I have had some interesting experiences with LinkedIn recommendations recently. Most LinkedIn experts will tell you that all professionals need to have recommendations in their profiles and I agree with that. But are LinkedIn recommendations important for small business owners?

I think they are. If you’re a solo service provider, as many of the readers of this blog are, LinkedIn recommendations can give a prospective client some insights as to what they can expect if they work with you.

The language that a happy client uses may resonate with a prospective client. The prospect may think, “That’s my situation!” and feel confident that you can help them as well. Then, your sales conversation goes much more smoothly.

Publicly posted LinkedIn recommendations are social proof

Social proof is important. Think about it, when you go to a site that posts reviews of local restaurants, you might be inclined to believe what Foodie55 says even more than what the business says on its website.

Studies confirm this. In fact, most people rank a company’s marketing as the least reliable source. (Sorry marketers.)

The same holds true for LinkedIn recommendations. People will look to see what others have said and will try to get a sense of who you work with and what you provide.

LinkedIn reviews may not say exactly what you wish they did

However, if you do something that people might be uncomfortable talking about, you might get good reviews about your services, but the real magic of what you do is noticeably absent.

For example, my prospective clients don’t call me when things are going well. They call me when they are stuck, overwhelmed, financially distressed, or have a perfect storm of icky stuff going on in their lives.

In many cases, the work we do together is transformational and they completely re-launch themselves. When we fix their career or business issues, every aspect of their life improves.

However, nobody is going to publicly post on LinkedIn real facts about the state they were in when we started working together. Instead, people talk about how helpful having a strategy and accountability was.

That’s great, and certainly it contributed to the successful outcome, but that’s not the real magic of what I did and do. For a lot of my work, LinkedIn reviews are woefully incomplete, and I just have to work around that.

However, I have found that one-on-one, former clients are willing to share a more complete version of their story with a prospective client. In fact, they have been truly wonderful about that. And I really don’t blame them for not wanting to post certain things publicly….

Prospects may reach out directly to verify a recommendation

This situation took me completely by surprise. A recent and very happy client posted a glowing recommendation of the way I helped him transition from entrepreneur to employee.

Separately, a week later, an entrepreneur in a similar situation and industry reached out to learn more about my coaching. The entrepreneur shared a bit about his background and I suggested he read that recent recommendation from my former client as social proof.

What I didn’t expect was that he would reach out directly to the former client prior to our scheduled intro phone conversation and have an hour-long phone chat with him!

Note to self: make sure recommendations are real because people might verify the information.

LinkedIn recommendations are important, and a good way to boost your credibility. Many prospects will do a search on your name and look you up on LinkedIn prior to talking to you. Make sure you give them some good stuff to find.

Reach out to happy clients and have them post honest recommendations. You’ll be glad you did.