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What’s In Your Salesreps’ LinkedIn Profiles?

A lot has been written about how potential new employers look at a candidate’s Facebook or MySpace page.  Walter McConnell made a terrific point about a different flavor of web presence in a comment recently on the Sales 2.0 Network Blog.  Walter is talking about customers seeing a sales rep’s bio or profile on the web:

It’s widely accepted now that there is more value in being a trusted advisor with your customers than being a salesperson who competes purely on price and feature sets. What better place to advertise your expert status than a “web presence” that reflects your expertise! Having a website/blog is an obvious one here, but having a populated profile on some of the more popular web 2.0 sites is a damn good start. Having a web presence will also make others more comfortable to collaborate with you.

Yesterday: A Reference Letter. Today: The Web.

I used to recommend to sales people that they solicit reference letters from their successful customers and selectively use those with new prospects to depict the personal value they have delivered in the past. It worked for many of them.  These days, why shouldn’t a salesperson have a presence on the web?  (OK, I know a lot of reasons, but play along with me here for a minute…) Personal capital can be an effective differentiator.  Sales leaders and other executives have biographies on corporate websites or their blogs to convey their value to the customers who would buy from their companies.  Those bios project personal capital to the viewer.  Salespeople seek differentiation and credibility at the customer’s executive level.  Why shouldn’t they project their connections, experience, uniqueness and value—their personal capital—to their customers also?

Wait a Second… Couldn’t You Use LinkedIn?

How about this?  Let’s say a salesrep were to populate their profile on LinkedIn so their prospects could learn about them before they considered buying from them.  I’m not talking about prospects finding them on LinkedIn.  Just reading their profile to “check them out.”  If this were to happen, the reps wouldn’t want their profile to mirror their resume, as almost all salesreps’ profiles do now.  (A sales performance-centric view would be of little interest to their prospective customers.  In fact, it might turn those customers away.) 

That salesrep would build a profile that was customer-value oriented instead.  They would list the companies (or profiles of companies if confidentiality were an issue) to which they had sold their products and services to in the past.  The rep’s profile would outline initiatives, projects, etc.  The reps would get recommendations from people in those accounts who would acclaim the rep’s honesty, business savvy, determination, and desire to see the customer succeed.  Once a rep had developed a LinkedIn profile like that, they would attach the “See My LinkedIn Profile” button to their email signature, inviting customers to click on it.

Of course using LinkedIn as you would a static web page would defeat the purpose.  So, what if the salesrep’s LinkedIn connections were much more skewed towards people in their customer organizations with considerably fewer sales types, friends, etc.?  That salesrep now would begin to leverage his relationships to help him sell, introducing his best customers and clients to each other.  That’s a critical capability for serious rainmakers.  

What do you think?

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2 Responses

  1. Excellent point, Dave — and I know for certain that some buyers are doing online searches on salespeople that call on them, because it’s happened to me several times. It’s time to re-think my resume-oriented LinkedIn profile and make it more customer oriented. Sales reps should use their online presence to manifest their brand, instead of just trying to get a job. I added a link to your post on my blog, where I did a comprehensive review of LinkedIn from a sales perspective: http://sellinggeek.com/selling-geek-podcast-5-linkedin-the-social-network-for-business/
    Keep up the good work!
    Tim Sullivan

  2. Thanks again, Tim, for taking the time to write a comment.

    I’m going to send a note to LinkedIn. See what they have to say about this.

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