Should You Be Using LinkedIn Sales Navigator?

If you are doing research – Sales Navigator can really help you

LinkedIn is first and foremost a database. A database that contains information on hundreds of millions of people. Often this data is skinny or thin, but just as often it can tell you things you wouldn’t find elsewhere. In particular I have found that people will often talk a bit too much about their last job – revenue levels that should have stayed private, products worked on that should have stayed secret.

All of these profiles really become available to you when you can use the search tools that LinkedIn Navigator incorporates. In the free version of LinkedIn you have a dozen filters that get shut down once you hit the monthly Commercial Search Limit. Sales Navigator has a couple of dozen filters and the user interface for them has gotten pretty good.

Search Navigator also helps with company research too. Premium LinkedIn accounts get access to headcount growth, and changes to headcount by department, and new hires by month. I use these statistics to paint a picture of a company’s health by using headcount trends as a proxy for revenue trends. Very handy.

If you are in sales – Sales Navigator can maybe help you

(Here’s where I get in trouble again. )

What? Sales Navigator is only a “maybe” for salespeople?

Well, yes. This has to do with the difference between research and sales. For research, you have 500 million LinkedIn profiles to work with. In other words, everyone on LinkedIn. With sales, you realistically only have the tiny social network embedded in LinkedIn to work with. And that’s around one quarter of those 500 million, and realistically less that. A little under one in four LinkedIn users shows up on LinkedIn at least once a month. This is based on LinkedIn’s last released statistics 14 months ago, and that LinkedIn has not said anything since then to contradict the trend that monthly or active users constitute under 25% of overall users. There are companies that claim LinkedIn has really ramped up active users in the past year, but I am skeptical of a supposedly fabulous statistic where I can’t find how it was derived and that LinkedIn has no comment on.

So seventy five percent of LinkedIn users are not around much. Not around to see your LinkedIn ad, not around to see your sponsored updates, not around to see your articles and updates, and certainly not around to see your message.

The decision on using Sales Navigator for sales should be predicated on whether your prospects are active on LinkedIn. If they are not active, the greatest message in the world won’t receive a reply. Some of these active people will be really obvious – if you sell to human resources, sales, marketing or consultants, you win, Sales Navigator will likely work for you. But if you sell to other professions, best to check to make sure a lot of people in those professions are actively using LinkedIn.

Before you sign up for Sales Navigator, have a good idea how you want to use it, and a good idea whether Sales Navigator will actually help you accomplish your goals. It’s the difference between spending money and investing money.  

 

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.   

 

What Do The User Interface Changes Mean To Free LinkedIn Users?

An optimist will see salvageable boats, a pessimist…

I had figured to hold off on writing about the new LinkedIn desktop user interface until it is more generally available. Plus, I don’t have it yet myself. But I am receiving an increasing number of messages about the pending / ongoing changes to the LinkedIn desktop user interface. These messages range in angst level from mildly curious to “hair on fire.”  

So consider this an interim report.

There is a lot that is unknown, but here is what I can tell you, and what you can do about it.  

While I don’t have the new user interface, I have seen glimpses from early adopters, and done a lot of research online.  While nothing is final, some themes are emerging:

  • There are a lot of odd things missing from the new desktop interface that shouldn’t be missing. Many of these are probably bus type omissions and will be restored in one way or another. I wouldn’t consider anything we get in the next few weeks as “final.” This is a huge undertaking, much bigger than the publishing or messaging updates in the last year or so.  
  • The homepage will look different, as will your profile. There seems to be a mix of added features, changes to existing features, and features dropped altogether.
  • The biggest change, and the one getting the most attention, is that any serious  search ability will be disappearing from “free” LinkedIn. The assumption is that this will force users to upgrade to Sales Navigator.
  • The Business Plus premium subscription seems to be in the process of being morphed into some kind of job seeker product. Business Premium is adding LinkedIn Learning (nee Lynda.com), but losing advanced search capability. InMail remains, along with some other features that would appeal to people looking for jobs.  

We have seen functionality go away before, so features disappearing shouldn’t come as a surprise. Usually they were features that a small number of LinkedIn users were really passionate about, or features that weren’t adopted by users on a scale to make their continued maintenance by LinkedIn worthwhile.  However, losing Advanced Search tools in the free version of LinkedIn is a big deal. Lots of people use the Advanced Search tools. But when Microsoft bought LinkedIn six months ago, one of the things they mentioned was they felt they could “accelerate monetization through individual and organization subscriptions.”  So we have known for six months that something was coming. Now we know what it is.

So what should you do? Upgrade to Sales Navigator?

Well the first you should do is separate the emotional part. The emotional part is “I got all this stuff for free and now I have to pay for it.” If you use Salesforce for business, you have to pay for it. If you use a mobile phone,  you have to pay for it. You use LinkedIn for business. What were you expecting? Sorry folks, get over it. Be thankful you got it for free for so long. Put your anger aside and deal with the situation as it is now.  

Now that emotion is out of the way, make a business decision. If Sales Navigator is going to cost you 800 bucks for a year (or whatever it will end up costing), is it going to help you land enough deals to pay for itself?

Can you use Sales Navigator’s Advanced Search to find more prospects?

Can you use the “lead” feature to track more prospects?

Can you use InMail to reach more of the prospects you find?

If the answer is yes, great. Go for it. If no, great, free looks like it still will be good for LinkedIn groups, your profile as a reference check, Pulse, writing, sharing and commenting, and company pages.

If you are unsure, take advantage of any one month (or more) free offers from LinkedIn, or sign up for a pay as you go each month plan and try it for a couple of months. LinkedIn seems to be one of the few places where you can still try a premium subscription with no long term obligation. Take advantage of it while it’s still there.

As most people who know me are aware, I find LinkedIn’s search tools to be downright awesome. I am not as big a fan of the “designate someone as a lead and follow them” feature, because if I find someone I want to approach, I don’t follow them for two months, I approach them now.  InMail has a bad rep, but mostly because so many LinkedIn users have no clue how to use it correctly. InMail works if you know how to work InMail.  So while I am indifferent to the leads feature, the search filters and InMail make Sales Navigator a good investment for me.