LinkedIn sales navigator best practices 2018
linkedin sales navigator best practice 2018

LinkedIn sales navigator best practices 2018

  • By Jeff Molander

Time to read: 3.5 minutes. LinkedIn Sales Navigator can be a great tool. But if you’re applying what “gurus” claim as best practices you may be starting fewer conversations with prospects.

Here’s the rub: Effectiveness of a sales communications technique is usually defined by number of people practicing it. It’s more like a “normal” practice, not best.

Mainstream tactics are never ‘best’

Think of it this way: By time a tactic is considered “best” it is no longer best. Because everyone is practicing that tactic. It’s become mainstream. This creates weaker results!

Example: It’s no longer best to start B2B email salutations with “Dear” in the U.K. region. Although lately, “Dear” never performed in the U.S. But in U.K. it performed well. Lately it is NOT performing—at all—in U.K. where business email use is mimicking U.S. practices.

So… how are sellers using LinkedIn Sales Navigator to set more and better meetings in 2018? Here are a few emerging practices you need to know about.

How to build a target list

The most effective sellers use LinkedIn Sales Navigator as:

  1. their only research tool to target & identify companies & target contacts… to develop a list from scratch
  2. a primary tool—adding profile data from various other sources (e.g. purchased lists with email and direct-dial phone information)
  3. a secondary research tool—using purchased data or proprietary “house” lists as primary… adding-in LinkedIn profile data (to qualify leads)

Beware: The days of using LinkedIn for sales prospecting, at no cost, are gone. Microsoft owns LinkedIn and clamped-down on free users… hard. I’m not a fanboy for LinkedIn. That said, here’s why purchasing Sales Navigator is truly required.

  • Search filters. You need them. Sure you’ll get a few using the free version of LinkedIn. But it’s nearly impossible to make LinkedIn’s database search filters spit back quality leads for you. For example, need to search for companies based on their size? Yup. You’ll need to invest.
  • Access. Sales Navigator is required if you need unfettered access to LinkedIn’s database of prospects. Truth is, if you want to search for prospects and view profiles, for more than a few hours, you must pay to play.

LinkedIn restricts free users ability to search for and view profiles. It’s called a “commercial search limit.” Believe me you’ll hit it… quickly. You’ll be stopped and asked to invest.

In pre-Microsoft years it took a while to get cut-off from searching companies and viewing contacts’ profiles. Today, LinkedIn demands you slap down a charge card in short time.

Want to search the database? Want to view profiles of your targets? Do so using the free LinkedIn. But believe me… take your credit card out of your wallet. Set it on your desk. You’ll be reaching for it.

Investing in Sales Navigator is no longer a decision-point for sellers using LinkedIn. It’s mandatory. Sorry! Of course, there are other good data sources to consider investing in too.

InMail best practices: The truth

Decision-makers are increasingly less receptive to receiving messages on LinkedIn. Literally.

Still, most sellers use InMail and connection requests as a primary communications tool. However, this is no longer a best practice, not recommended in most B2B sales situations. InMail is best applied as part of a multi-pronged outreach strategy. (email, phone/voicemail, InMail, direct mail, etc.)

Thus, InMail is not a big value-add, nor why sellers invest in Sales Navigator. Nor is it a secret weapon to get more and better conversations started with prospects. InMail can be used productively but it has serious disadvantages to consider.

Overall, Linkedin is weakening as a communications platform—all while the company builds an image as the premier “social” sales tool.

This weakening isn’t my opinion—it’s the accumulated experience of our customers. People like you.

My sales team (and our clients’ teams) report decision-makers becoming less-and-less responsive. In all B2B industry sectors? No. In most? Yes.


Some blame the “Facebook-ization” of LinkedIn.

Bottom line: Decision-makers are increasingly less receptive to receiving messages on LinkedIn. Quick analysis of LinkedIn’s public discussions about user base stats and you’ll see it too.

Access to the LinkedIn database (and use of targeting filters) is the primary reason to invest.

Sales Navigator ROI

Large and small organizations often use a CRM to track “Navigator sourced leads.” This helps to understand how many deals come from contacts sourced on LinkedIn and Company profiles.

Beyond this simplistic level of tracking most organizations do not track a hard ROI (return on investment) on Sales Navigator; instead treating it as a cost of doing business.

Buying Navigator is like buying any other kind of list to call from. (except this is on a subscription basis) However, many organizations do wish to understand how many leads are being sourced from LinkedIn’s database—and how many of those leads actually close.

This helps one understand quality of leads from LinkedIn overall… assuming a level of sales rep proficiency, of course.

The most effective sellers also do not use Sales Navigator as a CRM itself beyond temporary storage of leads. Most sellers choose to move contact and company profile data sourced within LinkedIn into their CRM or sales automation tool of choice—then pursue the lead.

Navigator’s true strength

Contrary to popular belief, communicating with prospects on LinkedIn is becoming less effective. Research is truly LinkedIn’s most valuable deliverable to you. That said, data on LinkedIn is supplied by users. Thus, accuracy is only as good as the user provides.

Navigator’s “Business Insights” feature is a popular way to monitor useful news & info about target contacts & companies. Thus, this best practice remains. While Google Alerts and other services offers similar monitoring LinkedIn’s Business Insights feature brings this into a centralized stream within Navigator.

“Headcount growth by function” and “Total job openings by department” are two very useful Sales Navigator data sets. These allows sellers to see where within an organization current investment (budget growth) activity is taking place—and is planned to take place in immediate term—from a personnel perspective.

Research is LinkedIn’s strongest value to sellers.

What do you see changing lately? What best practices do you experience as being ineffective these days? And which are emerging as a better practice?

Photo credit: Joan Campderros-i-Canas

About Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is the authority on starting conversations with busy people. As founder of Communications Edge Inc. he teaches a proven, effective communications technique to spark buyers curiosity in sales outreach & marketing messages. He's a sought-after sales communications trainer to individual reps, teams of sellers and small businesses owners across the globe. He's an accomplished entrepreneur, having co-founded the Google Affiliate Network and what is today the Performics division of Publicis Groupe. Jeff served as adjunct digital marketing faculty at Loyola University’s school of business. His book, Off The Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You, is first to offer businesses a clear, practical way to create leads and sales with technology platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and blogs.

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