Sales reps already know that LinkedIn is an invaluable sales tool for research and connecting with new prospects, offering easy access to more than 280 million business-focused users. Even though it can be helpful to reps, LinkedIn is not a magic bullet – you still have to employ great sales techniques to see success on LinkedIn.

If you’re not getting through to prospects – if your Inmail, emails and phone calls are being ignored – what is going wrong? It may be that you’re giving off red flags with your LinkedIn behavior, your profile, or your approach. Here are the biggest mistakes many sales reps make when using LinkedIn, and how to avoid them.

1. Your Profile is a Resume

Most people use LinkedIn to network or find a new job, but when you’re using it for sales purposes, you need to think differently. The number one recommendation for improving your use of LinkedIn for sales is to create a profile that is customer-centric. Instead of simply listing your resume of past jobs and your skills, your profile should target your ideal customer and start the sales process when a prospect checks out your profile.

Your profile summary is the perfect place to start becoming customer-centric. This is your elevator pitch to prospects that come across your profile. It should be a clear, concise explanation of what you and your company can offer to customers, what problems you can solve, and more. The idea of customer-centricity should begin with your headline and summary and continue throughout your LinkedIn profile, including endorsements, article shares and recommendations. Always keep your ideal customer in mind and think, “Would this appeal to a prospect?”

2. Using the Wrong Photo

A professional photo on LinkedIn is a must, since this photo is your first impression to a new prospect. You are acting as the face of your company on LinkedIn, so the photo should establish your credibility as soon as someone looks at your profile. This means you should definitely not use that blurry photo where you’re wearing a t-shirt – this isn’t Facebook or Twitter. Invest in a professional-looking headshot where you’re wearing business-appropriate attire and can clearly see your face.

If you’re not sure if your photo is projecting the right image, there’s a great free tool to analyze your professional photos: PhotoFeeler. Just upload your LinkedIn photo and other professionals will rate how competent, likeable and influential you seem based on the image. It’s a great, data-driven way to test out the best photo for your profile and get feedback from other professionals so you can put your best foot forward online.

3. Job Title as a Headline

LinkedIn encourages you to put your current job title as your headline, but this is exactly what you shouldn’t do as a sales rep. The headline is an opportunity to catch the eye of prospects, and entice them to learn more. Instead of a headline that says “Outbound Sales Rep at MyCompany,” you need to think back again to your customers. Who do you want to reach on LinkedIn? If your company sells data analytics software, your headline should instead be something like “Data Analytics Expert, helping companies get the most from their data investments.”

This descriptive headlines conveys so much more value to prospective customers, and still accurately describes who you are as a sales rep. When you ask someone to connect, or when they come across your profile on LinkedIn, the headline is the only piece of information they see beyond your name and company. You have to engage prospects with an interesting headline, just like you need a good headline for a blog post or news article. Bad headlines don’t get clicks.

4. Using Basic Search

If you are still using basic search to find new prospects on LinkedIn, you’re missing out on a lot of functionality. Advanced people search allows you to zero in on the exact type of prospects you’re looking for. You can filter people by location, industry, business size, job title and more. Thanks to LinkedIn, you can also find prospects that are within your 2nd or 3rd degree circles, which allows you to more easily connect with people within your common network. Researching prospects on LinkedIn makes it much less threatening to approach new prospects cold with a phone call.

It’s also possible for you to let prospects come to you using inbound tactics, instead of seeking them out. LinkedIn is very secretive about how their internal search engine ranks profiles; however it is possible to use some SEO practices within your profile. If you sell Software-as-a-Service, for example, make sure to include those words multiple times across your profile along with other terms important to your business. This way, you can turn up in searches for prospects looking for businesses like yours on LinkedIn, and, possibly, become a business opportunity.

5. Inactivity

Even if you are using LinkedIn daily to research sales leads, you need to maintain an active profile on LinkedIn in other ways. Your profile should be at All-Star status, with every field filled out and lots of interaction with others. This means you should be getting and giving recommendations and endorsements, sharing interesting articles, liking other people’s posts in your network, joining relevant groups, and connecting with new business contacts. The more active you are on LinkedIn, the better.

This may seem like a lot of extra work to do in addition to selling, but every interaction on LinkedIn helps build trust and create a strong online persona. Think about what prospects are interested in and join relevant groups, share related content and try to become visible in that space. Commenting on interesting business posts across groups will get your name out there to people who you haven’t connected with yet. You can build your own personal brand as an expert, and it could lead to the discovery of new prospects.


If you recognize any of these bad LinkedIn behaviors, you should go to your profile and start making some changes. Make sure to focus on the customer, use a professional photo, personalize your headline, and stay active on LinkedIn. With an improved LinkedIn profile and more credibility, you’ll see better sales results.

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