Free LinkedIn vs Sales Navigator: Comparing Search Tools

I get asked about this a lot. The usual trigger is someone banging up against the commercial search limit in free LinkedIn.

The difference in the Search tools available in Sales Navigator is one of the key differences between the two.

What You Can Do With Free LinkedIn Search

Using the search bar, you can look for people, jobs, content, companies, schools or LinkedIn groups which contain the search word or phrase you enter. The main thing search is used for is finding people, and if you search for people, additional filters are at your disposal. While these are limited in number and many of them are frankly quite useless (“Interested in joining a non-profit board” ??), there are a few filters such as location, industry, and job title, that can be used to great effect.

You can also look specifically for first and second degree connections. This is really, really important. If you are good at asking your connections for introductions, you may not need the search tools in Sales navigator at all.

You can save up to three people searches – handy if you have used multiple filters and want to come back to a search again.

Two under utilized uses of free LinkedIn search are hashtag research – enter the hashtag term and LinkedIn will show how many people follow it – and searching for content based on words or phrases, which can help you tell how popular a topic is on LinkedIn.

The Commercial Search Limit

Almost everyone who uses Free LinkedIn for search bumps up against the Commercial Search Limit. After a certain number of searches (and LinkedIn won’t tell you how many it is) you are shut out of search for the rest of the month.

Whoever came up with the idea of the Commercial Search Limit at LinkedIn is an evil genius.

Additional Search Tools In Sales Navigator

The key word is “more.” More searches: there is no limit to the number of searches you can perform and you have more saved searches – ten at a time. But the big thing is more filters. Sales Navigator has over twenty search filters, including better granularity in geographical searches.

Additional Sales Navigator people filters include:

  • Seniority level (CXO, VP, Director, Manager etc),
  • Function (engineering, operations, sales, marketing etc)
  • LinkedIn Groups
  • Years at current company (great for finding new people who may be open to new vendors and shaking things up a bit)
  • Years in current position (ditto)

Sales Navigator users have the ability to re-filter search results, in other words, the ability to see what effects changes to filters can make to results on the fly. This is a very useful feature for getting your results down to a manageable number to work with.

One outstanding filter only shows up once you have done a people search. Sales Navigator will allow you to see all the people within that search who have changed jobs in the past ninety days.

Summary

If you find yourself bumping up against the commercial search limit quite often, you are making a case for Sales Navigator. If you are getting weird, lousy or unusable results you may also need Sales Navigator.

However, most people have a poor grasp of how search works on LinkedIn or have never been trained on how to use it effectively, so the results they get are going to be sub optimal, regardless of which version they are using. Taking the time to really understand how search works on LinkedIn and what exactly the filters do and don’t do will pay for itself regardless of whether you are searching using regular LinkedIn or Sales Navigator.

This post originally appeared in my Advanced Strategies and Tactics for LinkedIn newsletter as part of a 7 part series comparing free LinkedIn with Sales Navigator. You can sign up for this and my newsletters on using LinkedIn for Sales and LinkedIn for Marketing here: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

Why Are Introductions So Hard To Get On LinkedIn?

It’s actually pretty simple.

When you ask for an introduction on LinkedIn, you are asking one of your connections to introduce you to one of his or her connections.

But if you are like most LinkedIn users, you have a decent sized network of connections where you really only know maybe 20% of those people well. The other 80% are people you met at a trade show one time, or they are someone that you worked with three jobs ago, or you connected with them for any number of reasons, but the reality is that you never really developed a relationship with that person.

So when you go to ask a connection to perform an introduction, there is an 80% chance that that connection is someone who doesn’t really know you that well. And they aren’t that comfortable providing the introduction. To them you represent risk: someone who may make him or her look bad. Of course you are not going to make them look bad, but as your connection doesn’t know you that well, they don’t know that.

Even worse, if you do find someone in the 20% you know well that seems willing to provide an introduction, there’s an 80% chance that they don’t know the target person you want to be introduced to that well themselves! The same thing holds true for them as it does for you: they only know 20% of their connections reasonably well. The possible introduction you wanted falls flat because your connection has no credibility with the target person.

So you started off all excited because you discovered a pathway through a connection to someone you really want to meet. But the odds of this working out in the end are only 20% (that you know your connection that well) of 20% (that they know your target that well).

That’s a measly 4% success rate. Heck, that’s barely better than a cold call.

So what can you do about it? Lots actually. Because understanding the “why” sets you on the path to figuring out the “how” to work around the limitations, and even use these limitations to your advantage.

Most people focus on the 80% failure rate and just give up. They should be figuring out what makes up the 20% and how to find them.

What Works For Me: Using Research To Turbocharge LinkedIn Outreach

When I want to reach out to someone on LinkedIn, finding them is just the start.

I do a lot of research on the person and their company and then I write the message.

I start by reviewing their LinkedIn profile. This is where most people start their research. It is also where most people end their research. That’s why a lot of outreach messages seem to revolve around where people went to school or who they used to work for.

Their profile is a nice start, but that’s not good enough for me. My goal is to mention something in my message that makes them stop in their tracks.

So I also….

  • review their LinkedIn activity
  • research people that seem to be their peers at their company
  • check both their company website and the company page on LinkedIn
  • Have a look at how this info stacks up for their competitors

You would be surprised at the information you can pick up doing this. My goal is to send them something like, “in doing my research, you appear to be investing 20% more on R&D than your competitors.”

If I do this well, when the person reads my message, three things come across:

  • I have not just sent them some cookie cutter crap with their name swapped in at the top like most people do.
  • I have really put some effort into this.
  • I am different from everyone else out there.

Is this time consuming? Yes, but not as much as you think it would. I know what to look for and I have done an awful lot of these messages. And with a much higher success rate, it is absolutely worth it. If I do it well the recipient of the message above is obsessed with wanting to know just how the heck I figured out they were spending more on R&D.

Let’s face it. If I really want this person to become a customer of mine, someone I want to have an ongoing successful business relationship with, why wouldn’t I invest the time to show them some respect up front?

Of course, a lot more goes into an outreach message than just upfront research, and sometimes my research efforts don’t yield anything of value, but the ability to add a wow statement that sets me apart is worth the effort.