Our activities online leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs that provide details and insights about us. This free, readily available data can be useful to salespeople. One major repository of digital breadcrumbs is LinkedIn where you can find a tremendous amount of information about a person in their profile if you know where to look and for what.
Job Title and Headline
Let's start at the top with their title and headline. What is their job title? Do they have any noteworthy degrees or designations that they include? Have they added something to their headline that might tell you a little about them, what they do, and for whom (e.g. Customer Success Manager at LinkedIn: Helping sales teams grow their business through Social Selling)?
What do they say about themselves in their summary? Do they speak directly to you the reader or do they talk about themselves in the third person? The summary is the section where people get to tell their story, so what kind of story to they tell about themselves and what can you learn from it? Are their insights you can leverage to build rapport and trust, eventually, maybe even a connection? What are their passions? Where to they focus their time and energy? What makes them proud?
Furthermore, is their summary almost empty? If so, they might not be very active on LinkedIn which means you might be challenged to reach them through the platform. Hopefully, they have written something of substance that provides a preliminary picture of them from a professional point of view.
When you look at their experience section, you will want to focus on what they talk about regarding the roles that they have held and their associated responsibilities. Look at what they emphasize in their descriptions. Is there anything that they consistently talk about and what can you learn from it? Are they change agents? What do they do time and again?
Also, what kind of career path have they had? Consistent growth regarding titles and responsibilities? Have they stayed in the same industry sector? Have they followed a logical career path? Can you determine what drives them and what success means to them? Based on what you learn, where and how might you be able to help them succeed in their current role?
Finally, one of your key objectives is to make a connection with them. By leveraging the information in the experience section, you will be able to find out which mutual connections you share. There might not be mutual connections with ties to them at their current company so be sure to pay attention to mutual connections with ties to them and their previous roles. Past colleagues could prove very helpful to your objectives.
Volunteer Experiences & Causes
Not everyone discloses the organizations or causes they are involved with but it is worth paying attention to this area just in case you learn insightful things about them and/or discover similar interests/passions or shared connections in these areas rather than related to their work.
Honours & Awards
What people have won or the recognitions they have received can shed light on what they focus on, where they excel, or what drives them. Again, another often overlooked section that can provide valuable insights.
What can you learn from the skills for which they've been endorsed the most by their connections? It is the rare occasion where LinkedIn allows others to comment on the strengths they see in others and here you can see the most dominants ones.
Connecting as alumni is one of the most neglected opportunities on LinkedIn so make this section one of your most viewed. Furthermore, even if you do not share the same schools in your past, perhaps you took similar programs or have mutual connections based on where they or you went to school. Always look for the commonalities or points of intersection.
The kinds of projects they list or choose to highlight will provide you with a sense of what they deem important and/or where they derive pride so be sure to take note.
While this is coming late in this post, feel free to jump right to this section first if you want to know the connections you share right away. Regardless of when you look at this section, this is what you want the most. You are looking for someone who can connect you with them, make the introduction, and help turn a cold call into a warm referral.
You can learn a lot about someone from the groups they have joined and how they participate in those groups, if at all. Whether you share mutual connections or not, you might find value in joining one or more of the same groups to "socially surround" them, gather intel about them, and potentially reach out to them when the time is right. You can also convey your expertise or thought leadership within the groups based on how you engage which could lead to your prospects reaching out to you rather than vice versa.
Check out the LinkedIn Influencers and Pulse channels they are following so you can see where their interests lay and where they focus their attention. This can prove to be a helpful guide for using helpful, informative content with which to engage them.
People Also Viewed/People Similar to X
LinkedIn shares the profiles of others who people viewed or are similar to the profile you are examining. Take a moment to scan the list of profiles to see if there are any potential prospects or connections that you would have missed were it not for LinkedIn presenting them to you.
Whether on your desktop, smartphone, or tablet, you can review someone's profile in just a few minutes. You might do this when you are doing your regular prospecting before you are meeting with them, or both.
No matter when or why you are looking at their profile. Focus on finding the things and/or connections you have in common. Look for insights that will make making a connection, building rapport, and establishing a relationship of trust easier. It is all free, readily available information. You just have to take the time to look for it.
So many salespeople get lazy, take shortcuts, and don't bother learning as much as they can about their prospects, their companies, and their industry. A few minutes of research could identify where you might help them and differentiate you from your competition. One insight learned from your efforts should be enough to convince you to make this a habit for your prospecting and before every call or meeting you have.
If you have already made profiling a habit, then I would love to hear more about your approach. What is working for you? Do you do anything differently than was suggested above and, if so, what results do you see? Let me know. Good luck and good selling!
About the Author:
Andrew Jenkins is Founder and Principal of Volterra, a professional services firm that has provided social media strategy, outsourced social media management, content development and planning, and social selling training to numerous mid to large enterprises. Andrew has spent the last twenty years working in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) spanning social media, wireless, and e‐business throughout North America and Europe. He has been identified as a social selling expert and has been featured in LinkedIn marketing campaigns, most recently as one of ten Canadian success stories. He speaks regularly at conferences and events about social media and social selling. He is a member of the Board of the Direct Marketing Association of Canada. He holds a BA in Economics from Laurentian University, a BFA in Film Production from York University, and an MBA from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. He also taught entrepreneurship at OCAD University and currently teaches Digital Strategy at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author. CPSA does not endorse any of the companies, products and services mentioned within this article.