categories (11 Ways To Maximize Your LinkedIn Experience, see #7: Join The Right Groups ):

  • Vertical Groups
  • Local Groups & Groups in Areas You Want To Build Up
  • Professional Groups That Help Hone Your Craft 
  • Parallel Groups 

Thinking about groups in these four categories can help you expand your reach while keeping it manageable.  Just be sure that you take the time to respond to questions and share your expertise in the groups you join.  Being a member doesn't mean much if you haven't contributed to the conversation in a positive way.  Avoid the trap of using LinkedIn Groups to promote your product.  Unless the group is specifically about your product, it's best to give advice but not try to sell.  If you're seen as an expert in the group, people are more likely to look to you for advice and to trust your opinion.

LinkedIn is an excellent tool for sales.  These four tips can help you ensure you're building your credibility.  Join us 6/4 when we team up with LinkedIn to bring you Connect for Success: 5 Ways to Improve Outbound Sales Performance.