Should Salespeople Be Using A LinkedIn Premium Subscription?

(wrong navigator)

This is the inevitable question I get asked in my first conversation with any LinkedIn user – especially from salespeople. “Should I have a Premium Subscription?”. Usually the person does not really know what a Premium Subscription does, or the differences between the different subscriptions.

For salespeople, I suggest they avoid the Premium Business subscriptions. They are less expensive than Sales Navigator, but contain some odd features that are not really that beneficial to salespeople.

I do recommend Sales Navigator Pro for salespeople who have a lot of potential prospects and need the search filters to find them quickly and efficiently.

I also recommend Sales Navigator Pro to people who will use it as a research tool, in order to better figure out approach methods and messages for their prospects.

The InMail tool can also be invaluable, but as I have pointed out many times, a lot of LinkedIn users don’t actually use LinkedIn that regularly, so InMail is a double edged sword – it works great for some users, abysmally for others.

I am also a little more iffy on using Sales Navigator to track activity from people you designate as leads…that’s a little too reactive for my liking. You could be waiting a long time, and in my experience most Sales Managers are not known for their patience.

There are also limitations that come with Sales Navigator that will potentially get under your skin: LinkedIn profiles are displayed differently in Sales Navigator than in free LinkedIn, and the messaging utilities are not interleaved. You can have a message thread with a connection on free linkedIn and have another one with the same connection on Sales Navigator.

I like the idea that you can try Sales Navigator on a monthly basis. It costs more per month than buying a year up front, but I think trying it for a month or two to test drive it makes that higher monthly price worthwhile.

Using LinkedIn as the core tool in a solid introduction / referral strategy does not require a premium subscription. It will be harder to find the people you want to get introductions to, but even then, there are ways to short circuit that idea. If you have a decent sized network – say 1500 or more connections – it might be worth your while working the introduction route and going to Sales Navigator after you have exhausted that tactic.

LinkedIn does offer further Sales Navigator offerings – Team and Enterprise. They each have some interesting features, including CRM integration, but really they just offer more – more InMails and more saved leads you can follow. Of course, for Enterprise you need about the same budget as it would take to build the Starship Enterprise. Anytime – as with Sales Navigator Enterprise version – where under pricing it says “contact us for more information” you can bet the reason is not going to be “because we want to hear your screams of delight when you hear how inexpensive it’s going to be!”

My recommended rationale for salespeople getting a Premium LinkedIn subscription has not changed in the past couple years:

  • Only get it if you really know how to use and are getting the most you can from free LinkedIn now,
  • and if you find yourself repeatedly running up against the commercial search limit,
  • or you wind up with “flabby” search results with too many people in there, then yes, get Sales Navigator Pro.
  • But do so for two or three months first to make sure you were right and you really need those  extra features.

Bruce Johnston is a sales and marketing consultant who specializes in LinkedIn. He has a wealth of experience from his over 35 years in high tech sales and marketing, although he sometimes lapses into talking about himself in the third person.

And 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 (sixty months later, I am still on the monthly plan. It’s complicated).

And an offer:

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. Today’s newsletter is actually the summary from a four part series I published on Free LinkedIn vs Premium linkedIn. It’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page:

Thinking of trying LinkedIn Sales Navigator?

Thinking of trying LinkedIn Sales Navigator?

Take advantage of a few edges.

There are a couple idiosyncrasies with LinkedIn that you can use to your advantage in deciding whether or not to sign up for Sales Navigator. 

The first of these is that LinkedIn (as of this writing) charges $79.99 per month for Sales Navigator Pro or $799.88 a year if you pay up front. Subscriptions are non-refundable. 

That being the case, here are some strategies you may want to explore:

  • If you are uncertain at all, you should buy a month to month subscription. The last thing you want to do is pay for an entire year and then find two months later that you are not using it. Consider the “extra” you are paying each month to be an insurance policy 
  • Given the option of going month to month gives you a very low cost experimental period. But before you sign up, have both a clear idea of what you can do with Sales Navigator, and how you are specifically going to use it. 
  • If you have one specific purpose in mind for needing Sales Navigator and it looks like a one time thing, treat your subscription that way. Get Sales Nav for a month or two and conduct that monster search, or use InMail to reach out to all those people at that target company and then drop Sales Nav. You can always come back a few months later!
  • From your free LinkedIn account, go look at Sales Navigator features and pricing a few times. This can sometimes generate a free trial offer. Some free trials are good for 90 days. I call this ”fishing for freebies”.
  • Then go do the same thing except from your web browser. A Sales Navigator ad with a free trial may pop up on your screen sometime in the next few days.

And if you need training, you know where to find me. 

This post was originally published a couple months ago in one of my “using LinkedIn more effectively for sales and marketing” newsletters. You can sign up to receive them here:


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.


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: