Litmus Tests For Upgrading To LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Most popular question I have received in the past ten days:

LinkedIn user: “Bruce, where is ‘search’ in the new user interface?

Me: “In Sales Navigator”  

LinkedIn user: “< much profanity deleted here >”

As the new user interface is being rolled out, many LinkedIn users are stuck in a bad spot: choosing whether to upgrade to Sales Navigator and kicking the year off with a big expense they hadn’t planned on. With that in mind here are some ideas that may help you in making a decision with respect to Sales Navigator.

Sales Navigator has three basic sets of additional features compared with the free version of LinkedIn.

1) Sales Navigator has some pretty comprehensive search tools

This consists of twenty search filters, plus search by title and / or keywords.  Ability to save searches. Ability to adjust searches, broadening and narrowing parameters on the fly. I tried Sales Navigator in the late summer of 2015 and considered the search capabilities interesting but not ready for prime time. They are now. If  someone enters something on their LinkedIn profile, you can use it to find them.

And that’s all great, but if you are in charge of commercial airline sales in North America for Boeing, you probably know who all of your prospective clients are already. You don’t need Sales Navigator’s search capabilities. On the other hand, if you are selling printed circuit boards in North America, as a couple of my clients are, there are over ten thousand possible prospects, and that Advanced Search capability would come in pretty handy.  

The test for needing Advanced Search is:

  • do you know who all your prospects are?
  • Or, do you already know of so many prospects that finding more isn’t necessary?

2) Sales Navigator allows you to follow people and companies

You can designate hundreds of people and / or companies as “leads” and Sales Navigator will show you the posts they write or share, company news, and people who make job changes. You can tag people (another feature that was moved from free LinkedIn to Sales Navigator) and sort them.

This is a good suite of features if you are big on social selling and using people’s posts and shares as cues to start conversations with them. If you are more of a traditional “I’m not waiting for him or her to post, I have a compelling story to tell them now” type of person, then this feature becomes a “that’s nice” type of thing.

3) Sales Navigator grants you an allotment of InMails every month

InMails allow you to send messages to second and third degree connections.

If you prefer email or cold calls, then you don’t need this either. But if you like the idea of having the option of InMail as one of the ways you make initial contact with someone, then it can be worthwhile. However, you need to be ready to put the time in to write good InMails, otherwise InMail is just another word for Spam.

I usually tell people that the litmus test for Sales Navigator is when you grumble to yourself that you just don’t have enough prospects (you need Advanced search), or ideas to contact them (you need to be able to follow), or you want to send them direct messages via InMail. If you have one of more of these problems, then you have made a case for getting – or at least trying out – a Sales Navigator subscription.

If you wonder if you need a premium subscription, you probably don’t need it.

If you can point to a specific ability that would make a difference to your sales, then yes, you are heading in the the premium subscription direction.

A premium LinkedIn subscription should allow you to have more: more prospects, more options to contact those prospects, more responses when you do contact those prospects, and more efficient and effective use of your time.

One aspect of LinkedIn’s Premium subscriptions that I really like (which probably means it is doomed) is the ability to sign up for a premium subscription on a monthly basis. It’s more per month, but you can bail out after two or three months if it isn’t working for you.

And a final word: be prepared to put some time in learning how to use Sales Navigator effectively. Following people is pretty easy, but using Advanced Search efficiently – that is narrowing your results list to a manageable number – can have a learning curve, and InMail…well, there’s a lot to InMail. It takes a lot of work to do InMail well. So I wouldn’t recommend Sales Navigator for everybody, and for all you frugal types that are still out there, there are still lots of effective (and some sneaky) ways of using Free LinkedIn for sales.   

 

Coming Changes To LinkedIn Skills & Endorsements On The Desktop User Interface


LinkedIn wrote about changes to Skills and Endorsements back in October. They  started rolling out these changes to the mobile app in late October. They will be enabled on the new User Interface that desktop users are starting to see too. Here’s what’s different and what it may mean.

1) Endorsements are now personalized to each person who visits your profile

For example, skills endorsed by mutual connections, colleagues and people  LinkedIn figures are experts at that skill will be highlighted.   

It looks like LinkedIn has a found a sneaky way to fight “endorsement stockpiling.” You may have 99 endorsements for strategy, but LinkedIn may only show the 13 of them that LinkedIn thinks are relevant to that viewer.

2) LinkedIn will use algos to find close connections who can validate your skills.

In their October 26 announcement, LinkedIn says they they will “improve targeting for suggesting endorsements so that the connections who know your work best can validate your skills.”

Previously, LinkedIn suggested people to endorse in a seemingly random manner with a generic “what does Fred know about <skill>” type message. It now appears LinkedIn is going to look for people you are close to, and suggest you endorse those people for their skills.  

In theory, this makes sense, as I am more likely to endorse someone I actually do know really well versus one of my more speculative connections.

On the other hand, LinkedIn may figure out “connections who know your work best” by using something like the Connection Strength Score, which has not been very helpful for Notifications.

3) There is a definite link between skills / endorsements and LinkedIn search results.

While this has been implied in the past, this is the first concrete proof I have seen  that Skills are taken into consideration in search results. As LinkedIn says in the announcement, “Endorsements help ensure you are more likely to be discovered through search.”

Note that “more likely to be discovered” means you will be included in the search results. It does not necessarily mean you will rank near the top in the search results.

4) LinkedIn will now suggest skills you should add “based on your profile”

This may be based on seeing you use a keyword like “Strategy” in your Summary and then suggesting you list “Strategy” as a skill. Or this may just be a sneaky way for LinkedIn to advertise LinkedIn Learning courses which would teach you that skill you should add.

5) Endorsements are still used primarily by recruiters and HR people

This come through in the wording in LinkedIn’s announcements – things like “more than a third of hiring managers spend more than 60 seconds browsing your skills and endorsements” – you can see that Endorsements are still thought of by LinkedIn as a tool for hiring.

But that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t use them for our own purposes. In particular, I have found that Skills and Endorsements are a great place for STEM people to list things like programming languages and technologies they are conversant with.

So what does this all mean? It looks like Skills and Endorsements are here to stay. I think if LinkedIn really was interested in helping us users, they would be putting the same effort into Recommendations. But while Skills and Endorsements help LinkedIn users somewhat, they sure seem to help LinkedIn more, providing “hooks” for Sales Navigator and Recruiting people to use, and possibly helping to sell Learning courses.  

Of course, the actual appearance of all this new Skills and Endorsements  functionality is dependent upon the new desktop user interface rollout, which at present, doesn’t seem to be rolling very quickly.

 

Why Asking Your Connections For Help Often Doesn’t End Well On LinkedIn

About once a month someone will ask me for help because they are sending a message like this one to all of their connections and getting no response:  

Subject / headline:  Looking for your assistance

My new (insert one of: product/service/revolutionary device) is almost ready. Do you have any connections who are CEO’s of small companies who could use my product? If so, I would really appreciate it if you introduce me to them.

Thanks!

So why is this approach is doomed to failure?

1) The headline alone dooms it to failure. In a world that seems based on “what’s in it for me?”, a headline that says this is all about you is a non-starter.

2) You are perceived as asking your connection to do all the work for you. Many recipients of this message will translate it as “please go and do my prospecting for me, and then qualify those prospects, and then bring them to me.” This doesn’t sound like a favor, this sounds like you want them to do your job for you.

3) It looks generic. If your message isn’t personalized, it looks like what it probably is: a cattle call you sent to a lot of people. Half the people receiving this message will be insulted to receive a generic message and not respond. The other half will  figure it was sent to a lot of people, assume that someone else will help you…and not respond.

4) It’s too open ended.  How many prospects does he want? Is two okay? How about five? He doesn’t want ten does he? Fifteen? Good heavens, he isn’t expecting me to find fifteen prospects for him is he? I don’t have the time to find fifteen prospects, forget it.  

Is such as approach ever appropriate? Sure. When you have scads of credibility with the other person, they know and like you, and unquestionably would want to help you. (hint: start with your mom and expand from there. It won’t be a big crowd)

The other time this approach is appropriate is if you are already a LinkedIn Influencer, have thousands and thousands of followers and can depend on LinkedIn to promote your post and get it in front of thousands of people. Unfortunately, the last time I looked, you and I weren’t part of the LinkedIn Influencer Pulse-opoly.  

It all boils down to being not specific enough: you should be asking a specific connection for help with a specific company or person.  This translates as “I am coming to you because I think you are the only person with the unique knowledge of this company (or person) that can help me.”  

There is nothing wrong with asking your network for help. Just don’t ask your network, ask the individual people in your network one at a time, and ask them for specific help with a specific person or company.