Optimize your LinkedIn profile for selling

Your LinkedIn profile is often your first introduction to a customer. If you’re in sales and your profile says “Experienced sales leader, blah blah blah…” this puts out the message that you’re more interested in promoting yourself than in promoting how you can help your customer.

Fortunately, LinkedIn has published a guide to Optimizing your LinkedIn Sales Profile. You’ll need to subscribe to the LinkedIn Sales Blog to download it, but why wouldn’t you want to do that? (Unless it takes away from the time you spend reading Friday Goody Bag, of course. By the way, I’m grateful for that.)

Improving your sales pitch emails

Sales “pitch” emails are some of the hardest things in the world to write. Fortunately, most of them cringingly terrible that you don’t have to do much better to beat the average. Here are a few hints, along with a resource for further reading.

  1. Ask for the sale. According to Retail News as cited by the National Association of Sales Professionals, 85% of pitches end without asking for the sale.
  2. Do research. The difference between a sales email and a marketing email is that a sales email is supposed to be authentically personal, not “fake” personal (like giving you a quick jolt of adrenaline by putting your first name in the subject line of an email). So take the time to look up your prospect on LinkedIn and find out who they are.
  3. Don’t pretend to address your customer’s pain points if you’re not pretty sure what they are. “As a marketing executive, you’re probably looking for a reliable exhibit provider.” Uh, no. As a marketing executive, I’m looking to throw my computer out the window if I get another cold pitch from an exhibit provider. Better to jump right into your pitch instead of insulting your prospect.
  4. Use correct spelling and grammar. If this is a challenge for you, find a workaround like creating several email templates and asking a trusted colleague to proofread your email. Not everyone will be turned off by poorly written email, but why would you want to take the chance?

You can find even more help in writing the perfect sales pitch in this article in MarketingProfs: “How to Craft a Concise B2B Sales Pitch in Limited Time.” (Note: A MarketingProfs subscription is required, but it’s free; and MarketingProfs is a great resource. Even if you’re in sales!

Is your voice mail wrecking your personal brand?

How long has it been since you listened to your own outgoing voice mail message? Listen to it, making sure that you’re not mentioning a former company or giving a shout-out to your un-favorite ex.

Even better, because things change fast: Set yourself an calendar reminder to audit your outgoing message once a month.

The secrets of writing a good thank-you note

If the last time you wrote a thank-you note was before the turn of the century, read on! Handwritten thank-you notes are not just a chore you’re required to do after you’ve received a gift – they can give you a real edge in business, setting you apart from others.

Why do most people not write notes? In addition to the logistics (do you have a drawer full of blank cards? when was the last time you went to the post office?), writing a thank-you note can be really difficult!

Friday Goody Bag comes to the rescue:

  • Your note doesn’t need to be elaborate. A short note can make just as much difference as a longer note. Stock up on small notecards if you’re not verbose.
  • Are you insecure about your handwriting? Don’t worry! If your handwriting is really awful, your recipient may appreciate the note even more because they can tell that writing doesn’t seem to come naturally to you.
  • If you have a nice card, try drafting the thank-you note separately first – on your computer or on a piece of scrap paper.

What to say? Here’s a simple formula:

  1. Say thank-you and specify what the person did for you.
  2. Tell the person what their favor or gift meant to you.
  3. Add a small personal comment.
  4. Close with a simple “Best regards,” “Sincerely,” “In appreciation,” or use a more creative closing that hints at your next meeting: “Looking forward to seeing you at the annual conference,”

For more detail, download and hang onto the Friday Goody Bag Thank-You Note Prompterator!

Use your desktop background to reinforce your personal brand during meetings

As a reader of FGB, you already know how to avoid rookie mistakes when you’re running online meetings. Now it’s time to kick it up a notch!

Every part of a meeting attendee’s experience during a meeting you lead becomes a part of their impression of you. Does your desktop background have a family photo? That’s fine, if you want your audience to see your family. Is it your favorite scene from Game of Thrones? Uh… (Sorry, Tyrion.) Pick an image that isn’t too cluttered and helps convey a positive (and safe for work) message to the meeting attendees any time it shows. 

*As far as I can determine, Dustin’s post, written in 2014, is the original “Stock photos that don’t suck” post. If you Google this phrase, you’ll find a lot of similarly titled articles that build on Dustin’s great idea…but Dustin wrote it first.

Make your business card work harder

Do you attend networking events and hand out your business card? What’s on the back? The back of your business card can present a time-sensitive call-to-action that helps your new contacts continue to connect meaningfully with you even if they aren’t going to call you right away and hire you for a gig or a job. Here are some examples:

  • A musician hands out a business card with an announcement of the band’s next gig on the back.
  • A job-seeker hands out a card with a link to her resume or LinkedIn profile on the back.
  • A company prints a time-sensitive offer on the back of business cards that are given out at a trade show.

(If you have a “side hustle” and are attending a networking event as a representative of your full-time job, make sure that you’re not “side hustling” inappropriately.)

Here are a few pointers and how-to’s:

  • If you don’t have design skills or the money to hire a designer, use one of the many online printing services that allows you to create cards online. 
  • Look for a printing service that allows you to create more than one different design for the back of a business card. That way you don’t have to do separate business card orders for separate calls to action.
  • Make sure that your call to action is compelling and related to what your contact will see if they visit the web page you’re promoting. “See what this sales leader can do for you!” beats “Find me on LinkedIn.”

Guess what the back of my personal card says!

Of barbers and plants

On Saturday, I went to a different hairdresser than usual. I had tired of all the time and expensive extras at my regular salon. I wanted $20 to be the cost of the haircut, not the amount of the tip. I used Yelp to search “cheap walk-in haircuts” and found my paradise at (name of salon redacted). 

There was no shampoo and no blow-drying; no offer of an extra $25 keratin treatment and no curling iron. Just the quiet snick of perfectly sharpened scissors and the soft voice of the stylist, Lac, who told me she owned the salon with her sister and had been working there for thirty years. The only visible “extra” was foliage – a tiny room had been transformed by the addition of dozens of well-maintained green plants, from potted plants to vines. The obligatory picture of a glamorous woman with an unusual haircut peeked out from the plants, but mostly, the salon was an understated oasis.

After ascertaining how much hair I wanted to shed, Lac said something rather formal and almost overly sober for the setting. “We are very fortunate that you chose our salon today,” Lac said. “We’re very happy that you are here.” The scissors went snick and a Fleetwood Mac tune from someone’s playlist spread itself out underneath the other background sounds. A sense of peace slowly spread out below my collarbone. In this simple sentence, Lac had expressed respect and gratitude. I felt appreciated way out of proportion to my deeds. I had no idea whether I’d be pleased with the haircut, but because Lac had thanked me so carefully, I knew it would be fine.

The haircut took about 15 minutes and netted Lac $30 including the ten-dollar tip I added. She didn’t ask me for my email address or phone number. No one suggested I download an app. Lac and her sister have no way of tracking me – and yet I will return.

This is the essence of good sales – to show your customer that you care about their business at every step of the way. If you greet with gratitude every interaction with your customer – and you are ruthlessly sincere in your gratitude – your customer will be delighted at every turn.

On my way out, I told Lac that I liked the plants in her salon. She replied: “I’m glad you like the plants. Most of them have been given to us by customers. We’re very grateful that you came to see us today.”

How to get around a restrictive gift policy

Most of us respond well to gifts, but it can be impractical, unethical, or even illegal to give tangible or cash gifts to clients. Here are a few alternative ideas for “gifts” you can give your clients (and situations in which these gifts are appropriate).

Life Hacks

Someone who rides the subway every day might not think to look up an article on how to ride the subway better.  When your client shares some information about what they’re going through, you can capitalize on this by finding a “life hack” article that may help them. Recently, my colleague Regina and I were trying to set an appointment with a client. He replied that he was in the middle of budget season. How could Regina and I give him something of value to get him through the next couple of weeks? Budget season means Excel, and it was easy to look up a blog post on lifehacker.com with a few useful tips and tricks on using Excel.

Why this might work: Even if Regina’s client doesn’t read the article, we think he’ll appreciate the fact that we tried to put ourselves in his shoes. This can help move the relationship forward.

When not to do this: Don’t go overboard and act like the person who has 10 solutions for every problem. Also, don’t do this around personal topics like family life, religion, or health – keep your CQ (creep quotient) low.

Vet the info first: Before sharing any link, read the article yourself and think about whether it’s useful. Don’t share articles that are obvious click-bait or full of pop-up ads.

Event Invites

We assume you can’t score tickets to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Find out topics your client cares about or activities they enjoy and invite them to a local event that pertains to one of those topics. (I fully admit that this is easier in urban areas). Eventbrite has tons of free events – you can get tickets and then offer them to clients.

Bonus: if it’s a topic your client cares about, the client is likely to see people they know at the event, and you’ll automatically broaden your network by being warmly introduced.

How to tell what your client cares about: Look at the content they’re posting or engaging with on LinkedIn or Twitter. Assuming it’s professional and not embarrassing, you can find events that jibe with their interests.

Compassion and gratitude

Jumping into the breach with a compassionate word is not a “trick” – it can, and should, be part of who we are. It is more than all right to send a brief note of encouragement or sympathy to a client or a business associate who has suffered a loss or been around a disaster. Don’t be afraid to shoot a quick email to someone who lives in where something bad has just happened, saying the news made you think of them and you hope they and their family are all right. It’s the human thing to do.  If you’re wondering how to respond when something like this happens, reach out to someone you trust as a coach and get their help.

Pro tip: If you’re sending a handwritten sympathy note by mail, this is one situation where you should not use business stationery. Buy some notecards with blank insides and keep them on hand for this purpose.

Handwritten thank-you notes make you stand out from the crowd – they add meaning to a relationship and tend to be re-read. If the thought of writing a thank-you note terrifies you, watch this space – help is coming soon!

Instant confidence

Are you getting ready to give a presentation or hold a crucial conversation? Sales professionals of yore used to give their car a little extra gas and crank up the theme to “Rocky” on the way to important meetings – but here’s something you can do even during a meeting: adjust your posture.

Putting your arms up in a “V” and lifting your chin is one of several “high power” poses, and doing them gives you an instant shot of confidence. Find a private place for 2 minutes, and take a power pose such as standing with your hands on your hips, putting your arms up in the air (extra points for listening to “Moves Like Jagger” while doing this), or leaning back with your arms behind your head as you see Oprah doing.

You can watch Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk (20-ish minutes) to learn more, including how your posture in any interaction can influence the power dynamics.

For more subtle and long-lasting effects, take a 5-minute yoga break to adjust and align your posture.