LinkedIn Recommendations - Ugh, Do I Have To?

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...recommendations, built up over time, enable you to give a different voice to what you bring to the table

A LinkedIn recommendation has the ability to speak on your behalf and detail what the experience of working with you is like.

This is your opportunity to showcase testimonials from a wide spectrum of your network - former clients, peers, college and law school professors, internal cross-functional partners, current clients, graduate program research partners, clients who have purchased from you multiple times - you name it. These are individuals who know you professionally, who likely have learned about your personal side, and who can be an advocate for your character and what it's like to work alongside you.

If you do only three things on your LinkedIn profile, my recommendation is to invest time in your headline, your "About" section, and your recommendations. Many of your standard sections (picture, work history, education) are likely done, but the three aforementioned sections take time.

Think about a buyer's journey when they visit your LinkedIn profile.

They'll find you if you have a headline that specifically states the problem you can solve for them (Fail: Sales Director, Win: Helping Organizations Never Miss a Job Change Alert Again Fail: Partner, XYZ firm, Win: Attorney Helping Establish Early Stage Tech Companies in IP Law).

Then, they'll want to learn more about you, and they'll run down to your recommendations to see who has advocated for you and why.

So, how do we get started with LinkedIn recommendations?

First, it's important to note that some professionals (e.g., attorneys) have compliance considerations, but with a little mindfulness, you can easily remain compliant. Consider that your recommendation should be more experience-focused vs. superlative and opinion-focused. For example, noting, "Bill is the best lawyer in Florida" won't fly as it's unverifiable, but making notes like, "Bill offered sage advice on our matter, was extremely responsive to our communications, brought humor to our engagement and demonstrated knowledge about our industry" is perfectly acceptable.

Second, to get going on your recommendations, think about the list of individuals I named above and make a list of twenty of those that you believe would offer you a testimonial. Then, before the end of the week, ask three of them if they would be willing to participate and, in the meantime, add the next three people (and so forth) to your calendar, in six to eight week increments, so that you start to build a cadence and routine of asking for recommendations.

By doing this, you'll avoid the mistake that many make, which is to suddenly have a spike in random recommendations. This signals to the reader that you either are or were looking for a job and you temporarily got your LinkedIn act together but never followed through to keep the momentum going. Instead, demonstrate consistency and follow through by building this cadence, which will also allow people to see your true brand as reflected by consistent positive performance.

When I ask for a recommendation, this is my go-to. Feel free to copy/paste/make it your own:

"Hi Sarah! I wanted to send you a quick note to ask if you wouldn't mind writing me a recommendation on LinkedIn. We've worked together on so many projects over the course of these three years, and your insights would be really valuable as other buyers consider hiring me for this same line of work. No pressure whatsoever and I completely understand if it's against company policy to do so, but appreciate your consideration nonetheless."

I'm doing two things in this ask - I'm giving logic for why I want Sarah to write the recommendation (this isn't for my ego), and I'm showing self-awareness by understanding that not everyone may want to write a recommendation and am offering her an easy opt-out, if she needs it.

What should go in a recommendation?

When your connection responds with "I would be happy to write one! What would you like it to say?" don't take this as a negative, it's actually a tremendous opportunity to help curate your write-up. A few things you want to consider:

  1. Think about the accolades you're required to voice when bidding for business and use the recommendation as a way to have your clients speak on your behalf. Do you tout responsiveness or being proactive or always meeting your deadlines? Whatever it is that sets you apart, if it's been the experience that your client has had, then leverage that here.
  2. Has this individual hired you several times? If so, this should be at the top of the recommendation - don't bury the lede! "I've had the chance to hire James on three occasions now over the course of four years and two companies." This speaks volumes about your effective follow through in what you sold but also your service throughout the engagement.
  3. Is there anything you've done that goes above and beyond, consistently, that your buyers should know about? As an example, my friend Caroline had a long-time client whose daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer. Caroline not only demonstrated empathy for the situation but also threw an event in the daughter's honor as a way to raise money for research. These accolades speak volumes about your character and you as an individual.

Recommendations, built up over time, will enable you to give a different voice to what you bring to the table and will exponentially increase your chances of winning the work or being hired for the role.

One of my favorite crutches in sales is, "This is what you can expect in working with me, but you might be better suited to read the testimonials from my clients and colleagues, which can be found on my LinkedIn page."

And now this can be one of yours, as well.

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Samantha (Sam) McKenna is an award-winning sales leader with over a dozen years of experience in sales and leadership in the Saas technology and law firm space. She has advised over sixty of the AmLaw 100 firms on digital strategy, data analytics, use of sales by attorneys and has also led global sales teams across large and medium businesses, including LinkedIn and ON24.

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