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#44: LinkedIn Selling – Honing your message and profile for sales success

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In this podcast John Bellamy shares his 5 top tips to optimise your LinkedIn Profile for successful selling.

John has been been a direct response marketer since 1999, helping thousands of small business owners and corporates with their B2B lead generation – particularly via LinkedIn.

In John’s entertaining and provocative style he’ll challenge your sales mindset and what you’re really using LinkedIn for.

He’ll provide insights into how to hone your sales messaging to increase your opportunities to have more sales conversations. ‘It’s about connecting with the right people in order to steer a conversation off platform so we can get to know each other better.’


Stephanie: Welcome to TEC Live. Stephanie Christopher here, CEO of The Executive Connection. We connect leaders with a trusted network of people who help them succeed.

Leah: Steph, I’m not very good at LinkedIn. I only joined it this year and I don’t really know what I’m doing, do you?

Stephanie: I have a lot of contacts and I have people who have helped me. So you’re going to learn something today, Leah, and from our guest, who is in fact, is one of my people, John Bellamy. John Bellamy is an expert on helping small, mid-sized businesses, on their marketing, on their sales effectiveness. He’s an entrepreneur, he’s an investor in a number of different kinds of businesses as well. He happens to be amongst other things, an expert on LinkedIn. John Bellamy, welcome to TEC Live.

John: Thanks for having me. I’m excited about this and I’m horrified as well for that introduction that I’ve just got on LinkedIn, this last year.

Stephanie: This last year. Do you know, it’s amazing the people was one of the big things in recruitment now, the first thing you do is go to LinkedIn to check them out. If there’s no photo for a starter, it’s kind of, it’s quite a putting.

John: Yeah, it’s crazy. And like so many people have got no idea, a the platform potentially exists or like we’re just talking about, don’t really know what to do, and you know, that’s really good for me.

Stephanie: Yeah, well, I’m glad. It’s good for you. Why don’t we start with you because the first time we met you were, was it Arizona? No. You were somewhere where they were cactus.

John: Yes, it was Arizona, I speak over there quite a lot, except for the last 12 months. But yeah, I’m usually over there three to four times a year.

Stephanie: It was really cool. And you were sitting, looking out to this garden with cacti. It was all very cool.

John: Yeah.

Stephanie: And I was asking you about your background, because we were going to be talking about digital marketing and then I went, you’ve got a sales background. This is doubly interesting. How’d you start selling John?

John: I left school and I got my OP in Queensland back when it was called OP. And I went, oh, apparently I’m stupid. And both parents are teachers. So that went down really well. And that got thrown out and I started knocking on doors, selling Optus TV, and modern roof restorations and all of those things. So it was literally okay, well I ain’t going to uni, knock, knock, knock let’s go sell some stuff. So, that’s how I got started. And I was out knocking on doors one day and the state manager of a company called Salmat. Who’s just no longer around now, but yeah, they just sold out and McKenna, she was the state manager back then. She called me up, next day and I thought she was going to cancel her order. And I was like, damn it, there goes commission checks.

But no, she was like, I want to offer you a job. You’re going to be working probably more hours than you are now. You’re going to be earning a lot less, but you’re going to get a career. And by that time I was getting sick of knocking on doors and I went, okay, well let’s have a chat. And yeah, I was working with Salmat and in the letterbox delivery space and heading up agency area. And then that sort of transitioned into recruitment. And then I started doing my own thing, but what was really interesting and tying it back to LinkedIn was probably about three or four years in. So we’re going back 13 odd years ago, LinkedIn just started like probably everyone gets, Hey, John such and such wants to connect with you, started hitting my inbox. And I was like, what is this thing? And I went, hold on, I’ve got these Rolodexes of business cards. Maybe I could digitise my network and that’s how I got started.

Stephanie: And so that’s really what was you thinking how can I solve my own problem of all those cards?

John: Well, yeah. I mean, back in the agency world, like it was literally as soon as, Suncorp-Metway ended a contract with one agency, they would enter into another contract with another agency. So the staff at the agency would a lot of the time leave that agency with the contract and then some of them will pop up over here, over here, over here. So I was just managing that professional network and those peer networks, which was great. And then I had that longer term vision of, do I really want to be an employee or do I want to go and do my own thing? And I went, okay, well let’s build contacts. So, that’s how I got started. Like most people, probably not like most people back, but then I was sitting at home drinking a couple of beers, a couple of bottles of wine and going through the Rolodex and going send connection requests, next card, send connection request and a couple of thousand connection requests over two weekends and yeah, we’re good.

Stephanie: Now, good. So a couple of things, there’s some, one of the general views that people used to have that I think a lot of people still hold is that you should only connect with people you know.

John: Yeah, it’s funny, because like just when you go to a conference, you never shake hands or say hi to anybody that you don’t know, right?

Stephanie: Yeah, right.

John: Yeah, like it’s this extremely limiting belief that most people have out there. And that’s what I like in it. So I sit there and go, well, hold on. If you go to a networking function, if you go to a business breakfast, a conference, you’re there to meet people-

Stephanie: A party.

John: A party, Imagine going on a first date and never saying hi to the other person, how does that work? You’ve got to reach out and connect with people. I think where people really struggle with that is because a lot of the time I’ve actually got to go out of my way and do something. And most people, including myself are lazy.

So we want the quickest, shortest possible route. So if I’ve actually got to go out of my way to do that well, oh my God, that’s so tiring. And then the other aspect of it is the experience that so many people have is that they experience that somebody random is just sending them a connection request or they’re just trying to cold call me, but it’s a digital cold call. And a lot of that happens because they just hit the blue connect button. They’re not actually taking the time to personalise the connection to the individual or around the target demographic that they’re working at.

Stephanie: So, I’ve learned that from you, that when you said they have to take action, well, it’s easy just to press connect, that’s kind of a bit mesmerising. You would always say you have to do more than that. It needs to be a personalised message, doesn’t it?

John: Yeah, for me, it’s all about meaningful conversations, right. That’s the big thing like marketing for me is having a conversation with your target market, just like your existing clients. How do you have that conversation? How do you uncover what the problems are, what the challenges are and then, how can we help them to buy a solution as opposed to shoving products and services down their throat. So like when it comes to LinkedIn, I’m a massive advocate of sales navigator on the platform, there. I wish LinkedIn had an affiliate arrangement. Because-

Stephanie: Because you’d be their guide.

John: I’d be driving Ferrari Off My affiliate arms, but they don’t, but that’s cool. It’s still a great platform. So leveraging sales navigator to get really clear on the industries, the job titles, the head count, if that’s important, keywords, groups that you’re looking at, all of those little things to make it easier and to make it more meaningful on the connection. But then, it’s one thing to connect with somebody, but then it’s another thing to make sure that your profile is actually structured and written in a way so that when you do send that connection request or someone looks at your profile, like you’d spoken about recruiting before, when someone looks at your profile, it’s actually professional. It speaks about more and, a lot of people go to talk about you. Yes, it does. But more importantly, how you’re going to help solve the problems and challenges that your clients, if using it from a business perspective are facing.

Stephanie: Yeah, that’s good. Okay. And we will get to the profile because you’re the master of that.

John: We’ve written a couple.

Stephanie: Including mine.

John: Yeah.

Stephanie: So I had a connection request the other day and I realised I’d fallen into the trap of someone who’s doing exactly what you say.

John: Yep.

Stephanie: So this request said, I can see, we have a number of people in common. There was something in the wording, would you do me the honor of linking in with me, or something not quite that formal, and I thought, there’s a sales pitch coming out of that. How can you stop your audience? Kind of knowing exactly what you’re up to. How can you look authentic?

John: Yeah, I think the key thing that you said there was authentic and at the end of the day, like knocking on doors, picking up the phone, it’s a numbers game. I think the challenge when connecting with people versus just doing a paid ad campaign with ad spend is that you see the results a lot quicker. Because in the paid ad campaign, you really don’t know who’s getting the connection request, right. So with that, you want to be conversational. I like being direct as well. Like don’t be as people from there.

So like we, I literally just wrote one for one of our US clients this morning over breakfast and it was, they work in the employee benefit space and the connection requests about it’s probably not going to be word for word, because I won’t remember it, but it was like, hi, first name, client’s first name here from company. I’m looking to connect with insert the industry professionals like yourself. I’d love to connect and have a chat with you around employee benefits and the systems that we’re utilising now to help simplify the solution. Are you open to connecting? Like it’s clear, it’s like straight up on, it’s not like, oh, hi.

Stephanie: Yeah.

John: Yeah. And then, oh, by the way, here’s a big sales pitch.

Stephanie: Got you, so you’d put that in the first message. It wouldn’t be that thing of where you connect first?

John: It depends on the strategy that they’re going with, we’ve found that the more like the way I look at it, and this comes back to our sales perspective is I want yes’s or no’s maybes kill a sales conversation, yes.

Stephanie: Hell yes, hell no-

John: Yeah, correct. So, if we send a hundred connection requests, if we get 30 or more that accept it, fantastic. That’s great. But, what you should be able to get 80 or 90. Well, but what if half of them are just pointless.

Stephanie: Yeah, well let’s say not interested.

John: Yeah, not interested. Thank you. From that perspective. So we’ve found that being depending on the environment and like for example, that client’s perspective, it’s quite a competitive space and they’re targeting HR managers. I would rather be really direct with them because we know that these people, that they time poor, they’re stressed out, they’re frustrated. Don’t give me another sales pitch. So if we can remove that tension of, here we go, they’re trying to pitch me to, Hey yeah, we actually want to have a conversation because we do a bloody good job, like let’s have that conversation around that. So it depends on the industry and what they’re looking to do.

Stephanie: Yeah, that’s good. And I think what you were saying before, over breakfast today, for you, the wording’s critical.

John: Yeah.

Stephanie: And that goes back to Tony Hughes, who we had on this podcast talking about what’s the hook in your message. Instead of this situation with this person, I kind of, at the time thought I must clock their names. So when they come back up to me, I can, de-linking them or whatever ii possible.

John: Yeah. Like it’s one of those things as well. Like I think and this is me being critical because in that space, but I hear it all the time. Oh John, I hate it when people, they just try and spam out a connection request and they just want to sell me something and this is business owners and I’m like, but isn’t the problem you want to do the same thing.

Stephanie: Yeah.

John: Yeah, you’re trying to sell stuff as well, right? So don’t get cranky at them because they had the backbone actually do something. Now, is it the right, way and how they’ve done it? Is it the right messaging, the right tactics and all of that? Well, I mean, we can probably talk about that and tweak those things, but they’re giving it a go. And like personally, I’ve got more respect for the person that, yeah. You know what, we might’ve stuffed up the messaging, but at least we had a crack and we put it out there. Perfect example is I’m going to pick on an industry-

Stephanie: I love this, I love the way you’re going.

John: Like the Indian SEO companies, right. And I’m picking on them because I get inundated by them every other day. There’s a connection request going John we’re such and such from, Mumbai, SEO company, we guarantee first page, so usual spiel that comes through.

Stephanie: So an SEO company is a company that can help your rankings on Google, based on what you have on your website.

John: Correct, yeah. So, they’ve messaged out and they’re like, guaranteed first page that’s all, love to connect. And you’re like, it’s the exact same format as everyone else that sends it. And you go, have you even like, I don’t know, have you even looked at my website, have there’s all of these questions that come through, sort of like what you were explaining before as all of these questions that come through and you know, you’re going to get pitched, which is fine. I’m fine. We’re getting pitched on stuff, but it’s like, come on guys. Maybe there’s a better way potentially to do this. And I sit there and I go at the same time I go, you know what? That message must be working to some degree-

Stephanie: Although wouldn’t keep using it.

John: They wouldn’t keep using it. So they’re just knocking on more doors-

Stephanie: It’s a numbers game.

John: They’re just sending more connections requests to get it through. So, it’s a numbers game, but if we can increase the acceptance rate of those connections, we’re going to have a more viable opportunity to have a sales conversation down the track. So if we can go from, I don’t know, 10% acceptance, right from spamming out rubbish to 30-40% acceptance rate, we’re now, if we look at the follow-up aspect, which is where the sales conversations will happen, if we’re sending a hundred connections, we can go, we can only have 10 people follow up, or we can have 30 to 40 to follow up. What would you rather?

Stephanie: That’s good. So that’s the reason for honing the message, like that I’m taking right back now.

John: Yeah.

Stephanie: Well, first of all, you’re talking about, yes, I go to network events and don’t say hello to anyone, so, that whole pushing back on, I haven’t tried. Don’t talk to me. I’m only going to connect with people. I know, which is weird. Then the other one is, and you’ve kind of challenged my own thinking. I don’t want to be sold to, it’s ridiculous, I’m a salesperson. So what do I think we’re doing here, we’re not just being friends, I’ve got plenty of friends.

John: I don’t need another friend.

Stephanie: No, so what about this hypothesis that if you’re challenged with what’s happening to you on LinkedIn, perhaps you need to look at your own mindset about what you’re using it for in business.

John: A hundred percent. And even further to that, I think is even if we did connect and we had a conversation and I was open to having that conversation, we may never transact ever. However, I don’t know who that person is until I have a conversation. I don’t know who they’re connected to. They could introduce me my next $10,000, $500,000, whatever client that comes through. I could potentially introduce them. I mean, we’re talking, like on our inner circle call yesterday with our clients, one of our new clients came on and they’re in the sustainability space and I’m instantly going to use this guy’s name.

And I instantly said, Vick, before we get into it, can you just do an introduction, a quick 30 second, tell everybody what you’re at, because I know that there’s three or four people on this call right now, that you guys, a hundred percent have to connect offline. Whether something happens now or in the future, there will be something that will happen guaranteed. And a couple of the other clients on the call were like, oh yeah, we need to have a chat about that. Oh, actually our bosses at this conference right now. Oh, okay, and they’re doing a lot in the food sustainability space and yeah, it’s quite interesting. So it’s just those things being open to that conversation.

Stephanie: It’s being intentional about why you’re on the platform in the first place.

John: Yeah.

Stephanie: If you’re dragged, kicking and screaming to LinkedIn, well then don’t waste your time.

John: A hundred percent. There’s plenty of things out there. And let me be clear. Like I’m not against Facebook or Instagram or any of the other platforms or anything like that. I’ve niched my way down into LinkedIn. And we still use the other platforms that I just specialise in LinkedIn and people are everywhere. It’s meeting them, a lot of marketers will talk about meeting them where they’re at, so what are they using? End of last year we created a group that we wanted to sort of mitigate a bit of risk with LinkedIn, with all the canceling of stuff going around at the moment. So instead of like the right thing to do, you would think would be, for me, I’ve got a few connections out there would be to create an actual LinkedIn group on LinkedIn, but I didn’t, I created the LinkedIn group on Facebook and it was purely from a risk mitigation perspective.

If I got shut down or something like that on LinkedIn, I’d lose everything there. Whereas I’m like, okay, well, if I build this over on Facebook, while there’s a different channel over there, and it’s interesting, we’re messaging people out on LinkedIn saying, Hey, we’d love you to come and join our group. And people are connecting and coming over on Facebook and then others are like, no, I definitely don’t do Facebook, well, Hey, that’s cool. No worries. We’re just sharing a little bit different content over there. So it’s just meeting them where they’re at and having that conversation, which is why, things like, LinkedIn, email marketing, all of those things are really important that the sales process behind it, picking up the phone still really important. And just having those conversations, I think that’s the undercurrent it’s like, for me, it’s LinkedIn is about connecting with the right people in order to steer a conversation off platform so we can get to know each other better.

Stephanie: There’s the art, we won’t get to that in this one, because that’s the art to getting them off platform. Yeah. So LinkedIn isn’t, am I right about putting up a photo of you and your team and awards night?

John: Well, it’s depending on what the context of the photo is, right?

Stephanie: Yeah.

John: Yeah. So, I mean, if it’s a terrible photo, if it’s you drunk at, with cocktails in your hand or something like that. And I don’t mean you Stephanie, now I mean, in general.

Stephanie: No, never,

John: Like yeah, of course not with cocktails in your hand. Probably not the best place to put it, but I probably wouldn’t even go and put that on Facebook either. I think, once again, it depends on the strategy. So you’ve really got to be thinking about that. Me personally, I don’t post updates like photos and things like that on the platform, as much as I probably could, because we do a lot more in the messaging side. So I’d rather send a personalised message with a link to a video or a link to a webinar or whatever it might be.

But if you are posting content, just be thinking about, like I’m not the branding expert, but how is this going to be portrayed on the brand? But most importantly, it’s got to be authentic. You know what I mean? Like, that’s the key with it. And that’s where sort of LinkedIn stories is going really well because it’s giving businesses that opportunity to, that the behind the scenes, like we’re doing this interview now photos, hey this is what we’re doing today.

Stephanie: Like Instagram stories.

John: Yeah, exactly.

Stephanie: All good.

John: So, yeah they’re starting to do that and if we won’t get into it, but they’ve got some ads now that you can go and target and do all those things.

Stephanie: Okay, cool. Relevant for our conversation. We’re going to have in half an hour.

John: Exactly.

Stephanie: Let’s talk then about your profile. Be intentional about why you’re on LinkedIn. What do I need to do with my profile?

John: Yeah, cool. The, the biggest misunderstood thing on the platform, I reckon. So there’s a whole bunch of things you can do with your profile. But if I break it down to the top five, in my opinion, from what we’ve seen over the years, so number one is your profile photo, and I’m going to incorporate the banner that sits behind your profile photo in there. It’s a lot of the time it’s vacant real estate, un-utilised real estate with that banner.

So if we talk about that banner first, there’s a couple of things that you can consider there. Number one, just the basic solid color or lifestyle type image, whatever type of imagery you’re doing and your logo, right? That’s, one of the simplest things you can do. Second one, you can incorporate some type of positioning statement in there, which really is quite good, or the third thing could be specialisation. So, we’re specialising in X, Y, Z, but you utilise that banner just for that visual effect. The profile photo, I mean, I’m a big fan of getting a photographer in to do that, if the budget isn’t there or whatever, it might be, get your iPhone or your Samsung or whatever, and just get a decent photo. It doesn’t, John holding a fish would be stupid unless I was a fisherman.

Stephanie: What about your tuxedo at a wedding?

John: Yeah, probably not. I literally just don’t get a photo it’s not hard. So yeah, that’s it. But I mean, this sounds so simple, but there are simple things are often overlooked. The next thing that I would look at would be your headline. So this is typically just pre-populated from LinkedIn with your most recent job title and the company name. So it could be like CEO and then the company name, for example, once again, this is a positioning statement. You want to be very intentional and clear about how you can help people. And it could be as simple as, we work with insert, target market, helping them achieve X result, you know, something simple as that, but it just clearly articulates what you do. And then we come down to the background summary or what LinkedIn now call the about section.

Most people, which blows my mind, they leave it blank. And then when I asked them, I’m like, Hey, I’m curious, why have you left it blank? They’re like, I didn’t know it was there. I didn’t know why it was relevant. I really find it hard to write about myself. And that’s typically why, they’ve left a blank. So here, for me, this is the most important part. So, my belief is I hate third person bios. Like I can’t stand it. That’s-

Stephanie: Because it’s not a resume.

John: Well, it’s not a resume. And like, if we’re going in here and I go, hi, John Bellamy here, John is the, So it’s not conversational. So when we’re writing those profiles for our clients and that we follow this framework, which is story segue cell. So we want to start with a story angle and you’re writing it in the eyes of your key target demographics.

So, what’s that story angle that’s going to capture their attention, right. And get some emotional connection to the rest of it. So they want to read on. You segue into who you are, your company, your experience, maybe dropping a couple of client testimonials, and then the sell component isn’t, have you got a heartbeat and a credit card? Let’s do some business. It’s selling the reasons why someone would want to connect with you on LinkedIn.

Stephanie: If you all Looking for-

John: Correct. Yeah. Well maybe we should just connect and have a chat. It’s something as simple as that. So you want to get that right. So that’s the third thing. Fourth thing is I’m just going to say keywords. So you just want to be thinking about keywords and phrases because your LinkedIn profile not only will benefit you on LinkedIn, but it’ll also benefit you on Google.

Stephanie: Yeah, right.

John: Really strongly. And this is-

Stephanie: Because, LinkedIn is the first thing that’s going to come up.

John: More often than not, it’s on there. And this is where most, particularly more heading towards medium to larger size businesses massively missing out right now, hugely like if all they did was get their team on board with writing their profiles, they’re SEO goes up.

Stephanie: Yes. So that would help.

John: Great tip.

Stephanie: Yeah. And then the final thing is the experience section followed to your company page. So the experience section there, like if you’re an employee and you’re looking for a job, well you’d write about what you did in your role and all of that, but more importantly, like somebody like yourself, Stephanie and other business owners, and CEOs and leaders out there, you want to write about the company, what the company can deliver in there. And most importantly from that experience is tie it through to the actual company page. The amount of times, like we write profiles all the time, amount of times where we look at the person’s profile and we’re like, you don’t have a company page. And they’re like, yeah, we do-

John: But it’s not linked.

Stephanie: It’s not linked. And your like, so I’m clicking on it. It’s like going to a website with a dead link. Right. So, yeah.

Wow. I love presentations or any conversation like this where I think I’ve got to get back to the office because I’ve got stuff to do.

John: Yeah.

Stephanie: So I’ve got a whole team whose LinkedIn profiles we need to sort out based on this, John, what I’ve heard from you loud and clear, it’s a conversation. If you’re not comfortable with a conversation, then why are you in a conversation? It’s a conversation.

John: Yeah.

Stephanie: Have a strategy. Be very clear about what your intent is for use of this platform. And you’ve suggested sales navigator is a next level of depth of tool that you can use?

John: Yeah.

Stephanie: And in your own provocative and entertaining way, you have shared with us five, very valuable tips for how to get your LinkedIn profile in good order for all of the things we’ve just talked about beforehand. That was great. It was fast and furious. There’s always so much more to talk about, but John Bellamy, thank you very much.

John: Thanks For having me.

Stephanie: Discover more about TEC.

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