Sherry Sexton is a business coach, LinkedIn consultant, and life-long
entrepreneur (she started her first business, an awesome lemonade stand, at the
age of 12!) In the following interview from December, 2013, she kindly answers
several common questions about what to do – and what to avoid – on the
world’s most popular business network: LinkedIn!
Okay. I’m here today with Sherry Sexton. Sherry is a business consultant and she
is the queen of LinkedIn. She really specializes in LinkedIn. She’s been called a
LinkedIn rock star. I want to welcome you, Sherry. Thanks so much for being
Hi, Anne. Thank you.
I get a lot of questions from clients and just people that I meet about LinkedIn. I
personally love LinkedIn. It is totally my favorite social media and it’s the only
one that I really focus on for my business. But a lot of business owners and
business people don’t really quite know where to start on LinkedIn. I get a lot of
questions like I’ve got my profile up, now what do I do? So, Sherry, you are
totally the expert on these questions and I just wanted to ask you a few
questions. Hopefully you can maybe clarify these issues a little bit more.
To start with, just speaking to somebody who has actually gone out and set up a
profile on LinkedIn, what’s the most important thing to start with?
To set up the profile or once the profile is set up?
Well, you were telling me about what the goal is on LinkedIn.
Sherry Sexton: Well the goal is if you’re a small
Filling in your LinkedIn profile
business owner you want to increase your
completely helps you get found
clientele. You want to reach out to potential
by people who are looking for
clients. The bottom line is you want them to
your products or services.
find you without having to search for them. I
can teach people how to search but the
ideal thing is for them to find you and find your business and want to buy your
product. One of the most important things I think
people don’t take into account, and I can just
“LinkedIn has done
touch on that briefly, but your photo is so
research that if you are
important. LinkedIn has done research that if you
smiling and facing your
are smiling and facing your header box, which is
header box, which is where
where your name and title is, with a clean
your name and title is, with
background, you have five times more chance
a clean background, you
of getting communication from others, which I
have five times more
chance of getting
I’ve had people comment on my photo. Now, I
don’t think my photo is facing my header box, maybe I can flip it or something. I
have literally gotten jobs from my photo. You are so right.
You’re smiling and that’s a big part of it.
So beyond the photo what would you look at next?
You were saying that pictures of your dog, that kind of thing…
Well, it’s not Facebook. I mean it’s a
professional business social networking site. I
In your LinkedIn profile photo,
think if you are in a professional line of business
wear attire that suits your
professional line of work.
you’d probably want to wear a suit. If you are
an auto mechanic, wearing your company
logo polo shirt is fine. It depends on what business you’re in. But you just want to
have a clean background and be smiling, which is more welcoming as
opposed to straightforward, which they say now is distrustful, which I didn’t really
understand until LinkedIn actually brought that up.
Once you’re on there and you have your
Be sure to include your contact
profile, the biggest thing is to have your
information in your profile. If
contact info there. So many people, you can’t
it’s not there, you could be
see their e-mail. If you want to buy from
losing valuable leads.
someone and they don’t have their contact
information there it’s really hard to reach
them. The people that do have that contact info…the competition might be
taking your business.
Right. Yeah, you have to be found for sure.
I think once you have your profile up, the hardest thing for me to communicate
to others is how you talk to people, how you connect with people, how you
message them once you’re connected. Very few people do some of this stuff
and I think this is where it’s very important when you’re building your database.
A lot of people, I’ve heard them say, “I’m on LinkedIn, now what do I do? I have
Right. You want to connect with people…I tell people to join some groups on
LinkedIn. It might be in your industry. For myself
it’s social media or LinkedIn groups. Also,
Join LinkedIn groups related to
anything that you’re passionate about, like if
both your business and
personal interests. Letting your
you’re a marathon runner you may want to
personality show helps build
join a group that is marathon people, just to
people’s trust in you.
“People do business with
communicate with them. So it gives you little
people they like and trust.
bit of the personal side of you and also the
You have to build that trust,
business side of you. The hardest thing on
which is harder online than
LinkedIn is to get your personality across to
it is in person.”
others. Typically, how you talk to them
reflects how they feel about you.
I like to think of LinkedIn as a great big professional community where if you think
about your own hometown, you make professional connections everywhere
you go, like at the gym. But then you’re also going to the networking meetings
and you basically just kind of have fun talking to people. You talk about your
business but you’re also kind of just talking about whatever issues that come up
and things that you have in common.
Right. It’s the same with LinkedIn. I tell people when you want to connect with
someone, it’s easier for anyone if you have a premium account. I don’t work for
LinkedIn. I’m not affiliated with LinkedIn. I am going to write for LinkedIn in 2014
but not this year.
You mentioned a professional account.
Oh, the upgrade account. Because you can see who viewed your profile. You
can see more people and you can also…you have the ability to join different
groups like the job seeker groups and things like that if you are…there’s a lot of
people that are job seekers that are looking for jobs. But it just gives you more
ability to connect with people, to introduce
people, to send an InMail to people. So, it just
Investing in a LinkedIn
give you more ability to connect with people
Premium account allows you to
that you may want to really connect with and
message anyone on LinkedIn,
have no way to contact them. In other words,
not just your connections.
they’re a third connection, which means that
there’s someone in between you. If you know someone or I know someone and
we’re connected to each other, then I can introduce you to that person or it’s
easier to get to that person without an introduction if you have the premium
Because what you want to do when you connect with someone, or I always do
e-mail that says hoping to connect with you and then you might share
something about what you viewed on their profile. The default message is…you
can tell everybody (doesn’t always take the time to personalize it), which to me
it always says you’re not real interested sometimes as far as the way other
people perceive you. That you may not be interested in them. I personally look
at their profile and I see that they may live in
my area, they may have gone to school
When sending an invitation to
connect on LinkedIn, don’t use
where I did. They may live in a great place
the default message. Instead,
that I’d like to visit, like Dubai and things like
personalize it to your recipient.
that. So (I write something like) “hoping to
They’ll be more likely to accept
connect. You must love where you live. If I
can help you in any way, please let me
know.” There’s just that personal touch to
connecting with someone then they’re more likely to connect with you than if
you use the default.
You’re talking about personalizing your message when you’re reaching out to
somebody rather than just using the ‘I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn’
kind of default message.
What would be some of the dos and don’ts? You already mentioned some dos,
which would be mention some things in common you might have. What are
some things you should not do when you’re reaching out to somebody?
You should not say, “Hi, buy my stuff,” because you get a lot of spammers on
there. I tell people first you have to develop a relationship and then you can ask
about them. Then it’s just like we talked about
in person. You’re not going to walk up to
Don’t try to sell overtly to your
somebody and go, “Hi, Anne, can you buy
LinkedIn connections. Instead,
my stuff?” It doesn’t work that way. You have
concentrate on building
to have the relationship first. So, I say don’t
spam people because no one really likes it. If
someone reports you and there’s five reports
LinkedIn will shut down your account and it’s
going to take you quite a while to get back in.
So you can be kicked off of LinkedIn for inappropriate behavior.
I’ve never heard of that happening but that’s really good to know.
Sherry Sexton: Trying to spam people. The other thing is that some people put a
logo in there instead of their photo, which on your personal page should be your
picture. This is another way LinkedIn will shut you down because it’s not a
business page. Say a small business owner
Your personal profile should
has their logo there, if there’s a photo of
focus on you as an individual.
them as the manager of that company they
You can build a business profile
can shut you down there too because that’s
to expand upon your products
specifically a business page, which is a totally
and services. Use your photo on
different page. There’s a personal page and
your profile page and your logo
a business page. If I’m the owner of the
on your company page.
business I have my own page personally and
then I have a business page, which talks
about my business, my products and my services.
So you want to make sure that your photo’s on your personal page, your logo’s
on your business page?
Okay. Very good. Now, you mentioned joining groups, which I think is a great
idea. Groups are a great place to hang out. What would be some tips for
engaging with the groups in a productive way?
Some groups have a pending…you hit join
and then it’s pending and they have to
Every LinkedIn group has
accept you. Every group has different rules, so
rules for acceptable posting and
other behavior. Be sure to
you want to check out their rules. If you do try
check out the rules before you
to post something on there that’s selfpost or comment on a group
promotional in the nice way they like to put it,
they will not post it for you. They won’t even
accept it. So, sometimes it’s pending to join
the group, sometimes your request or your discussion question is pending and
needs approval. So, you have to really look at the group rules as to what to post.
A lot of people post something in general like what’s most stressful about the
holidays. Usually, everyone can relate to that and comment on that. So, it
depends on your type of business.
For me, it’s usually things about LinkedIn or offering advice and things like that,
sharing a new article. But there again, I look at the group rules. When I said
what’s stressing you out, it’s a large professional women’s group I belong to for
Citibank. But in certain groups if it’s related to your industry you probably want to
stick with that. Then other groups are ones that you might just do general
So you might want to hang out on the group a little bit before you start posting
and just get a feel.
Oh yeah, you can view them. Most groups
are open so you can view what their
discussions are. Then once you join it you
can comment on something. Or you can
like it. Everything you do in a group shows
up on your activity on your homepage,
which is good. I tell people if you don’t
have a lot of time, go into a group and
comment on a discussion or share a
discussion or like a discussion.
“Everything you do in a
group shows up on your
activity on your homepage,
which is good. I tell people
if you don’t have a lot of
time, go into a group and
comment on a discussion
or share a discussion or like
I’ve had people contact me to do work for them after having commented.
Even if you never post a discussion your groups are still valuable just because
you’re out there, you’re part of the community. If you make insightful
comments…you don’t even have to start anything.
Yes. I always say you’re only as visible as the
size of your audience or your network. The
“You’re only as visible as
more people you have as connections the
the size of your audience or
more people see what you write or share or
your network. The more
comment on. Another thing is Pulse, which is
people you have as
your newsfeed, which used to be LinkedIn
connections the more
Today, which you can access from the
people see what you write
homepage. It’s where you would share an
or share or comment on.”
article on something industry-related,
something everyone can relate to. On the weekend you could post something
like that or just a broad kind of question or something fun. But if you write blogs
you can post blogs on LinkedIn. You can actually add a link for a blog into
LinkedIn. You can add a link or upload a file right into your profile. You can also
share it in groups where it’s relevant and you can also share it on your own
Right. It’s great because you share it on your profile. It’s sort of like Facebook,
your connections see it. But then if you share it with a group then you’re
reaching all sorts of people that you’re not connected with.
Yes. I typically post mine in a couple groups
and I post on job seekers. I help a lot of the job
seekers so I am in a job seeker group, so I’ll
post things like that in there. They give you the
ability to share an article just on your
homepage. You can comment, you can post
it to groups, you can send it to individuals and
you can send it to LinkedIn if you have your
LinkedIn account connected. So, you have a
lot of options.
Useful articles, blog posts, white
papers, case studies,
infographics, and general
questions are usually welcome
on LinkedIn. Post them to
groups or on your home page,
or comment on other people’s
Just a lot of ways to get out there and connect with people. Okay. Briefly, can
you tell me just off the top of your head maybe a few success stories that you’ve
heard from somebody who maybe wasn’t aware of how to use LinkedIn very
well and kind of gave them a couple tips and something that they maybe
came back with and said this is what happened when I started doing this.
I know. Well, that’s where my recommendations come in. I recently had a client
in Ukraine who was looking for international relations. She did international
relations for a consult in the Ukraine at a large
university. She said I’d really like something
“When your profile goes
different and I’d like something where I have
from beginner to all-star
and that has to do with how
more control over what I do with the
you fill it in, you absolutely
organization. She said after I completed her
show up in more search
profile she got so many followers and people
connecting with her. When your profile goes
from beginner to all-star and that has to do
with how you fill it in, you absolutely show up in more search results.
This is just from filling out her profile completely?
Yes. And once that’s done, then people will see more about you, learn more
about you. That’s another thing you typically don’t see in the personal
networking group or a community, face to face networking group. You don’t
talk about your charities and things like that.
But you can on LinkedIn because it’s right
there on your profile.
Perfect. You can post portfolios and all sorts of
stuff on there.
Your profile is so much more
than a resume and an elevator
pitch. Round it out with
information on your charitable
activities, portfolio items,
published articles, associations
you belong to, and similar
You can connect with any schools or universities, there’s an education link so
you can go to your alumni pages and comment on there or reach people
there, connect with people there.
That’s great too because that’s always something that you’re going to be kind
of feeling…it’s sort of like a brotherhood when you leave a college. Don’t forget
Right. It’s a connection. We went to the same school together, we went to the
same university together. You have no idea
Don’t forget to join the alumni
what they’ve done with their life. The biggest
groups for your schools and
thing with Linked in too, it’s knowing that
universities. These are great
person who knows that person, it’s kind of like
places to network and rea ripple effect. Their connections may know
connect with old friends.
some connections that can help you, so it
really is a huge network.
Yes, it definitely is. You can see on the right-hand side somewhere it tells you the
size of your network. It sometimes is like whoa.
I think there’s 258 million people now on LinkedIn. That’s recent data. There’s a
lot of people out there. Whether you have a local product or you have
something that you ship, actually, you have the ability to do that with ecommerce. There’s people out there that really want to help you and you want
to help them. So, it’s really a give and take, I feel.
That’s an interesting point. I think if you really start using LinkedIn effectively it’s
really a win-win kind of thing. I mean you’re looking for win-win relationships.
Correct me if I’m wrong, I think a lot of people out there on LinkedIn are doing
Yes. Most of them are. Sometimes I have to say, honestly, this is not about you
because you want to offer them something if you have something to offer. Not
necessarily a discount but share information. I have some mentors who are very
helpful, e-mail me if you have any questions.
So, there’s help out there, there’s mentors out
“There’s 258 million people
there and there’s people who will guide you
now on LinkedIn. That’s
and help you. They just want to do this. It’s not
recent data. There’s people
that they’re going to charge you, necessarily.
out there that really want to
They just want to help. I think those are the
help you and you want to
people that have some of the best
help them…if you’re not
sure and you say now what,
recommendations, have some of the best
ask someone who does
connections. There’s a gentleman that wrote a
book, he has a company called Likability. You
can’t get better than that. He’s real free with
information, so there’s a lot of people out there willing to help if you don’t know
which direction to go. So, I’d say if you’re not sure and you say now what, ask
someone who does know.
Really, really good point. I think a lot of people are kind of ashamed to ask but
you don’t grow if you don’t ask.
Well, it’s also the way you ask. I’ve had people ask me to do their profile for
them, the whole thing. I said really I can’t do that but I will give you some
pointers. Or send them to my website or have blog information typically related
to LinkedIn. So, there are places to go for information.
Can you touch briefly on endorsements?
Yes. Good point. Really good question. I get this a lot too. Endorsements are kind
of a controversial thing. LinkedIn did that so
Endorsements are optional.
that we can improve our interactions with
You don’t have to give or
others. I always tell people if you see them at
accept endorsements you are
the top of your profile you don’t have to
not comfortable with.
accept them all. You can X out of the ones
that you are not…anyone can type something into that box as an endorsement.
So say someone were to endorse me for accounting (laughs). So I would X that
out and then add the others if I choose to. So, when that shows up on the top of
your profile you can decide whether to endorse someone or not endorse
someone. You can also decide whether you want the endorsement from the
other person to show up.
So, I’ll have people that endorse me for everything and anything. They just type
stuff in. That’s where LinkedIn says…it just really wants their photo to show up on
your page all the time. I don’t know that that’s true. I think they’re trying to be
nice but it’s overkill at times. So, if you know the person and you know what they
do, endorse them for that. If you don’t know them and they’ve endorsed you
then you want to go down there and look at their skills and expertise and then
endorse them for the one or two top things that they do.
Sometimes it’s like who is this person and why are they endorsing me for
everything that’s on my profile when I’ve never heard of them?
Exactly. You don’t have to take those endorsements. You don’t have to add
those. The other thing with endorsements,
When someone endorses you
and I tell people to do this and very few
for a skill, thank them. So few
people do this, so it very much will impress
people do this, it will really
your clients or customers or employers, is
make you stand out from the
thank them. Thank them for the
endorsement. I really appreciate it and then
my name. Very few times when I endorse
someone do I get that response back.
Yeah. I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten that response back. Maybe once or twice.
I have done it and I think it’s always a good idea to thank people for everything.
I probably don’t do it enough and I think most people don’t. People are busy.
But it really makes a difference when you do get thanked.
And the other thing is when people view your
profile...people don’t always do this, this is kind
of controversial too and I think it’s more of how
you say it. My thought is that it’s okay to reach
out to them. You can connect with them there
very easily even if they’re a third connection,
just hit the connect button. It allows you to
write a personal message. I might say
something like thanks for stopping by to view
my profile. If I can do anything to help you, please let me know. So, anyone can
really say that because then you’re saying how can I help you, that means, can
I introduce you to someone? Can I connect you with someone? Can I help you
in your industry? Or whether it’s a job seeker, do you know someone. So, it’s how
you reach out to them. Instead of like hi, do you want to buy my stuff?
Thanking people for stopping
by your profile is a great way to
reach out to people who have
shown an interest to you. Don’t
try to sell them, though – just
make a sincere connection and
offer to be of help.
Right. I’m really glad you’ve said that because I’ve done that a couple times
but I’ve always felt a little bit weird about it. It’s like they viewed my profile but
are they going to feel weirded out if I reach out. But you’re saying if you do it
discretely it’s probably an okay thing to do.
Yeah. Honestly, be yourself. I’m a big smiley
“Honestly, be yourself. I’m a
face person, so I’ll say thanks for stopping by
big smiley face person, so
and then I’ll put a little smiley in there. But
I’ll say thanks for stopping
that’s just me. So it’s how would you respond
by and then I’ll put a little
to people in general. Most people connect
smiley in there. But that’s
when I send that personal message. Usually, if
just me. So it’s how would
they’re looking at your profile they’re looking
you respond to people in
for a reason. If you’re a job seeker and it’s an
general. Most people
employer, I mean that’s absolutely fine. Again,
connect when I send that
you don’t want to say, hi, please give me a
job. You want to say hoping to connect, I’ve
had all these years of experience. I see that
you are a recruiter in this area... You just kind of let them know a little bit about
you but you’re not asking them for anything. Maybe the second time or if they
even connect with you then I’d ask them. It’s kind of a process depending on
who you want to connect with.
All right. Well, I think we’re kind of running up against time. Is there anything that
you would want to add as something that we haven’t discussed that would be
a really important thing to keep in mind when you’re on LinkedIn?
I think one of the things is…when I talk to people it’s I don’t have time for this. I
don’t have time to do this. I’m too busy. I say if you can go on once a day,
depending on…if you’re trying to build your business I would say more, like twice
a day and do like we said, like an article, share an article, share some news,
things like that and make one connection a day. They say I can do that. I say
yeah, it’s five minutes tops. So really if you’re crunched for time it’s not like
Facebook. You don’t have to be commenting and responding to everyone or
the people that you know that are on there posting regularly. It’s just a simple
thing of make a comment and then you might want to follow up.
The other thing is time. Say you’re on vacation for a week and you notice when
you come back you haven’t checked your computer and you have all these
people that have messaged you. You just say
sorry I haven’t gotten back to you sooner, and
Just 5 to 10 minutes a day is all
it takes to maintain an effective
that’s it. It’s kind of like a fancy wedding gift or
presence on LinkedIn.
something, if you do it within a reasonable
time it’s okay. If you wait six months you
might…but something like that I would say as soon as you can is great. But try to
respond to people.
Right. The great thing about LinkedIn is everybody’s in business so we all know
what it’s like.
Absolutely. Everybody gets busy, everybody has family issues or problems and
you kind of work around that.
All right. Thank you, Sherry. I really, really appreciate your time today. Man, have
you given us some good points here, something to really think about. Anybody
listening to you today…I know I’m going to be going and changing a few things
that I do on LinkedIn. I just want to mention that you are available as a LinkedIn
coach or a business coach.
Yes. I’m a consultant specifically doing profiles for businesses, job seekers. I can
teach them how to do it. It’s physically easier for me to send out a questionnaire
and do it for them.
Right. Just have an expert do it for you. You are available at SherrySexton.com,
Oh, that’s your e-mail.
My LinkedIn is www.linkedin.cominsherrysexton. That’s another quick tip, if
your URL for LinkedIn is not personalized and you have numbers behind that,
that’s easy to personalize that in your public profile. If you create my
personalized URL and shave those funky numbers. You’ll see it on your profile.
Change it to your name.
Yeah, your name.
One last thing, Sherry, on her website which is
Get more of Sherry’s tips for
SherrySexton.com she’s got some LinkedIn tips
improving your LinkedIn
if you go to her website on the right-hand side.
presence at SherrySexton.com.
Click on those and there’s 15 top LinkedIn tips
that are great. Some tips on personalizing your
profile and some other tips, they’re really good ones. Feel free to go and check
those out. Thank you, Sherry. I really appreciate your time again. You just have a
great 2014. We’re just about to go into a new year.
You’re welcome. My pleasure. Happy holidays to you as well.
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