Social networking strategist/coach Lori Ruff says that social media is here and it’s not going away. In our Q&A, the “LinkedIn Diva” speaks of widespread misconceptions about social media and how salespeople can save time and generate more qualified leads if they move beyond the myths and dive in.
Ruff works for Integrated Alliances, a company that provides social media training. She indicates that the first-person narrative via social media in this new age of business is the best way to create an attractive online profile and generate more search results, and deals.
Q: Other than networking, what advantages do salespeople gain by using social media sites such as LinkedIn?
A: In addition to the networking, people can see who you are, what you do, and what you specialize in. And you can also see who they are and what they’re passionate about. It really helps you make connections. For example, if you’re trying to sell something that a lot of people need and they’re out there looking for it, they’re going to find you if it’s well represented on LinkedIn. For sales calls it’s great. Instead of spending a lot of time saying “Where did you go to school, and what did you do?” and getting all that kind of conversation going back and forth, now you’re looking at a really good profile that talks about their experiences and interests. On LinkedIn they put those clues right there for you. Now you can do from the phone what you used to have to do in person.
Q: What are some pointers, the dos and don’ts, for creating a good profile?
A: Number one, have your headline specialized or customized so that it attracts people that view your profile. You’re going to show up in search results that the computer says are a match. People are going to look at your profile based on, does this just say “sales rep,” or does it say “insurance consultant specializing in insurance solutions risk management?” So is it something descriptive that gives people a reason to click through? That’s my top pick. My second one is to make your profile conversational. Rather than writing it in the third person and making it look like a resume, your profile needs to speak to people who are looking at it as if you’re introducing yourself to them. “This is who I am. This is what I do. This is how I can help you, and by the way, this how you can help me as well.”
Q: What advice can you offer to new business owners?
A: The really cool thing about an online space is it lets you build your credibility online and portray your reputation. “This is what I want to be known for and how I want to be recognized and what I’m good at.” You’re able to write your profile with all of your experiences and education, and even though they’re about the past, it’s really pointing to the current and the future. “This is what gave me the experience that I needed to start my business and why I’m going to be brilliant at this and why you’re going to want to do business with me.”
Q: What are the misconceptions about social media?
A: I don’t think that even the people who work in the industry, who work at the social networking sites, fully understand the best practices and making the use of their sites because they’re not in the trenches, they’re in the back end looking out as opposed to using the tool. A lot of people get in and they look at it and say, “Well, here’s a summary that looks like my resume,” except it’s so much more powerful than a resume. You don’t get 2,000 characters on your resume. Being able to put interests on your profile and have them be a hot link so you can find other people just like you helps you come up in search results more often.
Q: Do you get a lot of feedback from salespeople?
A: We train sales folks on LinkedIn and we get some real metrics. We work with small businesses that are out there selling. We had one gentleman who was viewed three times in the last 90 days and had not shown up in search results at all. We rebuilt his profile and really made it sparkling and he called me the next day and said, “I looked at my profile views and showed up 25 times in search results in the last day and my profile was used seven times.” People were not just looking at his profile but clicking through to his page and looking to find out more. We’re in sales, and even though we train and speak we have to be out there selling. When the phone rings people will say, “I saw your LinkedIn profile, are you available to speak on these days?” The phone is ringing and some of it is because we’re making outbound calls, but most of our speaking engagements are inbound calls.
Q: When people you don’t know view your profile, do you reach out to them?
A: I have. People say, “How do I contact people on LinkedIn?” Well, you go out and tell them, “I saw you on LinkedIn.” That drops barriers right there.
Q: Any pointers regarding follow-ups and prospecting on LinkedIn?
A: There’s a new Profile Organizer out there for paid subscribers [$24.95 per month] that allows you to save profiles. You’ll be able to sort much more quickly and keep notes, and it will help you organize your connections.
With more traditional business being conducted online, salespeople are turning to social media sites like LinkedIn to better target their market and expand their network. Today’s salesperson not only has a tool to highlight personal interests and professional accomplishments but also an excellent all-in-one source of people he’s doing business with and with their networks as well.