The Sales Professional’s Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn Profile Optimization

Learn how to optimize every part of your LinkedIn Profile for social selling domination, from your background photo to your recommendations.

January 14, 2016


Even the most dedicated sales professional has to sleep sometime. No matter how tight the deadline, or how close to quota you are, eventually you’re going to have to get some shuteye.

But you can rest easy knowing that while you sleep, your LinkedIn profile is still presenting your best self to potential prospects and customers alike. When properly optimized, your profile is a social selling microsite, showcasing your personality, skills, and mission statement for the professional world to see.

In this post, we will help you make your profile the best it can be. We will go through your options from top to bottom, making sure you don’t miss an opportunity to make your profile more searchable, more persuasive, and more compelling.

So read on to start transforming your LinkedIn profile.

1. Custom URL and Public Profile Settings

If you’re going to create a killer profile, you will want to make sure it’s easy to find. On your “Edit Profile” screen, click the gear next to your URL to enter the public profile settings.

Make sure to pick a custom URL that is just your name (or a memorable variation). “/in/JohnQSocialseller” is more compelling than “/in/jsocialseller24_4857_VB.” On this page, you can also choose how your public profile appears to people who are not logged in or not connected with you on LinkedIn. It’s a good idea to include as much info in your public profile as possible.

2. Background Photo

One of the first things a visitor to your profile sees is the “Background Photo,” that prime piece of real estate above and slightly behind your headline and picture. Even though it’s so prominent on the page, many salespeople ignore it, or fill it with a generic stock photo. Put that space to work for you with a photo that shows prospects what you’re about before they read a single word.

For example, bestselling author Jill Konrath highlights her public speaking experience with a photo from LinkedIn Sales Connect:


And LinkedIn Expert Viveka von Rosen really gets the most out of the space. Her photo includes contact information, pictures of her publications, and her business’ logo.


You can use online tools like Pixlr and Canva to edit your background photo. Keep the following in mind:

  • Use a high-quality (low compression) JPG for the best look
  • LinkedIn allows images up to 4000X4000 pixels. Go as big as you can for the best quality
  • Your profile photo and headline cover the bottom middle of the image, so keep that section empty

For more technical details, check out the Background Photo LinkedIn Help Page.

3. Profile Photo

Think of how you dress and act when you meet a client in real life. Your profile photo is the digital equivalent of that first handshake. Make sure you are dressed professionally and you look friendly. It’s worth having a professional take the photo to make sure it captures you at your best.

It’s best to upload a profile photo that is:

  • High-quality and cropped to 400x400 pixels to fit in the space
  • In front of a neutral background for a professional look
  • Of only you—no friends, children or pets

The brain processes visual information faster than text, so your prospects will begin forming their opinion of you from your photo. Make sure you have a photo, that it meets LinkedIn’s guidelines, and that it puts your best face forward.

4. Headline

The default LinkedIn headline is automatically pulled from your work history, and lists your current position and company. While this information may be useful for prospects, your job title alone doesn’t tell a very compelling story.

Prospects can read further down the page to see where you work and what your work history is. It’s better to use the valuable headline real estate to make a statement about what you do for customers.

For example, Jim Keenan’s profile could read, “President & CEO, A Sales Guy Inc.” Instead, Keenan tells us what he does, and includes a dose of his personality:


In my profile, I include my job title, but add a mission statement to clarify it:


A well-crafted headline compels your customer to keep reading. Which is more compelling: “Helping businesses cut costs through secure cloud transactions,” or “Sales Associate | Cloud Central Tech?”

Also, keep in mind that all of your profile’s text fields are searchable, including the headline, summary, and work experience. Think of what search terms your customers would use to find your solution, and use these words and phrases where they fit naturally—like “secure cloud transactions” in the headline example above.

5. Posts

Below your profile picture and above your summary is a section that will only appear if you create your own content. The posts section highlights the long-form posts you have published on LinkedIn.

These posts boost your credibility and help you establish thought leadership. They also increase your visibility, as posts are automatically shared with your first-degree connections, and LinkedIn can choose to distribute quality material far beyond your organic reach. Members can also follow you from a long-form post, whether they are in your network or not. That means you could have people opting in to receive updates from you.

If you haven’t published on LinkedIn yet, now’s the time to get started. These long-form post tips can help you write your first post.

6. Summary

Now that your photo, headline, and post history have captured readers’ attention, the summary section is your opportunity to tell them what you’re all about. It can include a brief personal history, your philosophy of how you view your role, or just a brief summary of your work to date.

Some professionals recommend writing in the third person, i.e., “John has spent the last five years working to improve the lives of small business owners,” while some suggest first-person: “I have spent the last five years…” Pick the perspective that feels most natural to you; there’s no wrong answer.

While writing your summary, keep these tips in mind:

  • Focus on the customer. “I close million-dollar deals” is good for a resume, but “I save clients millions of dollars” is better if you’re not in the job market.
  • Add personality. Your writing should be professional, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Let your passion shine through—and if a little gentle humor or irreverence fits your personality, go for it.
  • Include additional contact information. If you want prospects to email, call, or follow you on Twitter, include that info in your summary.
  • End with a call to action. What is the logical next step for a potential customer after reading your summary? Whether it’s scheduling an appointment or connecting on LinkedIn, spell out what you want readers to do.

7. Experience

As with the summary, use the experience section to demonstrate what you can do for customers. There’s a tendency to think of work experience in resume terms—your skills, accomplishments, and day-to-day tasks for each job. But you’re not out to impress a potential employer, so it’s a good idea to keep your work history relevant to the solutions you have provided for clients.

As part of your profile overhaul, feel free to ditch work history that isn’t part of your professional career. Unless your summers as a lifeguard or working concessions at a theater helped shape you into the salesperson you are today, it’s best to leave them off your work experience.

8. Rich Media

Go beyond text and photos with SlideShare decks, videos, PDFs and more. Odds are your marketing department has assets you can use—and if they don’t, ask if they can create one for you.

This SlideShare has a few ideas to get you started:

9. Recommendations

A testimonial from a satisfied client is priceless for salespeople. Most people are happy to give a recommendation if asked, so don’t be shy when you’ve delivered exceptional results for a client.

The most valuable kind of recommendation tells a specific story of how you solved a problem for a client. It’s acceptable—and recommended—to give some guidance on how the recommendation might read when you ask for one. You could provide bullet points to cover, or point to examples of recommendations from other clients. Just don’t go so far as to write the recommendation yourself; it’s important that the praise be genuine.

10. Groups

It’s important to find relevant LinkedIn Groups and maintain an active presence in them. In addition to groups in your industry, consider groups that share common backgrounds or beliefs, like an alumni group for your alma mater, or groups for charitable causes (which you genuinely care about and support).

11. Following

Finally, the people and companies you choose to follow can tell prospects more about who you are as a salesperson. Follow thought leaders in the sales profession to show your commitment to professional development. Follow companies that are clients and those that would make good potential clients. You will show you have a genuine interest in your prospects, and you will get updates you can use for social selling.

Your LinkedIn profile is the way many prospects will meet you for the first time. But many salespeople have yet to tap into its full potential. You can make your profile an extension of your personal brand, a compelling introduction to the best possible you. With the tips in this article, you can make a great first impression 24/7—and you can tell your sales manager that you literally wow prospects in your sleep.

For more social selling tips, strategies, and advice, download our Getting Started Guide on LinkedIn.