linkedinCan you identify a great sales rep just by looking at the person's LinkedIn profile? Some new research shows that top sales people tend to fit a certain profile in how they use this career and business social networking platform. Do your sales reps fit the profile?  What about your potential hires?  Here's a deeper look into key tip offs to knowing you've found a great sales rep.

First, some background. The research was conducted by author Steve A. Martin, who blogged about his results at the Harvard Business Review blogs. He interviewed 54 technology sales reps to gain insight into how they used LinkedIn in the course of their work. Twenty-five percent of those he spoke with fit into the category of Enthusiasts. These are the top performers.

The following are some key facts about members of this group, according to Martin:
  • They use their LinkedIn accounts throughout the day
  • Believe LinkedIn is an important tool to generate product interest and promote their companies
  • They are more likely to be outside sales people responsible for acquiring new accounts.
  • They average about 700 LinkedIn contacts
  • About half of them have paid for Premium LinkedIn memberships out of their own pockets.
  • 40 percent have generated revenue from LinkedIn
  • 55 percent use LinkedIn to research the competition
  • 70 percent use LinkedIn to keep existing customers informed about their company
  • only 15 percent have used LinkedIn to make initial unsolicited contact with prospects.
Casual users of LinkedIn were the largest group at about 40 percent of the total. They use the platform to research and learn about prospective clients, and they have about 250 contacts on average. Twenty percent of these users have generated revenue from LinkedIn use; 10 percent have used LinkedIn to research the competition and 18 percent use the platform to keep existing customers informed about their company.

Personal users made up 15 percent of the participants and tended to use LinkedIn mostly for job-related networking, and rarely used it for work-related purposes. They averaged around 300 contacts.

And about 25 percent of salespeople were classified as non-participants. They either didn't have a LinkedIn account or their profile contained very little personal information. They tended to have fewer than 20 contacts. They tended to be older than Enthusiasts, and they tended to have worked for the same company for many years.

Clearly, Enthusiasts are the stand outs here. Do your sales reps fit this profile? When you evaluate sales candidates, do you evaluate their LinkedIn profile?