How to Optimize your LinkedIn Profile for Sales [2019 Edition]

how to optimize linkedin profile for sales
Social Selling

If your LinkedIn profile talks about how you’ve made president’s club, your goal attainment, or the sizes of deals you closed, you’re doing it wrong.

You should be proud of those achievements, but as a salesperson you should optimize your LinkedIn profile for sales, not for your ego.

By paying careful attention to each element of your profile, you set yourself up for successful social selling.

Here is how all salespeople should optimize their LinkedIn profile:

  1. Choose a profile photo that represents you authentically
  2. Use a custom cover photo
  3. Learn from the best: LinkedIn headlines examples for sales
  4. Write a summary that attracts the right connections
  5. Fill your experience section with positivity
  6. Show how interesting you are with education and volunteer experience
  7. List your most important skills and get endorsements
  8. Get recommendations from trusted professionals
  9. Highlight your accomplishments

LinkedIn Profile Photos for Salespeople

Who are you? What is your personal brand? Are you a buttoned-up, traditional professional or are you more of a pretty chill dude?

However you describe yourself, you need a profile picture that represents you both as a person and as a personal brand. To make that work, there are some things you should do, and some you definitely shouldn’t.

LinkedIn Profile Picture Do’s and Dont’s:

  1. DON’T include multiple people: People want to know who you are. If that’s hard to figure out, they’re less likely to put in the effort to make a connection.
  1. DO be authentic: If you’re a very serious person, go ahead and take a serious photo. If you’re a little more relaxed, it’s probably okay to go with a cheerful candid or a reasonably creative photo that conveys your unique flair. That said…
  1. DON’T think of your LinkedIn profile image like an Instagram selfie: LinkedIn remains a professional setting. This may not be the right place for your alluring pouty face.
  1. DON’T hold alcohol: Unless you’re in alcohol sales of some kind, it’s generally not a great idea to show off your enthusiasm for liquor on LinkedIn. In fact, it might be a good idea to skip food or beverages in your profile picture in general.

If you can’t seem to find a photo of yourself that makes the cut, think about booking a professional shoot or asking a friend to take some photos when you hang out next. Just remember what you’re taking the photos for, and make sure you communicate that clearly.

Create a Custom Cover Photo

After your profile picture, the cover photo is the first thing people see on your LinkedIn profile. Most of the time, people leave their cover photo on the default or are some random photo of pencils or a forest.

Look at all this wasted space:

Example of a LinkedIn profile with the default cover photo

That’s no good! This is the most valuable real estate on your LinkedIn profile to constantly keep your prospects and peers updated on your company.

But look at this beauty:

An example of a LinkedIn profile with a custom cover photo

(Check out any of the Lessonly team member’s LinkedIn profiles. They have a variety of custom header images their team can choose from that allow employees to express themselves while representing their brand.)

If you don’t already have a cover photo that your marketing team designed, here are some tips on designing your cover photo:

  1. Customize it for LinkedIn: My mother always said if you’re going to do something, do it right. So, when you go to create your LinkedIn cover photo, please understand the nuances like the circular photo in the bottom-left corner, the sizing of the image, and how it looks both on mobile and desktop.

There are some helpful (and free) templates in Canva that help with this.

  1. Keep it Relevant and Up-to-Date: Did your company just publish an epic white paper or ebook? Ask the marketing team to create custom social covers that bring awareness to it while having a clear call to action.
  1. Be Clear and Concise: You don’t want a million words or supersaturated graphics on your cover photo. Figure out how you can provide just enough value to keep your prospect interested in your company.

LinkedIn Headline Examples and Advice

A good LinkedIn headline should quickly capture other users’ interest with relevant information. Consider the following:

  1. Use your company one-liner: Chances are, your marketing team put a lot of effort into developing that one-liner you never use. Think about using it as your headline. That way, you and your prospects can get used to this phrasing for your product offering before they even enter the sales funnel.

Here’s a good example from Max Altschuler, VP of Marketing at Outreach.

An example of a good LinkedIn Headline

  1. Exclude your job title: While your prospects may buy from you, they aren’t necessarily coming to your LinkedIn because they care about you specifically. They want to know what you can do for them. So instead of your title, try including your passions, skills, or even a product description in your headline. And never use the words “guru”, “ninja”, or “rockstar”.

I like this example headline from Mark Aquino at New Relic:

Straightforward LinkedIn headline example

  1. Create a story: If you feel in your heart of hearts that it’s important to tell the world what you do, craft it into a story that demonstrates a kind of case study. For example, an account executive might say, “I build relationships with individuals by understanding their needs and connecting them to the right products.”

Focus the story on the outcomes you give your prospects, not on your individual function.

For example, look at Joe Apfelbaum’s headline:

A LinkedIn headline that tells a story

  1. Don’t Brag: We all know you’re the best salesperson, but your prospect doesn’t care. Don’t brag about being a “quota crusher” or any other super sales-jargon, all-about-me talk. You can highlight an accomplishment (especially if it’s outside of work), but don’t go overboard.

Now that you’ve crafted a compelling headline, let’s move on to your LinkedIn bio.

LinkedIn Summary Examples + Tips for Salespeople

The summary is one of the central parts of your LinkedIn profile, and one of the most important. It can teach people a lot about you, and your prospects can learn about what your company can do for them.

It’s super important to get this part right. Here’s how.

  1. Write the way you talk: Sales is all about building genuine connections. If your LinkedIn summary sounds like it was written by a robot, that’s the impression your prospects will get.

Don’t be afraid to be true to yourself, or to add a personal flair to your bio (I like to throw a “y’all” in every so often). Being down-to-earth and real with others will go a long way toward making the right connections.

Check out David Gerhardt’s LinkedIn Profile Summary if you want to see authenticity in action:

An Example of a LinkedIn Summary written in plain English

  1. Start with your prospect’s problem: Can I repeat this enough? This is all your prospect cares about. Demonstrate that you know what that problem is by focusing on how you can help them deal with the issues that impact them most.

Here’s a solid example from Viveka (Vivica) von Rosen:

A LinkedIn Summary example for salespeople

Emojis are okay, if that’s your personal brand.

An example of a linkedin profile summary that lists business challenges

Or, you can use your summary to show you understand your buyer’s biggest pain points.

  1. Share a testimonial: Has one of your accounts contributed a testimonial, or can you for one? If so, using this in your summary can be powerful.

This example LinkedIn Summary from Heather Ann Havenwood is great:

A LinkedIn summary that shares customer testimonials

  1. Share facts and figures: If you can incorporate real sales statistics that demonstrate how you helped customers and maybe even add a case study or two, that will show prospects that you’re all about adding measurable value.

Richard Harris has this down in his profile summary:

A LinkedIn Profile summary that lists facts and figures

  1. Add keywords: Some people include keywords based on the top skills listed at the bottom of their LinkedIn summary. I also suggest adding keywords that your prospects are likely to search, so your profile appears in LinkedIn search results. Check the tags on your company blog if you need a quick way to figure this out.
  1. Don’t be afraid to brag about your company (not yourself): If you haven’t done that, the end of your summary is the perfect place to talk about how much you love your company, and your team and the results they achieve for customers.
  1. Include your contact information: Make sure you to add at least your email address and company website to the contact info section in your intro. You need to be easy to reach!

Fill Your Experience Section with Positivity

It’s tempting to fill out your experience section like a resume, or a job description. Before you do, though, remember that your buyer doesn’t care about your quota attainment – only their own problems.

So how should you approach this section? This can be easier than you think. Just do the following:

  1. Get everyone on the same page: It’s important to align your sales and marketing teams around what your company description should be. Like your one-liner, this will help to build a consistent brand in the minds of your prospects, regardless of who they speak to at your organization.
  1. Do a bit of humble bragging: Have you helped a lot of people in your position? Have your clients achieved impressive goals because of your products? Shout it out, and show your gratitude for being given the opportunity to help so many people.
  1. Include all your positions: If your role changed while you were at any one employer, list all those positions. If you had several title changes, but your responsibilities remained the same, just focus on the different things you achieved in each role.
  1. Keep it short: Unlike this article, your experience descriptions should be pretty short for each position. Aim for less than 75 words. Bullet points can help keep things concise and readable, too.
  1. Add a punchy call to action: At the end of the day, you always want your prospects to take action. Add a vibrant CTA on your description of your current role that leads to prospects to a relevant page on your website, like a case study, product page, or pricing page.

Here’s a great example of a simple CTA:

How salespeople can include a CTA in their LinkedIn profile's experience section

Show How Interesting You Are With Education and Volunteer Experience

You exist outside of work! Use this section to provide high-level information that points to the human behind the screen.

Get your degree in something weird? A great conversation starter.

Join a board of directors for a non-profit? You can flex a little here.

There are a few key things to avoid, though:

  • DON’T include your highschool, even if you went to a fancy private academy your parents paid too much for
  • DON’T include fraternity or sorority volunteer experience. Instead, go volunteer somewhere new, then update your LinkedIn profile.
  • DON’T include the year in which you graduated from college. Sometimes age can be an unconscious bias in how people communicate with and respect you.

List Your Most Important Skills and Get Endorsements

While it’s nice to be appreciated by your coworkers, LinkedIn endorsements shouldn’t be given only by your peers. You also need endorsements from credible people in your field and from the customers you’ve helped. This shows that you know how to add value and that you’re good at building connections.

Which skills should you choose for this section? I recommend keeping it mostly simple, focusing mainly on the tactics you rely on to help your prospects, which they’re most likely searching for anyway.

Get Recommendations from Trusted Professionals

Many people think that recommendations only matter for your future career opportunities, but they also act as testimonials.

If you can write a genuine recommendation about your experience of working with someone, do it. Chances are, they’ll return the favor, adding value for both of you. This goes for prospects-turned-customers, too!

If they don’t respond immediately, don’t panic. Consider nudging them with a few endorsements, but be ready to move on to a new LinkedIn connection with a great recommendation if it doesn’t work out.

Highlight Your Accomplishments: Honors & Awards, Projects, Publications, Language

This section can either make you look like the rockstar you are… or it can make you look like a total jerk. There’s an art to talking about your accomplishments, and when you’re in sales this becomes crucial.

Here are some tips:

  1. List only External Honors & Awards: No president’s club! Instead, focus this section on external awards you received like being a part of Sales Hacker’s Annual Top 50 Awards.
  1. Publications: If you’re a big guest-poster or have been quoted in a wide variety of sales content, this is the place to showcase it.
  1. Languages: If you don’t really speak that language, don’t include it. Two years of French from high school doesn’t count.
  1. Projects: Most people leave this section blank. But if you did some great sales project or helped a customer build a custom solution (and have their permission to share) highlight it here.

Now get to selling!

Optimizing your profile is only the first step to successful social selling on LinkedIn, but it’s an important one. Now you’ve got to create social content that gets attention, connect with the right people, and start real-world sales conversations.

Good luck!