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:

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: