Connecting with others has never been easier. For business executives, LinkedIn is an essential personal branding and social selling tool that enables connections with others on a professional level.

By paying attention to and optimizing your LinkedIn profile, you will develop your own personal brand that will pave the way for you in any situation and, in many cases, sell you while you’re sleeping.

Here’s an example:

A few months ago, a prospect emailed me and asked to meet. The company was looking for some help with marketing.

When I arrived at the meeting, I was ushered into the boardroom, expecting to spend the hour doing some discovery and learning what the prospect needed and whether we would be a good fit.

As I entered, a woman I had never met stood up and embraced me. She said, “I’ve read your LinkedIn profile, your blog postings and watched your videos. I know you can help us – let’s get started.”

She immediately told me what she wanted to accomplish and how much her budget was. We shook hands, began the project, and I sent the Statement of Work (SOW) about a week later, long after she had actually engaged me.

What had happened here was that my LinkedIn profile was selling for me when I didn’t even know it.

Optimizing your LinkedIn profile will prepare you for a situation just like this. People will see how you can help each other and want to connect with you.

Let your personal brand and thought-leadership shine through in your LinkedIn profile by following these 6 tips:

1. A Great Profile Picture and a Professional Customized Banner

Images are one way to make a great first impression.

A good profile picture can convey all of your best attributes, giving the impression of confidence, competence and trustworthiness.

For tips on how to get a great LinkedIn profile picture, read my blog: 7 Tips for Your Best LinkedIn Picture

Few people take advantage of LinkedIn’s header images. You can attach a 1400 x 425 hero image to your LinkedIn profile. A custom image in this space will help set you apart from others.

Consider an image that includes your company’s logo, your office’s headquarters, or a photo of you giving a presentation.

Here’s my recently updated LinkedIn banner highlighting my company’s logo and myself on stage at WPC 2016.

2. A LinkedIn Title that Tells Your Story

Tell a story through your LinkedIn title in 10-15 words, instead of stating your professional title.

Include searchable keywords that represent you. Here is mine:

Here are a few great examples I’ve come across from business executives in the technology industry:

  • Ecosystem Alliance Expert – Connecting NetApp to the People and Partners who Matter for Customers
  • A Leading Sales Professional who Solves Business Challenges for Customers by Helping Simplify the Journey to the Cloud
  • Sales Professional | Data Center Specialist | Customer Advocate | Cisco Guru

3. A LinkedIn Summary That Delves into Your Story

Focus on creating a 300- to 400-word description that encapsulates who you are and what you represent. Your LinkedIn summary shouldn’t be your resume, but it should:

  • introduce who you are
  • talk about the problem you solve for clients
  • reveal your accomplishments or career highlights
  • describe other interests – like volunteer work – to show who you are as a person
  • end with a call-to-action or a quote summarizing your philosophy
  • include pictures and/or videos in the body

4. An Experience Section that Shares Your Bio

Your experience section is where you can share your resume.

Be clear and concise. Try to keep your content to three points per job, focused on outcome-based accomplishments.

5. Use LinkedIn Publisher for Thought Leadership

If you’re not using LinkedIn Publisher, you’re missing out.

LinkedIn’s blogging platform is the best place to develop your own thought leadership. It allows you to express yourself and showcase yourself as a thought leader.

Ask yourself what you’re a subject matter expert on. Is there something you know that you could share with others that provides value?

Not sure where or how to start the blogging process? Try a freefall exercise to get your words flowing. Pick a subject and write what your thoughts are on it for 10 minutes without stopping. You’ll be surprised by the content you come up with. With some editing and a little wordsmithing, you’ll be on your way to your first blog post.

Once published on LinkedIn, your content becomes part of your profile and is shared across your connections and followers. You can also share it within groups to extend its reach. A major bonus: your blog posts are also searchable on LinkedIn and through external search engines.