How does LinkedIn social selling work?

Estimated read time: 11 minutes

LinkedIn is a great social media network to connect with professional acquaintances, and potential customers and share your thought leadership content. This video and article explain how you can improve your profile to rock LinkedIn social selling.

In addition to what was presented in the video, let’s dive into some other tips and thoughts on optimizing your LinkedIn profile.

In this podcast episode, Author Timothy Hughes shares additional tips on LinkedIn social selling and social strategies in general.

Stay connected to people.

I use LinkedIn similarly to how I used a Rolodex 20 years ago. It’s my address book of connections. When I meet somebody new, I will typically look them up on LinkedIn, thank them for meeting/the great discussion/etc. and ask them if they want to connect. Those connections ultimately are also part of LinkedIn social selling. We are now connected, and I can be top of mind when they need my services.

It’s far easier to keep contacts in a structured way this way.

Read next: How to automatically use LinkedIn to prepare for upcoming meetings

How to connect

Connecting with people on LinkedIn is highly beneficial, and you can even now join at the moment while at conferences using the app.

The temptation to connect with everyone that gives you their business card certainly is there. Or that you connected with on Twitter or whose blog post you’ve read. The list of why you might connect with people on LinkedIn can be long and a personal decision.

A best practice to me seems always to include a personal message when inviting people to connect – especially if you haven’t met before.

It was nice to meet you at the conference. I would love to connect.

I’ve been reading your blog and would love to connect here.


You could probably even have a templated message that you send to everyone.

Read next: [LinkedIn] How to stand out on LinkedIn by sending voice messages

What’s the Social Selling Index on LinkedIn, and how should I use it?

The Social Selling Index gives you a score and ranks your LinkedIn social selling activities against others.

Like any digital metric, take them for what they are worth, use them to help you grow digital audiences, and go from there.

The LinkedIn Social Selling Index measures these items/areas:

  • Are you establishing a professional brand?
  • If you are finding the right people?
  • Are you engaging with insights?
  • Do you build relationships?

Social Selling Index score breakdown

LinkedIn measures your profile on a scale of 1-25 in each category and on a total combined max score of 100.

The LinkedIn Social Selling Index also gives you a historical look at your score.



My LinkedIn Social Selling Index score

So, according to these metrics, I’m best at building relationships. No. 2 on my list is establishing my professional brand. I almost got a 24 out of 25 on that one. I assume that is because my LinkedIn profile is filled out, I have a professional picture and around 100 recommendations, and I try to follow all the best practices.

Next on the list with 22 and 25 is the category of finding the right people. I used the LinkedIn Sales Navigator to follow people who aren’t even in my network.

The category of engaging with insights got the lowest score, with just over 20 points out of 25.

Determine your LinkedIn audience

Of course, everything comes back to the right strategy and understanding of audience. Some of the questions that I use to guide and improve my content and that your organization can use as well:

  • Who is my audience on LinkedIn?
  • What kind of content do they expect on the network?
  • Historically, what types of stories and content have previously performed well?
  • What insights can I share that is unique and not just rehashing somebody else’s?
  • Is my content solving a problem, and is it helpful?

So, the next step should be to figure out how to improve the content on LinkedIn and precisely for that audience.

Get your score here

Adding a short introductory video

LinkedIn rolled out in May 2021 the option to add a cover story video. This is another excellent way to introduce or re-introduce yourself to people. This shows up on the top of your profile, and people can view it by clicking on your photo from the LinkedIn mobile app.

To add the video, I recorded via Zoom from my computer in my studio/office. Here’s the video:

I then emailed it to myself, opened it on my iPad Pro, saved it to my video library, and uploaded it to my LinkedIn profile. Go to your profile, click the plus button on your image and upload for up to 30 seconds.

You can also easily record it from your mobile device.

Using the Follow Button on LinkedIn Profile

I typically accept most people’s connection requests, but I know some people feel strongly about only taking requests from people they know.

Another way to reduce connection requests is by adding the follow button to your profile. When that’s activated, the default action for people looking to connect with you is to follow you. No effort is required on your part when they click that button. Now they follow you, but you aren’t following them.

The power of the follow button comes into play when you regularly share good content. This is another way to stay in front of people whether they are connected to you or follow you. 

To activate that button, go to the settings from your LinkedIn profile and see who can follow me.

From there, turn that function on.

Adding a custom message when connecting with people via the LinkedIn app

It used to be harder to add a custom message when connected with people through the mobile app. You had to click on the more button to be able to add a personalized message.

But starting in late 2019, LinkedIn added the add custom invite function directly on the connect button.

Once you click connect, you then get prompted by this screen:

You still have the option to send without a note, but at the very least, it gives you the opportunity and the prompt,

I would recommend adding a custom note, even if it’s just something short, and sending the invite after that has been added.

Once connected, should I sell?

The temptation is also there that once you’re connected with somebody who is a potential business lead, you send them a pitch.

I would recommend against that unless there is some previous connection or reason why you’re connecting. On the flip side, there might be an opportunity to send something relevant if you have spoken before or if the other person has given some indication of interest in discussing the topic.

Consider just having a conversation or asking some conversational questions.

Finding subject matter experts in my network

I can search my network by people’s names, locations, and any keywords listed in profiles when I am searching for somebody with a background in a specific area, for example.

Searching like this couldn’t quickly be done in a Rolodex. Nobody lists all their areas of expertise on their business card or previous employers!


Others can write recommendations for specific jobs that you have listed on your profile. They take an effort from the other person and are tremendously helpful. They also offer a glimpse into what the other person thinks are your strengths.

Read some of my recommendations here.

When somebody recommends me, I send them a thank you note and sometimes write a recommendation for them. However, I would caution you from writing one as soon as you publish theirs. That could look like you are just exchanging recommendations.

When it comes to LinkedIn social selling, recommendations can increase instant trust.

I sometimes have asked specific people for recommendations. Usually, this is triggered by an online or offline exchange. For example, if somebody publicly mentions how they liked something I’ve done, I might ask them for a LinkedIn recommendation. But I always tell them that I would understand if they would rather not. It’s a fairly public act!

Just because somebody asks for a recommendation doesn’t mean they are necessarily looking for a job. It might just mean that they like keeping their profiles updated.

I write recommendations for others when I appreciate something they have done in a specific position—the more precise the offer, the better. “So and so is a good worker” doesn’t tell us much about why he is a good worker.

Recommendations are an excellent way to document publicly the good things going on in our professional lives.

Thank you again to everyone who has taken to time to recommend me!


Endorsements don’t take as much time for the other person as recommendations. People can click on your specific skills and endorse the skills that you have listed in your profile. When people endorse me for particular skills, I send them a thank you note. They don’t have to endorse me.

Finally, it’s a great way to see what your network, in aggregate, thinks your main strengths are. For example, social media marketing has ranked No. 1 for me for a while now. So, in essence, the people who endorsed that skill also voted that to be my No. 1 skill.

You likely have seen endorsements on LinkedIn. You can endorse people for specific skills. These are one-click engagements – so super quick. And much faster than recommendations – which are written out.

Endorsements look like this on your profile once you have some:

Some people have argued on social media that endorsements aren’t worth that much. If people want to endorse you meaningfully, they should write a recommendation.

Not sure why some people feel so strongly about it. I enjoy and appreciate it when people endorse or recommend me. Either way, one point of contention was that people would endorse other people when they didn’t have much basis for the endorsement. In other words: They had never seen the person perform the task they were endorsing them for.

It appears that LinkedIn listened to this outcry feedback. So I went to endorse somebody – based on what I knew about them, and once I did, I got this popup:

First, I was asked to rate how good they were at the endorsement area.

Once I clicked that, I got this screen:

LinkedIn is now qualifying what I’m basing my endorsement on by asking me how I know the person deserves an endorsement.

I’m unsure how this will be weighed and displayed – if it will be even. But it is undoubtedly a good step, in my opinion.

I’ve always felt LinkedIn endorsements were worth something – maybe not as much as a written recommendation. But having dozens of endorsements in a skill certainly stands for something.

I applaud LinkedIn for apparently trying to add more context to it. We’ll see how it evolves.

Why LinkedIn assessments are worth it

LinkedIn assessments are a way to highlight your expertise on LinkedIn. For example, you can take a quiz of 15 questions, and if you get at least 70 percent correct, LinkedIn shows that you passed the quiz publicly.

That looks like this on your profile:

linkedin assessement quiz

In addition, when you apply for a job on LinkedIn, the assessments are highlighted in your application.

linkedin assessment in application

There are real advantages to taking the assessments. Of course, if you fail, that won’t be displayed publicly, but LinkedIn is trying to sell you on taking one of their courses on the topic.

They are also displayed in your LinkedIn profile’s skills and endorsements section.

asssessment display on profile

How to take a LinkedIn assessment

Go to your profile and scroll down to the endorsements. Then, take a skills quiz.

linkedin assessement quiz

From there, you get options for available quizzes. Many are highly irrelevant to me, but LinkedIn seems to add more.

skill quiz on linkedin

List other networks and contact info

LinkedIn allows you to list a link to your blog, Twitter account, company website, and other contact information.

I find it helpful to keep this updated (then people can use it to get in touch with me), and I use this frequently to follow people on Twitter, check out and subscribe to their blog.

Read next: Are LinkedIn and Facebook groups still worth the effort?

Review who found you and other strategies

Good old networking-don’t forget about it. All of my successful LinkedIn campaigns had some aspect of this in them. Talk with people. Everywhere. Online, too.

I also notice who found me by searching LinkedIn. Here is a breakdown of that. LinkedIn compiles that weekly and also shares what people are searching for. Please review it and consider updating the profile when search terms aren’t matching.


Final thoughts

LinkedIn has become my Rolodex.

LinkedIn is an excellent network to connect with friends, acquaintances, and professional contacts. It’s also great for business networking. The steps to accomplish that include having a robust LinkedIn profile, sharing valuable content, and connecting with the right people.

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