LinkedIn launched in May of 2003. That means it’s 16 years old this month. As with most any teenager, it’s had fits and starts throughout its growing years.

One of the aspects LinkedIn advocates is self-promotion (like a lot of teens who access social media nowadays). That’s great for most people, as they’re using it to look for new jobs and further their careers. Good for them.

But if you’re a B2B salesperson, you’re using it to gain more sales conversations. To accomplish this, you need to get out of the “me” way of thinking about your LinkedIn activity and focus on your customer. Here’s where the mistakes come in, and here’s what to do about them.

Pitching Your Product Way Too Early

It’s something that’s happening more and more on LinkedIn. My colleague Brynne Tillman has even produced a video on what she’s been seeing as of late “in the wild.” And I’ve been seeing it, too… way too much, actually.

You’ve likely gone through this experience yourself: You accept an invitation from someone you probably don’t know but thought, “hey, that’d be a good person to have in my network.” Almost immediately after you accept, you get hit with a pitch from your newly minted connection about their latest and greatest product.

That’s WRONG. Wrong. Wrongwrongwrong.

Pitching immediately is so bad in so many ways. The worst aspect about it is there is zero value being delivered. The person sending it hasn’t proven themselves or their product or service. They’ve brought you zero value in their understanding of what you’re going through. The only thing they’ve done is shout, “Hey, I’m here! Buy my stuff!” Very self-focused (on them).

Also, LinkedIn has inMail, which is a way for people to send you messages even if you’re not connected with them and requires a premium (paid) account. Unfortunately, inMail now has a very bad reputation for being an “all-pitch” zone. A message recently received by SSL’s Bill McCormick is a great example of that (he calls it SellIngMail):

He highlighted a couple of sections that show the fact that the person sending this particular message really didn’t read his profile thoroughly. If they did, they would have worded those sections much differently. To top it off, this person immediately went for the “kill” by immediately asking for the appointment. That’s decidedly not cool to do on LinkedIn.

Don’t be these people. Instead, everything you do on LinkedIn should be about our mantra here at Social Sales Link: Attract, Teach and Engage. Attract them with your profile (more on that below). Teach them through not only your profile but with both the great content you share and the comments and interactions you have on others’ content. And engage with people on the platform. Do all of these successfully, and you’ll get far more sales conversations started than through immediate, cold pitching.

A Self-Focused Headline

Besides your name, one of the most prominent items of your profile a prospect sees is your headline—the section where you tell who you are and what you do. Think of your headline as a quick and easy way to communicate who you help and how you help others with your product or service. Don’t think of it as a line where you just list your title and company name. That’s self-focused and does nothing to educate your viewers about how you can help them.

If your headline doesn’t speak to their needs, they probably won’t bother reading anything else in your profile, and you’ve lost a potential prospect.

Your headline needs to cover two areas: who you help and how you can help them. It needs to be simple because you have to convey this in 120 characters or less. So boil down the who and how into a simple phrase that will catch attention. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Helping sales pros secure conversations with qualified buyers by using LinkedIn & social selling (that’s mine)
  • Transforming the Way IT Security Infrastructure Pros can Lock Down their Enterprise Networks
  • Helping Home Buyers and Sellers with the Biggest Financial Decision of their Lives

Instead of re-hashing your corporate title, treat your headline as an opportunity to let your prospects know the value you will bring them. Make them want to contact you because you’ll be a great help to them with your product/service. 

A Self-Focused Summary/About Section

Let’s say your headline has convinced your profile reader to scroll down and click into your summary/about section*. The last thing you want to do is talk about you: the awards you’ve won, your specific skills, and so on. Again, that’s self-focused and doesn’t demonstrate how you help others. Instead, you need to accomplish goals that are probably different from what you may be thinking:

  • Get them curious about what you do
  • Teach them something new
  • Move them closer to your solution
  • Get them to schedule a call

You create curiosity by presenting the challenge your target audience faces. Since you sell to them already, you know what they face. Let them know that you know.

Next, you teach them something new by providing vendor-agnostic insights. Ideally, you’ll provide information that they can take action on right away… without having to reach out to you. This way, you’re starting to build yourself as a thought leader in their minds. If for some reason you can’t provide these kinds of insights, then ask questions about what they’re facing; get them thinking more about the “pain” they have, which is why they’re likely viewing your profile in the first place.

At this point, you’ve got them really thinking about their problem. This is when you can move them closer to your solution by letting them know exactly how you can help them solve your problem. Bullet point them if necessary.

Finally, get them to schedule a call by telling a little bit about yourself and providing contact information. At this point, they may want to reach out to you. Give them the info they need to do so right away—ideally via phone, and email. 

*LinkedIn is changing the “Summary” section to the “About” section. If you’re not seeing the change in your profile yet, you will.

A Commonality

There’s a common thread that runs through all of these points: You need to look at your prospects’ problems through their eyes, not yours. They don’t care about your passions or how long you’ve been in your business. They only want to solve their problem(s).

Present yourself as their problem solver, or their “go-to” gal/guy in their business, and you’ve got a great shot at starting that sales conversation and securing them as a client.

An older version of this story originally appeared on LinkedIn.