A quick Google search for the best LinkedIn profile for sales will return
thousands millions of hits and everyone seems to think they know the signs of a strong sales hire. But what does the data say? Here’s how the LinkedIn profile of a top salesperson actually looks. (I was surprised!)
You’ve heard it time and time again: If you want to hire the best salespeople, you have to know what the best salespeople look like first. Lucky for us, Professor Gregory Rich recently conducted a study examining the LinkedIn profiles of Fortune 500 salespeople. Are the stereotypes of salespeople as competitive big talkers who play golf really true? Let’s see what the study uncovered.
There are 300 unique current job titles among the 500 salespeople in the sample with only 41% of them containing the word “sales.” The most common job titles are Account Manager (6.6% of the sample) and Account Executive (4.2%). A small proportion have job titles reflecting new shifts in sales strategies such as Business Development Consultant and Brand Engagement Specialist.
A large majority of the salespeople in the sample are well-educated: 86% completed a four-year undergraduate degree and 30% of these graduates also have a graduate degree (22% of graduate degrees were MBAs). A business degree is the most common (35% of college graduates) and among business degree holders, the most popular majors are: marketing (50%), management/HR (14%), and economics (14%). Of the 29% of college graduates with an arts and science degree, the most common majors are: communications/PR/journalism (30%), political science (15%), and chemistry/biology/physics (13%).
Surprisingly, only 26% of salespeople list skills in their LinkedIn profile. The most common skills are: sales management (24%), negotiation (21%), and new business development (21%). Ten skills specific to the sales profession (i.e., not found in the top skills of all job functions) include: sales management, account management, consultative selling, team building, public speaking, team leadership, business planning, cross-functional team leadership, direct sales, and sales process.
In contrast to the lack of skills listed, an overwhelming majority of salespeople’s profiles include recommendations (93% of the sample). The most common descriptors used in recommendations include: work ethic, team player, customers, services, professional, manager, knowledge, and relationships.
44% of salespeople list their interests. Of those that do, 75% list a physical sport or activity and the most popular ones are: snowboarding/skiing (20%), golf (19%), and running/jogging (15%). Of the non-physical interests, the most popular ones are: travel (30%), family/friends (19%), and networking (18%). The personal interests specific to sales (i.e., found more frequently in sales professionals’ LinkedIn profiles) include: golf, boating, my dog, and professional networking.
Overall, the typical Fortune 500 salesperson is an educated, hard working professional who cares about their customers. Consistent with the stereotypes, he or she is a people person (see: networking, public speaking, relationships) who loves to golf. Contrary to common beliefs, he or she is not characterized as competitive but rather as a team player and team builder.
Takeaways for Salespeople
75% of salespeople do not include skills in their LinkedIn profiles and 60% do not include “sales” in their job titles.
In order to differentiate yourself, including skills (and getting them endorsed) is a smart strategic move.
If you’re looking for a new sales job, including “sales” in your job title so you’re easier to find wouldn’t hurt. As almost all salespeople had at least one recommendation, it’s probably a good idea to have one too (a genuine one!) in order to stay competitive.
Takeaways for Sales Leadership
While this study contains some fun and informative descriptive statistics, a major caveat is that it doesn’t differentiate salespeople based on their performance: we don’t know if these profile characteristics are correlated to top, average, or under performers. The other big unknown is if these traits existed before the sales job or afterward.
In order to conduct the predictive analytics that help guide hiring decisions, you need to include outcomes such as sales performance. But it probably doesn’t hurt to look for salespeople with a strong work ethic, a team player mentality, and a consultative relationship-building selling style.
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