Since you can do both on LinkedIn, let's clarify what each is, and then how to best utilize them:
Recommendations have been on LinkedIn since the beginning. This is where you ask someone to recommend you, and they can write a few sentences or paragraph about your qualities, your relationship, and anything else that helps show your value from someone else's eyes. When you want to ask for a recommendation, the screen in the image shown here pops up.
Endorsements were added recently to LinkedIn as a quick, easy way to show that someone else has the qualities you say they do. Endorsements are only possible between first degree connections - these are people you should know. LinkedIn's reasoning is that if you have listed skills and expertise, many if not all of your first-level connections will know these things about you and should easily (and quickly) be able to put their "stamp of approval" on them for you. It also gives you an easy way to interact with a connection you've not talked with or connected with in a while.
Which is better?
I would take a LinkedIn recommendation over an endorsement any day - this is a written few sentences sharing specifics that someone says about you. It is the digital version of the recommendation on a company's letterhead, which we all used to do years ago. You should have many recommendations that attest to the skills that you offer.
Your LinkedIn profile now is an Inbound marketing tool for you and your company. Anything you can show a visitor stopping by to grab their attention and encourage them to engage with you is valuable. Social proof you can offer others about how you work is the best currency available. It's not what you say you do, it's what others say that causes people to take notice.
Does that mean that Endorsements are dumb and useless?
Some people think endorsements are like a popularity contest - similar to a "like" on Facebook. I think they are one more quick way that LinkedIn has given you to support someone - and even better - to remind them of you. When you receive an endorsement you have the option to accept it or not.
Some Very Important Actions to Take for Better Recommendations and Endorsements:
1) Every week, write at least one recommendation for people you know and trust. Quite often they will want to reciprocate, and even if they don't, you have added value to others in your world which will come back to you.
2) Once a month, sit down for an hour and create several "asks" for recommendations. Send them to newer customers or strategic partners who know you. Most people are happy to recommend you if you would just ask. Make it easy for them and let them know some bullet points or suggest some wording - which helps them to quickly do a recommendation. You will be surprised at how many people will share the qualities that you exhibited when you worked with them.
3) Take a look through the Skills & Expertise that you show you have. Anything you'd want to add, or have people endorsed you for something that you're not known for, and not endorsed you for what you ARE known for? If so, ask your best clients to please endorse you for specific skills - once others focus on one or two key skills, they will rise to the top with more people endorsing you for them. Don't forget though, you are also seeing what your connections think are your skills by what they click on.
4) As a value-added gift to clients and prospects, remind them about getting their recommendations and endorsements upgraded. Social proof as to their skills, service, and abilities is one of the biggest factors in companies they don't know reaching out to them. By your encouragement of this, you are adding value and helping them grow their business.
When was the last time you sat down and thought about recommendations and expertise?
Post your success stories about them here, as that helps others with real life examples.
Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the "Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012" and one of "20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management". Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for sales strategies, tactics, and tips in selling.