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.

 

Lies, Damn Lies, and Social Selling Statistics

Today, the wonderful world of sales and social selling statistics. This article updates research, articles and posts I have written on this topic. 

Part 1: Lies

How many of you have seen this list?

Hands up everyone who has actually seen it and liked it, commented on how pithy these statistics are, or shared it with their network. I have found references to this graphic on Google going back to 2013. 

Well, sorry to say, but these “facts” come from the department of made up statistics.

If you google the “National Sales Executives Association” the one thing you won’t find is any reference to such an organization existing or ever having existed.

These statistics appear to have just been made up, but we believe them because we want to. We want to believe that these stats show that perseverance is critical to success and will be rewarded.   

A lot of social media statistics and social selling statistics are shared with very little reference as to where they came from or how they were generated. So let me suggest that if someone quotes a statistic that may contribute to you making a business decision, that you do a little investigative work before making that decision.  

I saw someone publish the graphic above last week on LinkedIn. 

Part 2: Damn Lies

How many times have you seen someone use the following to support some claim they are making about LinkedIn: 

“LinkedIn is 277% More Effective for Lead Generation Than Facebook & Twitter”

Sometimes it comes with this graphic: 

I kept seeing this statistic pop up from time to time, so I did some research and came up with what can best be called an investigative tribute.

Here’s where it came from: Hubspot gathered data from 5,198 businesses and it turns out that traffic from LinkedIn to the companies’ websites turned into leads more often.

The 277 stat was released by Hubspot on January 30th 2012. That’s right, this statistic will celebrate its eighth birthday this Thursday.

LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are very different animals than they were eight years ago. Eight years ago LinkedIn had “Answers” and “Signal” and “Polls”. Eight years ago, the idea of LinkedIn Influencers like Bill Gates was a gleam in someone’s eye, still nine months away from being announced on Oct 2, 2012. With the changes in the three companies studied, and new players rising like Instagram, you have to be pretty sceptical that this statistic is still valid.

Let me put it another way. If I wanted to use the 277 statistic honestly, I would probably have to say:  

“In a Hubspot study conducted over eight years ago, LinkedIn was 277% more effective for lead generation than Facebook & Twitter”

Doesn’t sound quite so compelling anymore, does it?

The lesson here is not to beat on LinkedIn’s effectiveness now or seven years ago, or Hubspot’s research then or now. They aren’t the culprits here. It’s people who find a statistic and don’t bother to check it’s origins, and then it’s the rest of us who swallow these things whole without question and let the writers get away with it.

The day I edited this article (Monday Jan 27th, 2020) I searched LinkedIn for content containing “LinkedIn is 277%”. The search results listed multiple people posts revolving around this statistic as proof of how great LinkedIn is. 

(there is a link to the original Hubspot press release  below)

 

Part 3…and social selling statistics.

Here’s a statistic that I saw last January:

“40% of LinkedIn users log on every day.”

And I thought to myself, “Uh-oh.”

The last time LinkedIn published user figures was the third quarter of 2016, their last before becoming part of Microsoft. And the figure they published was:

“106M – or 22.7% – of LinkedIn members log in once a month or more often.” 

So in under thirty months we have gone from just under 23% a month to 40% every day? I was immediately suspicious. So I did some digging for the source of this marvellous statistic. 

And I’ll be, the source turned out to be LinkedIn! Apparently, LinkedIn put out an ebook in January 2019, and one of the stats in the e-book stated that 40% of members were logging in every day. So I found the ebook and downloaded it. And there it was. I checked the source and it was from a company called Omnicore which made me suspicious all over again. 

Because I would have thought that if LinkedIn was going to use a statistic on LinkedIn user engagement that the source of that user engagement statistic would be…LinkedIn. 

I looked up the article on Omnicore and couldn’t find the 40% statistic. I InMailed the author asking about it. The author kindly responded and said he had just taken it down “because the source where we got this statistic was no longer valid.” (Hat tip to MarkWilliams who had discovered the statistic independently in December 2018 and got Omnicore to fix it.)

I InMailed the author of the LinkedIn ebook and told him that he probably shouldn’t be stating something that people may base business decisions on – advertising on LinkedIn would be a good example – if it couldn’t be backed up. To his credit, he immediately pulled the stat. 

But by then, people had latched onto the stat. Now there are articles out there on the web stating that 40% of LinkedIn users check in every day. There was even one from Hubspot just last week (I sent a message to the author but as of Monday morning Jan 27 I had not received a reply and the 40% daily claim was still there).

Maybe I should write them and suggest they just change the attribution to the National Sales Executives Association. 

Postscript: The next day (Jan 28) I published this article on LinkedIn and I noticed that the Hubspot article had been corrected and the 40% daily stat taken down. As of this writing I have not heard back from the authour. 

Sources: here’s the original story on Hubspot

.http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/30030/LinkedIn-277-More-Effective-for-Lead-Generation-Than-Facebook-Twitter-New-Data.aspx

The Hubspot article from last week claiming – in the first sentence no less – that 40% of LinkedIn members visit the platform every day;

https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/linkedin-thought-leadership

 

How I Generated Hundreds Of Sales Leads Using Content On LinkedIn

This works, but it takes a lot of work. If you are looking for something easy, this isn’t the place. 

It starts with engagement on LinkedIn. Commenting on other people’s posts will work, as will sharing other people’s and company’s posts, but publishing your own content works best. 

In my case, I published articles and posts almost every week on LinkedIn for several years. I would send messages thanking people who shared or commented on my articles. Almost invariably, an online conversation ensued. After a few months of this it dawned on me that the percentage of people who responded to my outreach was very high. 

The key seemed to be that the other person had expressed an interest in something I had written. So I wondered if I could systemize this idea and methodically reach out to possible prospects that liked, shared or commented on my articles. I had a Sales Navigator account, so I could send them InMails (I will talk about free LinkedIn accounts in a bit). Whenever I found someone I was interested in, I sent them an InMail and started tracking my results (full disclosure: I sent InMails to all kinds of people, but I only tracked the ones that looked like future prospects). And I also started sending messages to possible prospects who had viewed my profile or had started following me. 

A year later, 268 of these people had responded to my 444 outreach messages. A response rate of 60%. 

I figured there were a couple factors behind this response rate: 

  • The person I was reaching out to was aware of me before I reached out to them. I think it is a fair assumption that this made them much more receptive to reading and responding to my message. 
  • When one of these five trigger events occurred, I was the only one responding to it. I was  not competing with everyone else. For example, I was not one of dozens of people congratulating them on their new job. 
  • I did not pitch them. They may fit the demographic of people I work with, but I don’t know anything about them or if they have problems I can help them with. People are a lot more receptive when, you know, you don’t bludgeon them over the head with a sales pitch.

If there is a downside, it’s this: it is time consuming. I don’t do boilerplate. Boilerplate is death. I hyper personalize everything. I make an effort. This approach eats minutes. While I have a framework for what I include in my messages, it can take me fifteen minutes to write a message I am happy with. 

If you don’t have Sales Navigator? Send connection invites. I tried it and it works, though not as well. The acceptance rate is about the same, but I have found that adding that connection step makes it harder than just responding to their first interest in me. So I think connecting works, but I still prefer InMail. 

I am not advocating you take the four or five hours a week I did to write and publish content, parse through the people who engage with you and reach out to them. You can do this on a small scale, even just to people who view your profile. Just be consistent, and keep at it. 

I suppose if there is a lesson in here it is: Build it and they will come, but you had better have a plan for going after them when they do.

Postscript: if you are interested in following me on LinkedIn, don’t. When you want to see someone’s content on LinkedIn, following them is a sure way to miss almost all of it. Get my newsletter instead. Every week you will receive ideas like this one on how you can be using LinkedIn for sales and marketing. Here’s the signup page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

To the 60 or 6,000 people that will see this post on my blog

When I write something and publish it, I have no clue how it will do. I don’t think any of us do.  

I have published observations and research into how LinkedIn works, and how people use it that I thought was really important. Stuff that I thought would really help sales and marketing people use LinkedIn more effectively. The response? Tepid. 

Then I write something that I am actually reluctant to publish, because it seems kind of obvious…and I get a huge response. 

Sometimes I post something that people find compelling and sometimes I post something that people don’t care about at all. But I won’t know which one it is until after I post it. I have seen variations on this from most people who publish on LinkedIn. I looked at thirty or so of the recent articles that Bill Gates published. The number of comments he got ranged from 400 to 3600. Bill probably didn’t know how his articles would do either, he just went ahead and published them.

After writing and publishing hundreds of my own posts and articles on LinkedIn and on this blog, the best advice I can offer is this: enjoy the engagement and interaction that results from your posting and publishing, regardless of whether it is with a couple people or a couple hundred. 

 

Your Single Most Important Activity On LinkedIn

What is the number one activity you should be engaging in on LinkedIn? If you only had ten minutes today on LinkedIn, what is the absolute best way you could invest that ten minutes?

Deepening your relationships with your connections.

No one is better positioned to help you accomplish your goals than your connections. They have  the knowledge and they are connected to the people that can help you. But if you are what I call a “thin” connection – for example, you connected three years ago and haven’t had contact since – then that connection may not be someone you can count on for that introduction to someone in their network.

If you have five hundred connections and your connections have an average of five hundred connections, you have a quarter million second degree connections. In that quarter million people are going to be prospective customers, suppliers, contractors, partners and resources.  

That’s a lot of doors your connections can open for you. But if you are a stranger they will be reluctant to do so. So get to know your connections. Offer your knowledge and your assistance (hint: offer to open some of your doors for them).

No other activity on LinkedIn comes close to doing what developing better relationships with your connections can do for you.

 

A Telling “Who Viewed Your Profile” Statistic

I have a premium LinkedIn account, so I get some expanded WVYP statistics. A lot of them are of questionable value, but some of these statistics are interesting. Here are two from a recent look at my own profile viewers:

Number of times in the past 90 days….

  • that someone has found me through LinkedIn Search: 15
  • that someone has found me from their Homepage: 186

Here is a chart with people who viewed my profile in the last four weeks. After several months off, I started publishing updates and articles again on LinkedIn on January 22nd.

My profile views more than tripled in two weeks.

Here’s another way of looking at it: Twelve times as many people are “finding” me through my active personna (posting, publishing and participating) on LinkedIn as through my passive personna (my profile).

People come and view my profile, but for the most part after I have done something that prompts them to.

 

 

Eight Things I Have Learned About LinkedIn In The Past Eight Years

(that you can read in 2 minutes)

I have been a sales and marketing consultant specializing in LinkedIn since January 2011. During that time, I have put in thousands of hours using LinkedIn. I have written something like 300 articles on various aspects of LinkedIn and using LinkedIn. I have seen the platform change, features come and go, and even some features come and go and then come back again (hello “Events”). This a quick list of what I have learned. The genesis for everything I do and everything I teach always seems to come back to one or more of these eight points.

1) LinkedIn’s primary customers are sales, marketing, human resources and recruiting people.

2) If you are not in one of these four groups, you are not so much a customer, you and your data are the product LinkedIn sells to those customers.

3) LinkedIn makes changes to the platform that will serve their customers, not you. For example, if LinkedIn can persuade you to become more active, that is good for ad sales.

4) LinkedIn is a social network for the professions listed above and for solo consultants who need to sell their services. For most other users, LinkedIn is not a social network.

5) LinkedIn is an excellent people database with good search tools attached, though you need a Sales Navigator or Recruiter premium account to take full advantage of these tools.

6) LinkedIn can be used to find paths to people you don’t know via people you do know.

7) Reaching out to people you don’t know works pretty poorly. Yes, that includes InMail (see point number 4 above).

8) The single best thing you can do on LinkedIn is invest your time developing your relationships with your connections. Very few people do this.

There is a lot more to many of these statements than meets the eye, so I will talk about some of these ideas in more depth over the next couple of months, but keep these ideas in mind and you will use LinkedIn more effectively.

LinkedIn User Interface Problems: Possible Causes and Fixes

In the first quarter of 2017 LinkedIn released an updated version of the desktop user interface. This caused a blizzard of user interface bugs and hiccups. After getting multiple requests every day over a two or three week period, I wrote an article on possible user interface problem causes and fixes.

For whatever reason, I am receiving an uptick in requests for help with desktop user interface issues again lately, so I thought I would dust that old article off, update it and get it out there.

A lot of these problems are fixable or can be worked around, and doing so is pretty easy. 

There are four possible reasons you may be experiencing problems with the new LinkedIn Desktop User Interface:

You may just be experiencing a “glitch”

That’s a bug or problem with the User Interface that is affecting only you in your current session on LinkedIn. In particular, these types of bugs manifest themselves as missing information or missing features on your pages. And these happen a lot.

Solution: Log off LinkedIn. Clear your browser cache and log back in. Sometimes it is necessary to reboot your computer. I use Google Chrome and I find that once I reach 300Mb of history and assorted junk in my browser cache, anomalies start showing up on LinkedIn. I was working with a client and he kept getting the “it’s not you, it’s us, try again” message when he wanted to do a LinkedIn search. It turned out he had 700Mb of odds and ends in his browser cache. Cleaning the browser cache fixed the problem.

You have a problem or problems specific to your Browser

There seem to be a lot of issues with different browsers. I am not a browser or operating system expert, but it is apparent that some of the bugs and oddities users experience are caused by browsers not working properly with LinkedIn.

Solution: try doing the same thing you are having a problem with but using a different browser. If you use Internet Explorer, try Chrome. If you use Safari, try Firefox. This will indicate if the problem is specific to the browser you use. I have had connections tell me that LinkedIn support suggested they “upgrade to the latest version of Chrome.” If you can tell it is a browser problem, but confirming that your browser is up to date, you have what should be a known bug and it is time to try LinkedIn tech support. See the bottom of this article.

You are part of some weird LinkedIn user experiment

You are minding your own business when some new feature or graphic appears that wasn’t there before. It’s pretty neat and you think “this is smart” but no announcement has been made and no one seems to be talking about it. Congratulations, you are likely a guinea pig, a test subject for a new feature. One day soon the feature will go away, with the same zero fanfare with which it showed up in the first place.

Solution: Pray. If you thought it was a good idea, pray LinkedIn makes it a regular feature. And pray that LinkedIn doesn’t think it’s so good an idea that they make it a premium pay-for feature.

LinkedIn may have changed the way something works or removed a feature

Well, there isn’t anything you can do about this except confirm that the the feature has changed or disappeared. Most LinkedIn trainers or consultants can usually set you straight on whether a feature is gone or drastically changed (we have one awesome jungle drum network set up). They will often be able to show you a workaround or alternative method of accomplishing what you want to do.

If none of these apply to you or seem to work, it is time to throw in the towel and contact LinkedIn tech support. There is a link to the LinkedIn Help Center in the pull down menu under the Me tab at the top right of any LinkedIn page. Don’t use this. For faster responses to technical problems on LinkedIn, you need to go to…Twitter. I am not kidding. It is much much faster to get help via tweeting to @LinkedInHelp on Twitter than it does using the Help function on LinkedIn itself. But that’s a whole other discussion.