blog article
Social Selling
Tony J. Hughes
Tony J. Hughes
min read

Crediting LinkedIn as helping them with acquisition, research, referrals, and engagement, four in five sales professionals who use social selling are outselling their peers (source). In today's market, a profile that shows why people should invest their time, energy, and personal reputation in you is a valuable asset.

For sales management and sales leaders ignoring the power of social selling amounts to professional negligence. 

Move the Needle on Your LinkedIn Presence

LinkedIn have identified the four most important areas for sales professionals to invest their social selling time for maximum payoff. These are:

  • Establish your professional brand
  • Find the right people 
  • Engage with insights 
  • Build relationships 

These elements will build an authentic LinkedIn presence, narrative, and outreach. In this article, we’ll help you elevate each area. Before we get started:

  • Snapshot your statistics LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index (SSI) tool shows you at-a-glance how your activity on LinkedIn is currently performing in relation to the index, your industry, and your network. This measure is updated daily, so tracking changes can help you monitor the impact of your work.
  • Chat to marketing It’s a good idea to check in with your marketing team before you get started, as many can supply you with assets and guidelines. Both your profile and posting is an area where aligning with Marketing very high impact, as often they can provide guidelines, assets, and content to both save you time and increase your effectiveness, and adhering to your brand values.
  • Fit LinkedIn around selling not vice versa. Schedule your highest payoff selling activities at their optimal times first, before inserting LinkedIn into your schedule. 
  • Focus on your weakest areas first. It’s possible to spend all week on LinkedIn, so make sure you define how much time is practical for you to invest and stick to it. Target your weakest areas first for biggest impact, remembering you will always be improving as you adapt to change. 

Let’s dive in 👇

Graphic of text as follows: "Establish your professional brand Complete your profile with the customer in mind. Become a thought-leader by publishing meaningful posts."

Establish your Professional Brand 

On LinkedIn the major components of your professional brand are your profile, the content you share with your network, and how you engage with others. “Establish Your Professional Brand” looks at just the first two, reflecting metrics like the completeness of your profile, content you have produced, and how other members engage with them (source).

You have a lot of flexibility with your personal brand, so it’s important to consider what unique value do you offer, who your target audience is, and how you want to be seen. These should all catch the threat of your overarching goal of building trust and credibility with your target audience. 

Whether you choose to keep your brand simple or deeply invest, the most important thing is to always keep your target audience front of mind when you’re on LinkedIn, from completing your profile to sharing insight in a comment. 


Set up your LinkedIn profile

There are essential components every sales professional’s LinkedIn profile should have. LinkedIn have created a basic how-to guide for these essentials. Here is how to further elevate yours:

Profile Photo

Your profile photo, along with your name and headline, will follow you everywhere on LinkedIn, so they're important to get right.

On top of photo basics like not having any issues with blur, pixelation, light, colour, or contrast, and being centred on your head, make sure to: 

  • Select an image that is recent (last 5 years) where you have a warm or friendly expression. 
  • Consider using Canva to remove and replace the background if needed. 
  • Remember, the purpose of this image is to build trust and convey credibility.

If you’re having trouble picturing the ‘right’ image this meme is great for checking you aren’t mixing up your priorities.  


Your headline is the few-sentence micro-bio displayed alongside your name and profile photo. An eye-catching headline is a fast way to communicate your value and relevance to a broad scale, so don’t waste the real estate on your title and company. Try talking about your:

  • Mission meaning the purpose of your company or hero product e.g. "Changing the working week for HR leaders, one payroll system at a time."
  • Results The key change customers are currently looking for e.g. "Get your contracts signed in half the time."
  • Niche Let your buyer persona know you're talking tothem e.g. "The ghostwriter all the other SaaS executives are using for LinkedIn."

You’ll find some more examples from LinkedIn here.  

Headlines are 120 characters but are often trimmed to ~70, plus attention spans are short. Put your most important information first and keep it punchy. 

Background Photo

The background photo appears at the top of your profile, and in some other views on LinkedIn. Paired with your headline, it’s a great way for a prospect to quickly understand what you do and/or who you work for. A professional background photo is a huge visual element on your profile, polishing it to help build trust and credibility.

Pre-made options provided by marketing are perfect, but if you don't have those consider a professional image of you, your product, the team, company, or storefront. You could also creating your own photo using a Canva template. If you aren’t a designer, err on the side of simple and stick with the colors your company uses most often. 

Contact Details

Regularly check that your contact details are current and as complete as you are comfortable with. You can change your contact settings by visiting your profile and clicking the pencil icon. 

  • Having complete contact details (including city or country) builds trust and context. 
  • Ensure you provide a way for people to contact you outside of LinkedIn (such as your work email) removes barriers for your new and existing audience to get in touch.
  • There is a separate section in your profile to list the Languages you can communicate in. 

Personal Summary

The meatiest part of your profile, the personal summary is a maximum of 2000 characters (approx. 250-500 words). This is where you can deliver your 30-second pitch, but remember that this isn’t an online CV. It’s a landing page about how you (a uniquely, trustworthy, and credible potential partner) can offer them value. 

  • Keep your narrative customer-centric and outcomes-focused.
  • Write in first person (e.g. “I deliver…” rather than “Tony delivers…”).
  • Let your personality, experience, and personal values shine through. 
  • Consider including links.
  • Give them a call to action (CTA) such as “here are 3 ways you can let me help” or “You’ll love our platform– send me a message and I’ll arrange a month’s free membership so you can see for yourself.”

To get you started, LinkedIn have a suggested structure here, and have provided some examples here.

Work Experience

Work experience is the most resume-like section on LinkedIn, but can be a great opportunity to build your credibility and relevance, especially if you are new to sales. Each role allows a 2,000 character description which you can use to link it to your current value, including:

  • Case studies.
  • Transferrable skills. 
  • Your ability to deliver outcomes.
  • Unique knowledge and experience. 
  • Extra content like links, infographics, or presentations. 

When it comes to listing past sales performance (or brags), first consider how the metrics or achievements may look to prospective customers. For example: “Rising Star” award might indicate you are great with clients, where “highest average revenue per deal” might raise concerns about your priorities. Adding context like “worked closely with clients to achieve record revenue results” can help make sales results more relevant.

If you're anxious about removing sales results, remember that a tailored and well-executed LinkedIn presence is likely to impress prospective employers all on its own. 

Other Profile Sections

LinkedIn have a range of supplementary sections to deepen your profile. This is helpful to build trust and credibility, and should again be tightly centred around the value you deliver to your target audience.  

  • The Education, Licences and Certifications, Test Scores, Projects, and Courses sections is where you can share your credentials. Again, use the description sections to highlight transferrable skills if these are from an unrelated field. 
  • The Skills, Recommendations, Honours and Awards are where you can socially prove your claims. Request recommendations or skill endorsements from your network (prioritising recommendations) and remember to return the favour.   
  • The VolunteeringCauses, and Organizations sections allow you to display your personal values and character.

Should I Switch to Creator Mode?

Creator Mode is available to eligible LinkedIn profiles (both free and premium). It adds abilities like better analytics, pinning posts, and going live and makes changes like prompting users to “follow” you, rather than “connect.” Consider which mode is the best fit for your audience and goals.  

Well done! Now your profile is set up it's on to part two of building your professional brand: your content 👇

Create Content to Share with Your Network

Sharing insightful and valuable content gives prospective customers a reason to connect, and reaches new audiences. Much like other sales skills, as you get into a rhythm of posting, post performance will give you a feel for what tactics work best for you, your products, and your target audience.

Choose Content Pillars
i.e. the key topics you'll be known for.

Identifying some core content pillars to centre your posts around is a pro tip from many LinkedIn content creators. Content pillars are the broad topics you'll post about most often, guidelines that keep your posts relevant to your audience and consistent with your brand. They're also valuable writers-block-busters, reminding you of the things you want to talk about most.

Your pillars (the general suggestion is 3-5) are ‘hero’ topics that are highly relevant to your target audience .This might include trends or best practices in their role or industry, your technology, product, or industry, or related broader topics such as AI.

Your pillars should also reflect you. Having a pillar about a personal passion (like running, psychology, or reading) or demographics (like your gender, generation, or location) makes your brand more memorable and is a reliable conversation starter.

Come Up With an Idea. If you have a preformed idea for a post, great! If not, places you might draw inspiration include:

  • Events in your day to day. e.g. new objections, success with a customer, a networking event.
  • Your unique insights, approaches, or points of difference.
  • Playbook assets like your ideal customer profile, buyer personas, common objections, and best questions.
  • A resource you have consumed, such as a book, article, or podcast.
  • A scroll on social media–especially the comment section. Listen to what customers, colleagues, competitors, and thought leaders are talking about.
  • Company resources and assets like eBooks, webinars, and case studies.

Choose Your Angle i.e. how you want to talk about the idea. Some ideas include:

  • Fact/research-based information about the trend (when it started, why it matters, the causes).
  • Building a story or metaphor around it.
  • Sharing a related third-party resource such as a current news event, post, quote, podcast episode, or article.
  • Taking your audience ‘behind the scenes’ on your most effective response to the objection (e.g. if the objection is price-based, explaining the manufacturing process or payoff past customers have seen).
  • Simple resources about the objection such as a tip, diagram, quote, or list.
  • Complex resources you've or your company have created on a related topic (such as a how-to guide, eBook, template, or webinar).
  • Partnering up with another creator to discuss the objection.
  • Engaging with your audience about the trend (such a poll or invitation to react/comment).
  • Trying out a trend, such as a meme or style of post. 

Decide How to Format It i.e. how will it catch the audience's attention? On LinkedIn you can use:

  • Text and emoji
  • Links and shares
  • Images and GIFs
  • Video
  • Documents (aka carousels)
  • Polls,
  • Articles and newsletters
  • Events (video and audio, scheduled and live)

Schedule It i.e. when will you post it. Keep in mind: 

  • Advice varies about posting frequency and time, likely because each person’s audience is unique and the algorithm is constantly evolving. Take note of what works best for you.
  • Consistency is key. Creators often report that a consistent cadence is more important than the frequency with which you post. Meaning posting twice a week is likely to work better long term than posting twice daily for a few days then nothing for a few weeks. Err towards quality over quantity to make sure you’re bringing value to your audience.  
  • Don’t be afraid to recycle (repurpose) an idea. It’s a common pro tip from content creators, helping you save time, forcing you to be more creative, and providing the repetition a thought needs to sink in with your audience. An example might be posting a story about the common objection, then creating a document (carousel) of steps to overcome it.
  • Engage with your engagement. Make sure you keep an eye on your posts when they are published, leaving meaningful responses to comments wherever possible. 
  • Consider planning and scheduling content. LinkedIn allows you to schedule posts to be published later, so consider planning your content a few weeks ahead of time for minimum stress.

Stay Out of Your Own Way. Like public speaking, many find posting on social media intimidating. Here are some key things to remember:  

  • Your SSI score is holistic–content publishing is only around 12% of your total score. Don't over-invest.
  • Practice makes perfect, so it’s important to keep going. A post that isn’t perfect is still going to reach more of your audience than a post you never make. 
  • As well as reaching your audience, posting can improve your overall sales performance as it encourages you to stay ahead of trends, expand your knowledge, sharpen your messaging to lead with insight, and test what works with your audience.
  • Audiences consistently prefer to follow humans over brands and personal ‘outside the square’ content is part of that magic.
  • Your personal brand provides a solid foundation for the remaining three SSI measures, so is worth the effort.

Next up, let's find your audience 👇

Graphic of text as follows: "Find the right people Identify better prospects in less time using efficient search and research tools."

Find the Right People

For the majority of sales people LinkedIn is their best prospect researching tool (source). But with almost one billion users (77% of whom are outside the US) you still need a strategy to efficiently find you audience. In your SSI, "Find the Right People" tells you how well your current approach is working based on your search-related activity and profile views, as well as how often you are active on LinkedIn (source).  

Social selling leaders create 45% more opportunities than peers with lower SSI (source).

A paid offering designed for sales professionals, LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator is purpose built to help you find, engage, and build relationships with your target audience. If you don’t have access to Sales Navigator, LinkedIn’s search function is still powerful enough to filter out your target audience using traits including employers, job title, location, connections, and post content. 

Outside of your target market, you should also aim to find: 

  • Your existing network. Aside from keeping in touch with previous colleagues, employers, and clients, being connected on LinkedIn will keep you top of mind for referral opportunities and and provide sources of recommendations or skill endorsements.
  • Thought leaders and creators in areas such as sales, your target audience, and your industry. Connecting with them will keep you current with trends and help inspire your own content. Connect with me here.
  • Companies and organizations. Like individuals, having companies and organizations in your feed will provide insight, trends, and opportunities. Connect with Sales IQ here.
  • Suggested connections LinkedIn suggests connections for you in a number of ways including People You May Know, tagging 2nd Degree connections (someone you have a mutual connection with), and people who have viewed your profile.  

Once you’ve found your audience, the next step is to engage with them 👇

Graphic of text as follows: "Engage with insights Discover and share conversation-worthy updates to create and grow relationships."

Engage with Insights

“Engage with Insights” on your SSI reflects how you interact with other members on LinkedIn including activity (reactions, shares/reshares, and comments), responsiveness to notifications, direct messaging (including response rate), and participation in groups (source).

Reaching out to your prospects via LinkedIn has become a standard technique to cut through, engaging more broadly online can serve a double purpose. Tactics like sharing valuable insights in the comments of a popular post will get you into the feed of both your audience, and new ones.

92% of B2B Buyers will engage with sellers known as industry thought leaders.

LinkedIn, 2023 (source).

LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator provides a dedicated feed of activity from your prospects to help you engage at the right time but, again, LinkedIn free features including notification settings (change this by clicking the bell on a person’s profile) and advanced search (e.g. following hashtags) are helpful ways to keep your finger on the pulse both within and outside of your network.

Next up is the final component of your SSI: relationships 👇

Graphic of text as follows: "Build relationships Strengthen your network by finding and establishing trust with decision makers."

Building Relationships

The final piece of your SSI is “Build Relationships.” It reflects the number, quality, and type of connections your LinkedIn efforts have amassed. A healthy or improving score indicates LinkedIn is successfully bridging the digital trust gap between you and decision makers. 

Social selling leaders are 51% more likely to reach quota (source).

For this score LinkedIn uses data about your connections, including the acceptance rate of your connection requests (source). Your earlier work on effective professional brand, efficient search, and valuable engagement will boost this rate, but some other ways you can help it are: 

  • Being active and responsive on LinkedIn, using regular engagement to build the trust and nurture the relationships you have established. 
  • Strategically connecting with high value decision makers and multiple contacts at target companies.  
  • Use etiquette. For example: send a note with connection requests, don’t connect with a member and immediately direct message them a pitch, and consider waiting until you have had a back and forth engagement with a prospect before sending a connection request.

Now we’ve identified the four areas to focus on, let’s set you up for ongoing success 👇


Continue Growing

These four areas identified are all major contributors to social selling success, but by no means is it an exhaustive list. Social media trends, the algorithm, and your audience are constantly evolving, meaning those who are always learning and testing are consistent outperformers. 

Here are some resources to help you do the same: 

See you on LinkedIn 👋

About the author

Tony J. Hughes
Tony J. Hughes

Tony is a co-founder of Sales IQ, committed to elevating professional selling and sales leadership for a Better Business World.

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