Did you know only 1 in 4 Americans believes sales professionals are credible in what they say and do? Poor personal experience with a sales rep surely contributes to this dismal number. You can likely recall instances when you suspected the salesperson you were about to do business with was a fraud. Maybe the person gave conflicting answers to your questions. Or maybe they only took your calls after hours. When your Spidey-sense told you something was wrong, you probably checked out the person online. Based on what you found, you may have passed on that rep and what they were selling because of their low sales credibility.
In the age of instantly available information, you behaved like any buyer. These days, buyers don’t wait to get a call or visit from a sales professional. They research sales reps online before they reach out. If they don’t find enough information, or they stumble onto information that should have been kept private, they’ll move on.
Your LinkedIn profile makes your first impression on buyers
Our research shows that 65% of prospects check out a sales rep’s LinkedIn profile, view their social media posts or do a Google search before they meet with them for the first time. When a prospect looks at your digital footprint, what are they likely to find? You don’t want them coming across inconsistencies that will make them wonder if you are who you say you are.
Not long ago, a sales rep emailed me to pitch a product my company was interested in. Let’s call him Jake D. I briefly researched him on LinkedIn, and then another project diverted my attention. When the rep followed up and scheduled a meeting, I checked his LinkedIn profile again and noticed his name had changed. I wondered if autocorrect had been the issue. Unimpressed by his attention to detail, I dug deeper and found Jake D. wasn’t working in the job he claimed to be in. His profile also showed he’d spent 13 years running his own consulting firm. During that time, he claimed to have worked with a couple of companies I was familiar with as clients. But the results of my Google search turned up press releases showing he’d been an employee at these companies. Those online discrepancies raised too many red flags. I couldn’t tell what was true about this salesperson. I canceled the meeting we had scheduled and still have not done any business with the rep or his company.
Don’t let doubts about your professionalism enter your prospects’ minds. You can prevent that from happening by reviewing your LinkedIn profile every six months. During your review, consider the details from the perspective of your next customer, because that is who you want to impress. In other words, craft your LinkedIn profile for your next customer instead of your next boss.
Update your profile with your latest certifications and accomplishments. Prospects like to do business with go-getters who keep their skills sharp. Post any articles you’ve written that relate to your prospects’ industry to your LinkedIn page. Mark these articles with a hashtag to make them easy to find on Google and in social channels.
Social media audit from the buyer’s perspective
Your curious prospects aren’t likely to limit their online research to LinkedIn. They’ll move on to other social sites. We’ve all done things we’re not proud of. Back in the day, only a few of our closest friends knew about these gaffes. Now, every moment is memorialized on social media. Many people use social media to brag about their latest escapades. Do those images enhance the sales credibility you’re hoping to achieve?
Decide how you want prospects to see you. Remove images and posts that don’t match your goals. If one of your friends has posted a not-so-flattering image and tagged you, ask them to take it down. Make it a point to regularly conduct a social media audit on yourself, so you can remove problematic content before prospects see it.
Don’t forget that it is equally important to reflect positive content on your social sites. Has someone captured images or videos of you speaking at industry conferences that matter to your prospective buyers? Mark your calendar to review your activity on a monthly basis, and update your sites. Making this kind of content public and findable by search engines adds to your credibility.
Commit to a content-production schedule with SEO in mind
Our research shows that only 17% of sales professionals have authored posts or articles related to their clients’ line of business. Prospects are always online these days. Of the 1,000+ small business leaders we surveyed, 25% have watched a video podcast related to their industry in the last year, while 17% have listened to an audio podcast. This curiosity marks an opportunity for you to present yourself as a thought leader.
Whether you create content once or twice a week, commit to a schedule. Don’t be discouraged if few leads come your way at first. Content has a long shelf life. I authored an article not long ago for a pharmaceutical publication. A year later, I still get inquiries from prospects who read the article. If I hadn’t written that article, my digital footprint would be much smaller. The more quality content you produce, especially if it contains data and insights from industry leaders, the more credibility you’ll gain.
Buyers are hungry for information they can use to educate themselves before they reach out to a seller. They’ll search online, and if you want them to find your content, invest in the help of an SEO service to develop a strategy that will match popular search terms. At my company, we committed to changing our content strategy with the goal of having our website appear on the first page of search engine results. After several months of consistently posting content that contained the right keywords, we achieved our goal and attracted more traffic.
Prospects have many vendors to choose from. If you want them to notice you, expand your digital footprint to one that reflects the image you want to project. When prospects can find you online, your credibility increases, along with the chance that they’ll do business with you.