Taking Care Of Your LinkedIn Network

Today I want to talk about being responsive to the people in your network. You are going to get requests for assistance from people in your network, and from people outside it that could become people in your network.

Now I am not talking about the obnoxious sales pitches, you should ignore them or report them to LinkedIn if they are out of line (personally, I like toying with them, but that’s another newsletter for another day).

No, I am talking about the people who have come to you for help. I am pretty active on LinkedIn, with ten thousand connections/followers and twenty-five thousand LinkedIn newsletter subscribers, so I get more of these requests and messages than most people. I typically get two or three messages every day asking for help in using or understanding some aspect of LinkedIn or how LinkedIn works.

For example, looking at my Messaging tab I can see that the day I wrote this was pretty typical – one request on Premium vs Sales Navigator, one on publishing content, and one on an aspect of the Weekly Search appearances feature.

So how do I handle these requests? By answering them. All of them, as best I can. My self imposed rule is that if I can help someone in a few minutes, I do so. Question about the way something works? Sure, here’s how it does. Want an opinion as to an approach? Here’s an idea, you might want to try this.

Here are some of the reasons I do this:

I feel I have a responsibility to do so. I am in a position of having knowledge and experience using LinkedIn that most people don’t have. What is a mystery to them is second nature to me.

It helps keep me sharp. There are times it challenges me and the way I think about LinkedIn. This actually happened in one of those exchanges yesterday, the one on Your Weekly Search Appearances. The way the person worded their question made me look at my weekly results a bit differently and made me realize that this feature is even more useless than I thought it was.

I like doing it. It strikes me as impolite not to help someone (I’m Canadian. Got to keep that stereotype going).

But most of all, it plants seeds. If someone can come to me for help when they have a small problem, who will they call when they have a big one?

Helping people like this also comes back in odd and unexpected ways. The person I took five minutes to help two years ago comes to me saying they have changed jobs, the new company is looking for assistance and he told his VP of Sales about me, and can I speak with him? Or I get a message from someone who was referred to them by someone I helped.

Helping your network is just good business. It helps you build the type of reputation you want. So that’s my message for today: If someone asks for your help, do it if you can, demure graciously if you can’t. You have knowledge. Share it.

Obligatory boilerplate: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. 

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

4 Hidden Benefits From Publishing Content On LinkedIn 

 

sharing content was a lot tougher in the old days…

 

For the most part we publish content on LinkedIn looking for one or both of the usual benefits – views, engagement or sales leads. What I want to talk about today are what I call the “Unexpected Benefits” because they are not as obvious but they are there. These are particularly beneficial to small companies and people that work for themselves. 

Here are four benefits that I have found from writing and publishing on LinkedIn over the past six years.

1) I learn more about the topic of the day

In my case, I write about using LinkedIn. Writing and wanting to write about some aspect of LinkedIn or using LinkedIn every week (while my LinkedIn Newsletter goes out every two weeks, my email newsletter goes out every week, usually with a couple articles) forces me to explore LinkedIn more than I would otherwise. It takes me beyond – as it did a few weeks ago – simply wondering what use it was having “followers”, and taking that random germ of an idea, exploring it as completely as I could, and then writing about it. Writing has resulted in me finding out a lot about LinkedIn, how it works, and having an idea as to where it is going. 

2) I discover hidden gems

About once every six months I will discover something useful or realize that there is a way to use a feature that no one seems to be capitalizing on. These are ideas that I can share with my clients that can give them an edge. I have three of these in play right now, one having to do with LinkedIn Search, another with Profiles and a third with one of the newer content types on LinkedIn. But I would not have come up with these ideas if I had not invested the time in really thinking through these features, how they are used, and especially how they are not being  used. 

3) A better ability to communicate ideas

Publishing content forces me to be able to lay out my thinking and my arguments in a coherent and rational manner (some readers would no doubt argue as to whether I am accomplishing this goal). If I am going to discuss the ins and outs of posting or newsletters with a client I had better be able to do it coherently in comparison to the standard cheerleading, “They’re good! You should do them! Social selling! Rah rah!” For example, I don’t want to just tell people they should publish newsletters and also post on LinkedIn. I want to be able to tell a client where posts may work, where newsletters may work, how they differ and how they may complement each other. Half my job is telling people what they probably shouldn’t be doing on LinkedIn, and I had better be able to explain why.  

4) Credibility, credibility, credibility

Almost as soon as they came out, I started favoring publishing articles over posts on LinkedIn because articles get stored with my LinkedIn profile, and are also indexed by Google. Visitors to my profile can find all my articles, going back to 2016. These articles are a body of work that represent the way I think about LinkedIn which is different from how most people do. There’s nothing wrong with posts on twenty-five factors you should take into account with your LinkedIn profile photo, but lots of people are covering that ground. I am more interested in figuring out things like followers and search and notifications and InMail and how LinkedIn really works. What the odd little quirks – and the larger truths – are on LinkedIn that my clients and connections can use to give themselves an edge. Having all my articles collected and attached to my profile allows prospective clients and connections to be able to see that.

There are obvious or traditional uses for publishing on LinkedIn – views, engagement and sales leads – but given the way LinkedIn publishing is set up, I ignore those three reasons and publish for a fourth, which is valid for me. That makes my publishing a little (well, maybe a lot) less mainstream, but that’s fine.

Everything You Need To Know About LinkedIn Followers (and Subscribers) 

There are three wonderful groups of people that remain a black box, a mystery: your personal followers, your corporate followers, and your subscribers. Let’s look at each type, who they are and what you can do with them. 

Corporate Followers

LinkedIn members can choose to follow your company page and receive notifications when you post. Great idea. But I would like to know more about those followers, lots more. Are we attracting the right people from the right companies? Job titles? Geographies? But what LinkedIn provides us with is vague and incomplete. 

I manage the LinkedIn company pages for a number of companies. Let me use one as an example here. They have around 1400 followers. But here is what LinkedIn tells me about them: 

 

Note that this example is split by industry, but I could have chosen location (by city only), seniority, job function, or company size.  The problem is not the data itself but the idea that it is superficial –  for example top ten industries only in the example above, or that I can’t choose a country or region in the geography filter – and that I can’t correlate it. For example, my client may wish to focus on engineers in the semiconductor industry in the United States. I can see we have some followers who are in the United States, some who are Engineers and some who are in the semiconductor industry, but I can’t figure out if any of the 1400 followers meet all three criteria. 

And this is all data that would help my client in their LinkedIn strategy. 

Well, what about individual company followers? Can we see them? Yes, we can. Sort of. 

These are the latest four who followed my client’s company page when I wrote this piece back in January (you can see January 2022 right in the right hand column). If I want to see the other 1396 followers, I just have to click on the “See all followers” and I can scroll through approximately 280 pages of those followers at five people per page. 

Oddly, the more successful you are at attracting followers, the harder it is to see and make sense of them. 

So let’s move on to…

Your personal followers

Okay, first of all, LinkedIn does a lousy job of defining Followers. If you go to your profile, under your Activity will be your number of followers. Here was mine the morning I wrote this:

However, clicking on this number shows that my followers are made up of two groups of people, my connections and people who have chosen to follow me but have not asked to connect with me. So this leaves the odd “only on LinkedIn” equation: 

Your # of followers + Your # of connections  = Your # of followers

If I click on my 10,319 followers in my activity section, this page comes up:

Okay, let’s try and make some sense of what we are seeing here

  • At the top, I can choose to see the people I am following, or the people who are following me (the red arrows)
  • The number of people I am following are for all intents and purposes, my connections. When you connect with someone, LinkedIn automatically considers you a follower of theirs. You do have the option of unfollowing connections, which I have done for a couple hundred of mine, mostly for the crime of manic posting and clogging up my feed. (seriously, there are people I know who post twenty times a day.) 
  • Alternatively, also at the top, are my followers. Again these are made up of my connections and the people who have chosen to follow me but not connect with me. This number being in bold green shows that these are the people actually shown here. 
  • Of the people following me that I am seeing on my page, I can see the ones I am also following (who are almost entirely connections) and the ones that I am not connected with, with whom LinkedIn is dangling the offer to Follow them. 
  • You may have noticed the “Follow fresh perspectives” at the top of the screen cap to the left of the Following / Followers numbers. Clicking this takes you to pages and pages of possible people, companies, events, colleagues and so on that you may also want to follow. 

Not fake news: I follow two, count ‘em, two people on LinkedIn that I am not connected with (and I am thinking of unfollowing one of them).

Alright, so now that we know who our followers are, what can we do with them? The answer is: not much. And here’s a really weird thing: if you choose to look at the people you are following, there are filters to see companies, or connections or out of network people (that’s how I found I was following two people outside my connection network). But if I want to parse my true followers, the people who are not connected with me but are interested in what I am publishing or commenting on on LinkedIn, I can’t do anything except scroll through my “Following” page as shown above. And not only that, but my five thousand connections are interleaved with my five thousand true followers making it even more difficult. 

So recognize that while followers are good you can’t parse them. Honestly, this is largely why I encourage people to connect with me. I can search my connections using all kinds of Linkedin filters. If I am looking for an SEO expert, and you happen to be one but you’re only following me, you might as well not exist, because I will never be aware of you. 

Newsletter Subscribers

If you publish a newsletter on LinkedIn – a feature that seems to be taking forever to roll out – you will have subscribers. What you can do with your newsletter subscribers conveniently combines the worst features of both your  Company Page followers and your personal followers. 

The only demographics I get on my newsletter are the individual statistics provided for the people who actually read any single issue. And those stats are the same as the ones you would see for a regular LinkedIn article. Here is what I got from one of my newsletter issues in February.

There are several problems with these statistics:

  • They are incomplete. One of my key demographics is company size. Companies that have ten to five hundred employees are right in my wheelhouse. That is the company size that typically can become a long term client. 
  • I can’t correlate them. A really good example are those 29 Founders in the middle column. Founders of companies in that 10-500 employee demographic? Gold. Founders of one man show companies (I suppose that makes me a Founder too)? Not so much. Don’t get me wrong, I do a lot of work with solo practitioners, but my bread and butter is working on an ongoing basis with companies.
  • This also represents a snapshot of the people who read this single issue of my newsletter. I know that around 6500 of the 7800 total were subscribers and the other 1300 discovered it organically on LinkedIn. But as I have 25,000 subscribers, these statistics only tell me something about one quarter of my subscribers. Not really very satisfactory.  
  • And most importantly, I can’t tell who they are. I can’t click on those 29 Founders and check them out.

I can access the list of my subscribers. Here is what it looks like:

You will notice that I can see five to six people on this first page. So if I wanted to review my subscribers, all I have to do is page down around five thousand times.

Not good. 

Okay, let’s wrap up this discussion of Followers and Subscribers. 

All of these people who follow us, subscribe to our newsletters, subscribe via the new subscribe  bell on our profiles, or follow our companies, do so because they want to hear more from us. And we want to know more about these people. It will help us, and ultimately help them. The more we understand our audience, the better we can serve them. 

That’s the downside. The upside is that we do have those followers and subscribers. And absent any tools for finding them individually, there is one thing we can do: continually create and publish absolute top notch content, to the point that the people you want to actually know will wind up reaching out to you. And it does happen. It happens to me at least once a week. Every week I hear from someone, seemingly out of the blue, and the story is always some variation of “I have been reading your content for eighteen months now and I wonder if you think you could help us with our use of LinkedIn.” I never knew these people at all, but they were followers and they knew me.  

Followers are the ultimate long game on LinkedIn.

How The LinkedIn Publishing Algorithm Works (Or Doesn’t)

How I envision the inner worklings of the LinkedIn algorithm…

While there are people who claim to know exactly how the LinkedIn publishing algorithm works, I am at best skeptical, even if just for the simple reason that LinkedIn is constantly tweaking it to take into account both the user’s experience, new features and whatever LinkedIn’s goals are at any given time.

And while there is promise in the new Notification Bell (coming out on LinkedIn profiles) that the people who want to see our content will actually be able to do so, people have to discover us and our content in order to want more of it.

With all this in mind, here is a handy guide to how the algorithm seems to work after you hit “publish”.

Step 1. LinkedIn puts your content in front of a small slice of your Connections. Or maybe it’s your Connections and your Followers.

Some people think this slice is 5-7% of your connections.

Other people think it is 5-10% of your connections and followers (which begs the question of how your followers could enter into it at all, seeing as LinkedIn has talked about your Connection Strength Score being important. I have yet to read about a Follower Strength Score).

I have seen other people who think the small slice is a discrete number like a couple dozen or a hundred connections (which doesn’t pass the smell test for me, as people with very large followings should have better distribution of their posts out of the gate shouldn’t they? I would think Bill Gates’s posts get put in front of more people to start with than you or I).

Step 2. LinkedIn watches to see what the reaction to your content among that first slice of people is like.

It is guessed that among reactions/likes, comments and shares that LinkedIn gives more weight to  comments. I think this makes sense as  comments take more thought than a simple like or a share (note that when I say “comments” I am talking about real comments, not stuff like “nice post!”).

It is also guessed that getting those comments, and to a lesser extent, likes and shares soon after the content is published is important. The problem is that “soon after” phrase. What’s that all about? Fifteen minutes? Fifteen hours?

Step 3. Should the content get lots of engagement quickly after we publish, the algorithm will decide that our content is relevant, and distribute it to more people.

Only on LinkedIn could I write a sentence like that last one, where the words “lots”, “engagement”, “quickly” and “more” are all open to interpretation.

Step 4. Steps two and three repeat until engagement wanes.

Let’s dissect this a bit more because I want you to understand what’s happening here and what isn’t:

  • LinkedIn acknowledges their role in boosting posts, especially during the time right after you post, and further boosting your post’s distribution if engagement is good.
  • But everything else is guesswork. While it is generally accepted that Likes, Comments and Shares constitute “engagement”, LinkedIn does not define what engagement is in the context of their intent to further distribute content. And note that LinkedIn also does not define or explain what “further distribution” is – how much further? Another five to ten percent of your followers? Friends and family?  How about a larger number as your high engagement is a sign of a successful post? LinkedIn doesn’t say.

The bottom line is LinkedIn has a big hand in you going viral, or at least achieving widespread distribution on LinkedIn. But…a big hand doesn’t mean the only hand.

While everyone seems to get hung up on the “who” your content goes to, and the “how many” of them it goes to, most people completely miss out on the “why”.

The magic word that everyone seems to gloss over is “engagement.” While we can argue till we are blue in the face about whether a comment is the equivalent of five likes to the algorithm, or one comment equals two shares, the bottom line is that engagement gets rewarded.

This is one of the reasons I have always thought views were a useless metric. LinkedIn decides who sees our content out of the gate, then it is all up to the engagement we get in order for more people to have the opportunity to see our content. No engagement, no views.

And as opposed to all those other metrics – how many people LinkedIn puts the content in front of and how fast people respond – engagement is one thing we can affect as the creator (oops, sorry, make that Creator) of that content. We can write with engagement in mind. We can write (or create videos or audio or whatever) with the goal of starting conversations.

My goal when I write and publish on LinkedIn is to get people thinking about how LinkedIn works and how they are using it. Sometimes my content prompts a lot of comments and conversation, sometimes not that much. But there is a very real correlation between the engagement I get and the number of views – further distribution – my content gets.

I have been writing and publishing for several years on LinkedIn, and I continue to learn new aspects to the way LinkedIn works. It took me a long time to figure out that engagement drives views, not the other way around.

The obligatory disclaimer: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. For some reason LinkedIn gave me early access to the LinkedIn Newsletter. I have no idea why, but thanks for reading.

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

12 Things I Have Learned About LinkedIn & Using LinkedIn

“Knowledge is good.” – Emil Faber

Today’s newsletter is a mashup of two pieces I wrote for my email newsletter, one on things I have learned about LinkedIn that are useful, interesting and good, and one on things that occasionally make me grind my teeth. These are all things that I have figured out or have gradually dawned on me from using LinkedIn every day for 11+ years now.

Money talks and companies have money. If you have lots of money to spend on lots of premium subscriptions, ads or sponsored updates, LinkedIn will be keen to talk to you. If you don’t have money, LinkedIn is not that interested in you. Like many software platforms, LinkedIn’s business model is not designed to provide a high level of support to their users. The fact that this low level of support and interaction has provided a business opportunity for people like me is not lost on me.

LinkedIn’s primary customers are sales, marketing, human resources and recruiting people. 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. LinkedIn makes changes to the platform that will serve those customers. If those changes serve you, that’s a bonus. While it may sound nice that LinkedIn is “improving the user experience,” what LinkedIn is really doing is persuading us to become more active on LinkedIn, which is good for ad sales.

You are going to be contacted on LinkedIn by people you don’t know. Expect recruiters and salespeople to contact you. That’s the price of admission. Be gracious to people who approach you intelligently and respectfully. But if they don’t approach you intelligently and respectfully, all bets are off. Spammers and people who send automated crap messages should be treated with the lack of respect they deserve and reported to LinkedIn with extreme prejudice.

LinkedIn will never be a fabulous user experience. There are just too many different constituencies inherent in eight hundred million users. You have people who use it every day and people who show up once a year. You have people using it for sales, research, recruiting, networking, job search and a hundred other reasons. And each of those groups has a laundry list of features they wish LinkedIn had. As far as the user experience is concerned, “serviceable” is probably the best you should hope for.

If you don’t have a plan, you can waste an awful lot of time on LinkedIn. Plan what you need to do in order to accomplish your LinkedIn goals, do those things, and leave.

Using automation on LinkedIn hurts your brand. You people that use automated messaging tools on LinkedIn may be suprised to find LinkedIn users are better at seeing that your messages are automated than you think. Automation makes you look like you just see everyone as an entry on a spreadsheet. Hardly the way to build credibility and trust.

And if you use automation for things like profile views, connection requests, or messaging, LinkedIn will come after you. I hear folks say that LinkedIn won’t catch you, that it’s extremely unlikely. Well, it’s also unlikely that you will be struck by lightning if you wander around outside during a thunderstorm. For a while.

Engage one on one with your connections and other people on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a contact sport.

Social Selling on LinkedIn is just like regular selling. That is, if you do it well, it works. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of people doing it well (just like regular selling).

Remember that LinkedIn is a tool. A good one, but it’s not the Holy Sales Grail. This is mostly because people think LinkedIn is a social network, but it is really just a big database with a very small social network embedded in it.

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. In my opinion, those tools are worth it.

LinkedIn can be used to find paths to people you don’t know via people you do know. Every time you see a little “2nd” beside someone’s name on LinkedIn, that means you share one of more LinkedIn Connections with that person. You can ask your mutual connection for an introduction, a referral or for more background on your person of interest. And you don’t need a premium subscription to obtain this info or use it. This is a very underrated and underutilized aspect of LinkedIn.

You get out of LinkedIn in direct relation to what you put into LinkedIn. By all means you can “do” LinkedIn in ten minutes a day, just expect to get results corresponding to ten minutes worth of effort.

It’s still a “give to get” world. The minute you start looking at someone’s LinkedIn profile and figuring out how you can help them, instead of how they can help you, is the minute you will start moving towards effective results using LinkedIn. The single best thing you can do on LinkedIn is invest your time developing your relationships with your connections. Very few people do this.

For B2B sales professionals, LinkedIn is a game changer. What originally attracted me to LinkedIn a dozen years ago was that it was what I had wished for since I started in high tech sales in 1985: A searchable database of most every customer I could ever want, a treasure trove of researchable material on those people and their companies, and the possibility that LinkedIn itself may be an effective method to reach out to them.

All of these things that I have figured out boil down to one overall theme: See LinkedIn for what it is, not for what you wish it was, and you will make more effective use of the time you invest in it.

The obligatory disclaimer: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. For some reason LinkedIn gave me early access to the LinkedIn Newsletter. I have no idea why, but thanks for reading.

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two or three articles like today’s, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

5 Things I Figured Out About Who Viewed Your Profile

Who Viewed Your Profile remains a popular feature on LinkedIn. After looking at thousands of profile viewers, here are a few things I figured out. 

1) Anonymous viewers are just noise.

That’s because they have no value whatsoever. Are they possible customers? Competitors? Suppliers or vendors? Headhunters? Who knows? I sure don’t and I won’t find out either, so why agonize over them? 

I don’t know why LinkedIn even shows users that they had anonymous viewers as it just winds up pissing those people off and making them mad at…LinkedIn. 

2) A lot of my profile viewers are likely bots

One of the sad facts of life on LinkedIn is that people still use automation to view profiles, figuring it will spur the viewee to reach out to them. But if someone is using an automated program they likely have no idea that “they” viewed your profile. I have reached out to people who viewed my profile and it is apparent that they have no clue who I am and that they didn’t go to my profile, but their software did.

I continue to struggle to see the value in a profile view where the viewer does not know they viewed my profile. 

3) My profile was sending my viewers elsewhere

Profiles come with a “helpful” sidebar called “People also viewed.” This sidebar will list profiles that the viewer may also want to check out. This feature is very useful to the viewer and to LinkedIn who gets the viewer to spend more time on LinkedIn, but it sure isn’t helpful to me. 

To my mind, two things can result from this list, both of them bad: 

This list often will contain some of your competitors, and even if it doesn’t, the last thing you want is to be presenting a list of “you may find these profiles more interesting than the one you are reading now” candidates. 

You can remove this sidebar in your Settings. Just go to Privacy and Settings > Account Settings > Site preferences. It’s (currently) the sixth item under Site Preferences.

4) “Found you via” is pretty badly incomplete

LinkedIn has a bunch of categories here, showing if people found me through messaging, their homepage, their network, people similar to them and so on. 

But for a large number of your visitors – 70% of mine when I looked just now – there is no source listed at all.  So I am unsure what conclusions I can draw about sources with such an incomplete dataset. Actually, I take that back. There is one conclusion I can draw….

5) People are probably not coming to your profile via LinkedIn search

I checked my own stats. In the past 13 weeks, LinkedIn tells me 25 of my profile viewers came to my profile after doing a lInkedIn search, or less than two a week. But LinkedIn also tells me that I have appeared in 160 searches in the past week. So “appearing” in search results does not appear to generate much in the way of profile views. 

And let me close with one observation. I have found that the profile views that do help me are when I can see several associated people from the same company all viewed my profile. That’s smoke that I want to investigate further to see if there is fire there too. 

Do you look at who viewed your profile? 

How To Delay Hitting The Commercial Search Limit On Free LinkedIn

(caption: some search tools are more expensive than others)

My last couple newsletters have revolved around Sales Navigator as a tool for salespeople, and I subesequently received a few messages along the lines of “hey, I can’t afford Sales Navigator. What about us poor Free LinkedIn users?” This one’s for you.

When LinkedIn sees you making a lot of searches on LinkedIn, they (usually correctly) infer that you are doing so as part of your job. And if you are using LinkedIn search for business, LinkedIn would like you to pay for the privilege of doing so. So in order to encourage (extort?) people into upgrading to Premium subscriptions, LinkedIn instituted the Commercial Search Limit (CSL).

So just what is the CSL and how is it measured?

Once you have hit a certain number of searches in a month, LinkedIn will send you a message saying something along the lines of, “It appears you are using Search for business reasons. This requires a premium subscription. You have hit your limit for free searches this month, and will be allowed to use search again next month.”

And here is the sneaky part: LinkedIn won’t say what the actual number of searches is. Heck, Linkedin won’t even say how they define a single “search”, that thing you apparently just did too many of. I have heard people say it is two hundred searches in a month, and other people say it is eight hundred searches in a month. I am suspicious that LinkedIn has some pretty smart algorithms, and if they see you searching “x” times this month, they just redefine the limit as ninety percent of “x” next month, and keep dropping it lower and lower until you finally succumb to an upgrade.

That being said, most LinkedIn users are their own worst enemy.

While LinkedIn may be the villain in this morality play, we users need to shoulder some of the blame, as we are the ones who largely put ourselves in this position. How? By searching badly. Most LinkedIn users will approach making a search on LinkedIn in a haphazard manner.

They will think, “I need to find all those prospects making ventilators.”

So they search for “ventilator” and then choose “companies”. They find over 1,500 companies making ventilators.

Okay, that’s too many, that didn’t work too well. How about ventilators, but choosing “people” instead of companies? Hmm, still 40,000.

Oh, how about just in the USA? 28,000 people.

Wait, I will add a title: “purchasing”. Heck, only 12 search results….and one is unemployed, another buys ventilators, looks like three of them used ventilators in a previous job, this is going nowhere.

This user just made four searches – every time they recalibrated what it was they were looking for, or refined their search terms and hit enter, that’s a new search. And I would argue that they aren’t really any closer to the results they wanted. So what can they do? There is no way you can avoid the CSL in the long run, but you can surely get more mileage out of your free searches.

Here are 7 ideas you can use that will help you delay hitting the CSL

1) Be absolutely clear what you are searching for.

The better you can define your search up front, the better your results will be. Defining your search up front will also help you get your search right the first time. Every time you adjust your search parameters and hit “search” or “apply” you are adding a search to your total. And the algorithm is keeping track. The rest of the ideas that follow will help you with this.

2) Use Boolean operators

These are terms such as “OR “. For example, purchasing OR buyer. The OR tells LinkedIn to look for one or the other.

3) Never put titles in the keyword field

Use the title field and use Boolean there too. The difference is huge: when you look for an expression in the title field, such as “Purchasing manager”, that’s where LinkedIn looks for that phrase, in the work experience titles of LinkedIn profiles. If you put the phrase “purchasing manager” in the keyword field, LinkedIn looks for that expression anywhere in a LinkedIn profile. So if someone says that in their job they worked with the purchasing manager, they are going to show up in your results. Not optimal.

4) Use connections carefully

You can choose to just search for any combination of first, second and third level connections. As LinkedIn will usually show you your search results in roughly that order anyway, this isn’t really necessary. I use connection level searches when I am specifically looking for introductions, and that’s a different search.

5) Use the company name filter if you are looking within a specific company

So by all means if you are looking for the purchasing people at Microsoft, use the company name filter.

6) The industry filter can be very useful

The industry filter is something that as usual, most people don’t understand and LinkedIn doesn’t bother to explain. I would encourage you to experiment with the lists here. In some cases you can hone right in on say, Medical Devices. But if you are looking for Manufacturing, you will need to pull together the twenty or so industries that could qualify as different types of Manufacturer (the last time I compiled the list there were 147 industries in the industry filter).

7) Use broad geography right away, then use it to refine your results

The first thing I want from my search results is that I found the right people. The second thing is that I want a manageable number of people in those results. This is where I use the geography filter to get a workable number of results to start with. If I ran a search of North America, and got 800 results, that’s too many to work with. So I might start with just California, or maybe the Great Lakes states. What I want is to have several dozen profiles to review, and then I will come back and slightly redefine my geography to get another several dozen.

Parting shot – if you still run into the Commercial Search Limit, and it is blocking you from getting the results you want, it’s time to think of getting a Sales Navigator account. But be smart about it, sign up for monthly until you’re sure it is worth your while.

Do you have any tricks you use to avoid the CSL? Or have you given in and upgraded to Sales Navigator?

The obligatory disclaimer: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. I was an early subscriber to Sales Navigator and have probably forked over three or four thousand bucks for the privilege over that time. And it has been worth every penny.

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two or three articles like the one above, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

Three Features That Make Sales Navigator Worth The Money

Yes, I agree that I am always harping away about how great Sales Navigator is as a tool for salespeople. But as LinkedIn sure isn’t paying me anything to say this, I am fairly unbiased and as I know Sales Navigator is going to cost you upwards of a thousand bucks a year, you know that I think the ROI is compelling.

Here are three of the features that contribute to that ROI.

Feature #1: Search Filters That Allow For Depth And Breadth 

The key word in talking about search capability in Sales Navigator is “more.”  Sales Navigator has over two dozen additional search filters, including better granularity in geographical searches.

Let’s start by comparing filters we would use to search for companies on LinkedIn.

Company Filters on Free LinkedIn:

  • Location
  • Industry
  • Company Size

Additional Company Filters in Sales Navigator: Aside from the three above, there are quite a few more. Here are the ones I like:

  • Senior management changes in the past three months. This is a terrific filter for finding companies where new executives may want to put their stamp on things and may be more open to hearing from new vendors and new options.
  • Annual revenue
  • Company Headcount Growth (user definable)

Now let’s compare the search filters we can use for looking for individuals.

People search filters on Free LinkedIn include:

  • Connections. Search via first degree connections, second, and third.
  • Location. Basic geography filter. A lot better than it used to be, this is quite useful now.
  • Current company.
  • Industry
  • Multiple keyword options including first and last names, and job title.

Additional Sales Navigator people filters include:

  • Seniority level – CXO, VP, Director, Manager etc.
  • Function – Engineering, operations, sales, admin etc.

I use the two above in combination a lot in order to find the top execs in different departments.

  • LinkedIn groups. Search for people who are members of specific groups.

You can send free messages to fellow group members. This is really useful for supplementing your InMail credits for the month.

  • Years at current company
  • Years in current position
  • Job title. Yes, this is also available as a keyword in free LinkedIn, but there is a lot more flexibility in Sales Nav as it will suggest job titles when you start typing.

To be fair, there are a bunch of filters I have never used – schools people went to, profile language, how long ago they became a member of LinkedIn (actually that last one is good for help identifying fake LinkedIn profiles), and so on.

Special after the fact filters: there are five filters that appear after you have run your people search. They are under the heading “Spotlight” in the left hand re-filter column. These include:

  • Changed jobs in the past 90 days
  • Mentioned in the news in the past 30 days
  • Posted on LinkedIn in the past 30 days
  • Share experience with you
  • Leads that follow your company on LinkedIn
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I make particular use of the first and third ones in this list. As I mentioned above, executives new to their jobs often want to make their mark and shake things up a bit, and can be open to new ideas. Nothing may come of it, but I find these people more approachable. If I have a hundred people in my search results and three of them fall in this category, I am looking at them first.

Posted in the past 30 days can be an indicator that someone uses LinkedIn on a regular basis.  I will also check these people first. Active members are more likely to see outreach messages.

A couple other interesting aspects of Search in Sales Navigator:

In the original People search page where all 24 filters are available, as you add filters to your search, Sales Nav will update the number of results for that search on the fly.

Sales Navigator users have the ability to re-filter search results, in other words, the ability to make endless subtle alterations to their search filters to see what effects these changes can make to results on the fly.

Feature #2: Unlimited Search

On free LinkedIn, you run the risk – and it’s a big one – of hitting the Commercial Search Limit. If the LinkedIn algorithm “sees” you making multiple searches, LinkedIn will assume you are using search for business purposes and they will want you to pay for that privilege. Once you reach a  certain number of searches – that LinkedIn won’t specify – LinkedIn will cut off your search privileges until they “reset” at the beginning of the next month.

Sales Navigator users don’t have to worry about any search limits anymore. There are four main benefits to having unlimited search capability:

1) It makes search forgiving.

You can experiment with different filters and combinations of filters (I do this a lot with Seniority, Function and Job Title). You can make mistakes and hit the “search” button twenty times and you’re okay.

2) It makes parsing your search results into workable chunks possible.

I will often come perform a search that yields 400 results. I am not going to work through four hundred results in one sitting. So I will subsplit it (for example) by company size, looking at all the results that fall under companies with 51-200 employees, and going back and looking at the results for 201-500 employee companies etc. I have the luxury of doing so because the search limits are gone.

3) It makes searching flexible.

LinkedIn allows different kinds of searches – people, companies (also referred to by LinkedIn as accounts), events, posts, and hashtags. Unlimited search capability really makes these searches viable. If I am looking for people that use a certain coding language for example, aside from the usual suspects – people and companies – I can also look for that coding language in the aforementioned events, posts and hashtags.

4) It makes research viable

Researching prospects and companies is one the base tenets I teach my students and clients. All that research I have talked about is made possible from being able to parse through a lot of profiles and company pages without having to cut corners or dial back my research due to limitations imposed on me.

One caveat: I have had people come to me and say that LinkedIn has gone after them and that there is a commercial search limit in Sales Navigator. Invariably further discussion leads to the admission that they are using automated tools that find and look at three hundred profiles an hour. And LinkedIn caught them using tools that break the user agreement.

Feature #3: Saved Searches 

Sales Navigator allows you to save searches which can be a lifesaver. Here are some examples:

  • I have a saved search that I used to find process engineers in parts of Southern California. There were specific counties that I needed to search – seven of them – and saving the search allowed me to go back and review the results later without having to go and select and load all those counties as filters all over again.
  • I had another search that I helped a client with who wanted a list of companies purchasing from China who might want to consider “coming home.” The search mask included specific states, company sizes, functions, a variety of job titles, and a boolean text string. Around twenty individual settings or filters.
  • I had a steel company looking for construction project managers in a specific city. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? One industry, one title, one city. Except I found that there were a dozen titles, all of which I had to enter. So I saved it just in case. Six months later my customer was so happy with the results that he asked me if I could replicate the search for another city close by. I was very happy to do so.

A word about Saved Search Alerts:

This is a cute gimmick, but I find it of questionable utility. Once you save a search, you can set Sales Navigator to alert you either weekly or monthly when new people meeting your search criteria are found. It’s actually a good idea, but LinkedIn seems to consider people that have already been part of the search results that make changes to their profile to be “new” results. In my experience, you get a lot of false positives. You go to review your list of new results and find a lot of them are old results.

There are other Sales Navigator features that I think make it worth the money – saved leads and InMail are definites, things like expanded Who Viewed Your profile and being able to set yourself as Open profiles are nice-to-haves, but being able to really use LinkedIn’s Search capabilities to sort and make sense of the 800 million users? That’s the value.

The obligatory disclaimer: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. Sales Nav gives me an unfair advantage over free users and I like unfair advantages.

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

Optimizing Your Use Of LinkedIn Can Increase Your Sales By 5-10%

Some search tools are better than others.

I thought that headline would get your attention, but a 5-10% increase is actually a pretty modest expectation.

How good is LinkedIn as a prospect database for B2B? For starters, I think I can find ALL the prospects for almost any B2B company using LinkedIn. Let me use some real life examples to show you what I mean.

A few years ago I was working with an electronics manufacturer based in the northwest. I was telling them how good Linkedin was. They were sceptical. So I challenged them to test me. And they did. They asked me to find all the companies in their city involved in designing and building prototypes that used their type of electronics. I asked them some questions to get a handle on these target companies and then I went to work. The next day I sent them a list of eleven companies in their city. It matched their list. Exactly. They had compiled their list from years of building a network in their hometown. I compiled my list in two hours using LinkedIn from three thousand miles away.

I had another company tell me that they had “talked to every prospect in North America for their products, and they had exhausted all the possible prospect avenues.” Needless to say I thought their pants were on fire so I put it to the test. I told them I would compile a list of prospects for their products in the State of Arizona. They had a sales team in Arizona, so I thought this was fair. The next time we talked we compared lists. Their Arizona list had a little over sixty companies on it. Mine had a hundred and five. When they looked at my list there were lots of comments like “The rep said that company had moved!” and “I thought these guys were about to go out of business two years ago” but in the end they grudgingly admitted that there was a lot of  ground – and opportunities – that they were not covering in their own backyard. And when I mentioned in passing that I thought the total market for their products in North America was 17,000 prospect companies their jaws hit the floor. But as I like to say, LinkedIn is a database that updates itself and the database doesn’t lie.

Here is a final example: I was contracted by a company to find prospects for them. I was talking to their sales rep in Denver. I asked him if he had been to see a company that had a major presence in Denver.

“Yeah, I’ve been to see them.”

Me: “Which facility?”

“What do you mean which facility? They are in Aurora.”

Me: “I know. But they also have a small R&D group in Englewood.” And I told him what they were working on – it was on their LinkedIn profiles – and what appeared to be the division name so he could look them up online.

He called me the next day.

“You were right! I have lived here for twelve years and I have made sales calls on the company in Aurora for over half of that time. I never knew of this other group. They are a legit prospect. Thanks. And don’t tell my manager about this, okay?”

With respect to B2B, if you can articulate who you want to find, you can find them on LinkedIn. You can find virtually every prospect in your market. Now, to be fair, there are jobs where you know all your prospects – if you sell commercial jets, it’s not hard to figure out who all the airlines and cargo companies are. But for most of us, we don’t know who all of our prospective customers are and that’s where LinkedIn comes in.

If you’re in sales, you should always think of LinkedIn as a prospect database, first, second and third. Most companies should be able to find a lot more prospects just through intelligent use of LinkedIn search. But as I alluded to, search is only half the story. The second, and often overlooked part, is research.

I see this scenario play out over and over on LinkedIn: I will be working with someone and once we find a prospect, they get all excited about sending them an Email or an InMail and hitting them up, which usually fails, and they blame LinkedIn.

Well I am sorry, but if your painting didn’t turn out that well, it usually isn’t the paintbrush’s fault.

What these people miss is the opportunity to use LinkedIn for research. There is often a ton of information available on LinkedIn, really useful stuff they can use. They should be taking advantage of this including asking themselves:

What does that person’s profile say about them?

  • What do they emphasize and what do they de-emphasize?
  • What are their accomplishments?
  • Where else have they worked?
  • What is their career path like?
  • And in particular: What are they proud of? (for example, sometimes the way someone lists their skills on their profile – and in what order – can tell you a lot.)

We are looking to obtain information we can use in our outreach, and also in that important first conversation, whenever that does occur.

Is this overkill? Not if it works. And it does work.

But what if they have a “profile lite” – just headings for example? Easy. Look at their peers and look at…well, let me illustrate with another story.

I was interviewing for a contract job as a Sales Consultant about ten years ago and when I went for my interview they gave me a tour of the plant. After we got back from the tour I told them that based on what I had seen on the plant floor that I figured their sales were somewhere in the neighborhood of $22-24M a year. I could tell from their looks of semi-astonishment that I had scored pretty close to the mark. They could see I had a finely trained eye for manufacturing and operations.

Of course all my finely trained eye had done was research them on LinkedIn, where I found their recently departed ex-VP of Sales – and you should see this coming by now – and he listed as one of his accomplishments getting their sales up to…$23M a year.

So look at ex-employees too.

Your prospects are researching you and your company. Research them right back. I can’t tell you the number of times that LinkedIn profiles and people’s behavior on LinkedIn has given me or my clients the clues we needed to put together dynamite outreach messages.

Two other things: doing your research separates you from your competitors who just send a cookie cutter message, and it shows your prospect the respect they deserve.

So if you optimize your LinkedIn search skills and find more prospects, and you can use LinkedIn to research those prospects resulting in more effective outreach messages and more initial conversations, how can your sales not go up by five or ten percent?

Obligatory boilerplate: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. And as you may have gathered from today’s newsletter, I make really, really good use of it.

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the boilerplate) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

The Most Important Search Filter On LinkedIn

Here’s where I get in trouble, making a statement like that in my title, but hear me out on this one, I think I may be able to bring you around. 

The bad news is this search filter is in Sale Navigator. You can’t access it using free LinkedIn. The good news is that it is a very powerful one, especially in today’s volatile job market. 

For people searches, Sales Navigator has a couple dozen filters. Some are really important and get used in almost any search, things like keywords, title, and geography. Others are more subtle such as industry that can be used in some cases, but in those cases it can make a big difference. And some are pretty marginal, things like company type, or when the people you are searching for joined LinkedIn. 

With judicious use of all these filters you can find almost anybody, and even better, you can change the filters after you have done your search, effectively fine tuning it. 

But there is one special filter that can change the quality of your LinkedIn outreach. Notice that I say “the quality of your outreach” and not “the quality of your search” because this filter is only accessible after you have performed your initial people search. It is buried in an innocuous section on the left hand side of your search results screen.  

Notice that the search results pictured below originally yielded 8,000 people. What I will do next is apply the secret filter that is buried behind the “Spotlight” heading in the left hand column of my screen. 

The filter is “changed jobs in the past 90 days”. Here is what happened when I applied it to my search results – I got 78 results. 

There actually is another filter on Sales Navigator that selects people who have changed jobs, but it’s finest granularity is changed jobs within the past year. This one is within the last 90 days. 

Why is this important? 

New people are often open to new ideas. They often want to bring in fresh vendors. They are interested in putting their stamp on the new job. Which means opportunity for us. In the first pass of the search above I came up with eight thousand people. If these were prospects and I can see that seventy-eight of them in particular are new to their jobs, guess who I am reaching out to first? And because they are new I have something to use when I message them. 

Here’s an idea I use when I reach out to new people like this. I usually don’t ask them about some aspect of the new job because that’s an obvious question that everyone has already put to them in congratulating them on the new job. What I will do instead is ask about some aspect of the new job and how it is different from their last job. I have found people will open up on that topic. 

Take advantage of this information. 

Obligatory boilerplate:

I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. But I was an early subscriber to Sales Navigator and have a grandfathered subscription with less InMails than most Sales Navigator Pro users have. But it’s still pretty awesome, and worth every penny. 

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/