Startups that appear on TV show “Shark Tank” have one advantage over the rest of us. They don’t have to do much research on the investors, aka sharks. Any of them would make a valuable investor. Companies will almost always take their call. Everyone knows these sharks have great success in getting big results for startups.
But not every investor is a shark.
Investors do more than write a check. With a good investor, your startup benefits from their connections, knowledge, experience, and business skills. With a bad investor, you have someone who gets in your way, requires valuable time and effort to manage, and can steer you down the wrong path.
That’s why it can be risky to accept any offer that comes along. Connecting with an investor is like a marriage. It needs to be a good fit for both the startup and the investor.
Researching potential investors is essential – you don’t want to waste your time with the wrong people. Here are some tips for doing that kind of research using LinkedIn.
Evaluate the investor’s LinkedIn connections
LinkedIn stops counting connections at the 500 mark, so that’s a good number to use as a measuring stick. The more connections someone has, the more resources your startup would be able to access.
Of course, not all investors are neck-deep into LinkedIn. But many network incessantly and do a good job of connecting to the people they meet, so you can use LinkedIn to gauge the quality of their connections.
What kind of people does the investor know? Do they know the same people you do? Are they connected to successful entrepreneurs, media, other investors, influential people in the startup community?
Can they help build your business? Do they know potential customers, vendors, partners, employees?
What about competitors? If you see they are connected to competitors, dig deeper to see if there’s a strong relationship and whether they work together. That could be a potential red flag.
Read up on the investor’s background
Investors have to start somewhere, but it’s preferable that your startup isn’t an investor’s first. Review the person’s experience for positions held, length with company and responsibilities. Look into the types of businesses they’ve helped and how the businesses fared. Find connections at the companies they’ve invested in to ask about their experience with the investor.
You can also check LinkedIn groups and communities related to your industry. There, you might find people who know the investor, and can tell you about the person’s personality and the ability to work with others.
Look at the LinkedIn groups on the investor’s profile. What kind of groups are they? What topics and industries? Are they relevant to your startup?
Scan the investor’s skills and endorsements. You can get an idea of what the person’s strengths are if there are enough endorsements. Check out awards, organizations, articles, presentations and other media. Do they have patents?
Media coverage and speaking opportunities give you the opportunity to learn about their philosophy and see if it matches yours.
Read their LinkedIn recommendations
Are the recommendations recent? Are they in roles that would help your business? What impression do you get?
Take a look at the recommendations the person wrote for other people. You might be able to get a feel for the person’s style and personality.
Remember LinkedIn allows users to show or hide recommendations, so it’s easy to pull the ones that sound less than stellar.
Checking an investor’s references for basic LinkedIn accounts
Before digging in, beware there’s a catch. LinkedIn’s reference feature can be used or abused. In “On LinkedIn, a Reference List You Didn’t Write” from The New York Times, Natasha Singer explains how misusing reference-related features has cost people a job.
Here’s how references can be useless. The lawyer in the story did a reference search on Singer. He found 43 people in his network who have worked at The New York Times. Singer only knew four people on the list; none have worked with her. Ask the reference how they know the investor and whether they’ve worked together.
Those using the basic account can cull the information albeit with more work. Still using these methods can create a decent list of people to contact. Let’s say I want to vet an investor. I search for him to pull up his profile and look for “How You’re Connected” to see what connections he and I have in common.
Another option is to use the “People Similar to …” feature. This appears on the right-hand side of most profiles. You can also find more similar people by doing a search for a person’s name. Increase your chances of finding someone who knows the investor by selecting items in search options. Play with the different options until you get what you need.
Checking an investor’s references for premium LinkedIn accounts
Premium account users have it easy. Search for anyone and the search results let you “Find References” for a person. Reference search finds users in your network who may have worked with the investor. Narrow the list by using search options.
After you create a short list, you’ll want to see if the investors are people you want to connect with on a regular basis. It’s a long-term commitment, one that could sour quickly if you don’t like the person.
An example of a strong investor LinkedIn profile – Glen Hellman
Glen Hellman’s LinkedIn profile is a good example of what you’ll find in a qualified investor. He has more than 500 connections from a variety of companies and roles.
His awards include being the No. 1 ranked angel investor in the U.S. and a Global 100 Mentor. A quick glance at his skills reveals all the things you’d want in an investor: start-ups, strategy, leadership, and venture capital.
As a Vistage International chair, he led a group of CEOs and has three recommendations in this role. One says, “Glen is a respected, seasoned business executive who is a great mentor to entrepreneurs and CXOs looking to walk in the shoes he’s traveled in.” That’s the kind of person most would want to have on their team.
He’s also a cybersecurity startup mentor. Although he doesn’t list a lot of groups, the other factors more than make the case. The right investor may not be using every possible aspect to their LinkedIn profile. The point is to look at the different components to see what kind of story it tells.
Of course, whether Glen is a match for a particular startup depends on the industry, customers and needs.
You improve your chances of landing Glen, Mark Cuban, Lori Griener, Daymond John or any other shark when you use LinkedIn’s resources to help your startup make a good list of suitable investors. The rest is a matter of meeting them to see if it’s a match.
How would you check out an investor using LinkedIn?
The trend of using visual in social media, presentations and everywhere has gone viral and for good reason. Every social media expert recommends using visuals, lots of it. I’ve yet to hear a single person advise against using visual especially when you consider some convincing stats.
Research from 3M Corporation has found that people process images 60,000x faster and recall them six times better than words according to Matt Siltala. David Hyerle’s research has found that 80 to 90 percent of the information sent to the brain is visual.
LinkedIn got the message loud and clear as one of the new features for LinkedIn Premium members allows them to add a header image à la Facebook. It adds character, punch and color to a person’s profile. It’s an opportunity to enhance a person’s professional story.
Until a member changes the header, the default head is a plain gradient blue image. If you can’t come up with ideas right away, opt to use an image from LinkedIn’s Premium gallery rather than leave it on the default image.
You can also upload your own 1400 x 425 image. Here are some ideas and examples for what you might want to use as a header.
Show what you do. I picked this one for mine because it shows I make introductions and help people build their network.
Promote your company or brand with a logo. Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, puts his company’s logo on an airplane for a little character. Founder and CEO of a mobile app company, Mirinal Desai’s header contains a photo with a couple of mobile devices and his company’s name.
Put a face on your company. One CEO has a photo of team members in company t-shirts.
Tell people something about you. A founder and CEO’s header is her city’s skyline.
Reveal one of your beliefs. Use a powerful image with a favorite quote overlay.
Highlight the inner workings of your work or your company. This could be photos of you on the job, your coworkers in an office environment or people attending a company function.
Share your personal side. Dave Kerpen, founder and CEO of Likeable, has a collage with photos of his family, colleagues and book. It’s a nice way to share his personal side while highlighting his company and book.
Post a testimonial. Matthew Jonas uses a photo of his city with a testimonial overlay.
Show how connected you are. Phil Gerbyshak has a photo of him with two local news reporters. This gives the impression he has connections. It might also imply he’s an expert in his field since reporters often rely on knowledge sources.
When looking for the right photo, remember to account for your profile covering part of the photo. You want your most important information to appear on the sides and the top of the header.
What are some other ways you can make the most of your LinkedIn profile header?
Whether or not they happen in an elevator, a quick pitch on the fly is a reality of your business. It may be to a prospective client, a possible hire, a potential employer, or a desired partner, and you never know who you may bump into at the coffee shop. Having your pitch (or rather, pitches) ready to go at a moment’s notice can make those encounters successful.
Here are our top 5 favorite posts:
10 Tips for a Winning Elevator Pitch from Business News Daily
Give the Perfect Elevator Pitch from Inc.
How to Give a Great Elevator Pitch About Your Business from Bates Communications
How to Craft the Perfect Marketing Elevator Pitch from HubSpot
The Art of the Elevator Pitch: 10 Great Tips from readwrite
And if you want to get really creative, why not draw your elevator pitch?
LinkedIn has become a valuable social selling tool for sales people. While VPs of sales typically don’t do the selling, you represent the company. Furthermore, clients and prospects will do a search online to learn more about you and your company before they connect. Your VP of sales LinkedIn profile is most likely to appear at the top of the search results.
While you may not control what digital property of yours appears at the top of search results, you can control what your LinkedIn profile says about you. Take this opportunity to use these tips to improve your VP of sales LinkedIn profile.
Begin with your summary
Because of its narrative style, the summary is one of the most read sections in your profile. This is where you tell your business story. It’s your best chance to attract interest. Sales people are known for being great storytellers. Ensure your summary does just that.
In the summary, show people who you are by sharing what’s important to you and what your goal is for your sales department. Some VPs of sales list achievements in beating sales quotas, some get personal in talking about the things they like to do when not at work, and some add a touch of humor.
Mike Chasteen, VP sales and marketing at Lanvera, has a short ‘n’ sweet summary. He opens: “25+ years experience as an evangelist, strategist and teacher. Leading great sales teams as small as 5 and as large as 200. Successfully manages P&L’s, and drives attainment hitting revenue goals as high as $300M.”
He briefly states that he works to empower sales people and he’s an author. You can see what kind of experience he has in sales and he makes an impression with his short summary.
Another useful thing to include in your summary is what you’re looking to do with connections you meet on LinkedIn like David Cassady’s summary does. “I am on Linkedin to strengthen business relations and ensure customer success,” he writes.
Show how well you’re connected
Unless a person has more than 500 connections, LinkedIn lists how many connections you have in your profile. After 500, LinkedIn simply uses “500+,” so that’s the ideal number to target. For sales VPs, you should have no trouble making your number. Visitors to your LinkedIn profile will instantly know how well you connect with others.
They’ll also look for connections that have in common with you. So, it’s worth your time to connect with the right people. Ideal connections include your fellow executives, partners, key customers, employees, and influencers in your industry, such as editors and bloggers.
Support your experience with recommendations
Under the experience section, most LinkedIn users just outline what they do and their responsibilities. In reviewing many profiles of VP of sales, it turns out they’re thorough in sharing their experience, achievements, and more. No one stands out with an empty experience section.
Sales VP and teams live and die by their numbers, so it should be effortless to post results. Executives, clients and potential employees will want to know what you’ve accomplished. Ask yourself: As VP of sales, what results make me most proud? What outcomes did my sales team get for our company and customers?
Endorsements for skills are great, but recommendations are better. It takes more time and thought to write recommendations. Strengthen your experience by ensuring you have recommendations for your current and most recent positions. The most impressive recommendations come from customers, executives, and partners. Most people will agree to write one if you ask.
Better yet, most return the favor when you write recommendations for them. LinkedIn usually sends an email when people receive a new recommendation. That email also asks if the recipient wants to return the favor by writing a recommendation.
Get more exposure
Media — such as photos, videos, slideshows, and articles — balances a profile by adding color and visuals within all the text. To get more speaking engagements, add videos of your presenting.
Do you accept media interviews? Then, include articles with quotes from you. Have you written articles? Post those too.
Look past your connections
You may not know Bill Gates personally, but you can sort of connect with him by following him. The difference between following and connecting is that you’re not required to know the person or the company. Why bother? It’s an easy way to show who and what companies interest you. These include thought leaders in your industry, key partners, and important customers.
For example, a sales VP at a software company would follow respected influencers and experts in tech and software. These could be editors, journalists, and bloggers whose beats include tech topics or they work for a tech publication. Other thought leaders include industry analysts, tech consultants, CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, and sales VPs at other tech companies.
Don’t forget to follow company pages of clients, partners, publications, relevant professional organizations and complementary companies that would make good partners.
Find clients and influencers
LinkedIn Groups are valuable for connecting with people and forging relationships. It allows you to join up to 50 groups. Shoot for 20 at the very least.
So many groups. How to decide? Begin with the ones your customers join. Seek groups related to your industry and the type of work you do. A VP of sales at a software company with a target market of developers would look for groups related to software development and tech.
LinkedIn has almost 2 million groups. A quick search for the keywords “software development” produces 4,000 results! A VP of sales can get more specific by adding keywords related to the software product.
Since you already have some connection with the people in your alumni and favorite nonprofit organizations, join them.
Don’t miss a sales opportunity
Many LinkedIn profiles include a link to the company website, but not to other important resources. As a sales VP, you know people are more likely to buy from the people they know. Good links to include would be your company’s social media pages, blogs, FAQ, and other sources for more information about your company’s products or services.
You know buyers do the majority of their research before ever contacting the company. Help them by making it easy to find resources from your company. And it could lead to another sale.
What else can you do to boost your sales VP LinkedIn profile?
Social media is far more than a distraction or even a networking tool. Your network may be one of the most valuable resources you have, and it’s time to dive into the realm of social selling (if you haven’t already!). Odds are you’ve been doing social selling for some time, even if you haven’t realized it. Harnessing social media to reach out, share your expertise, and touch your prospects is a phenomenal method of marketing and nurturing.
Here are our top 5 blog posts on social selling: