Update your Navigator best practices

Jeff Molander

Sales communications coach & Managing Partner, Communications Edge Inc.

Trainer to brands like:

Building a target list

Telling prospects, "You should consider X solution because Y research says so" is a non-starter. Pushing information at customers works far less than provoking them.

"People generally opt in to receive marketing newsletters, but no one chooses to get cold emails. This simple fact is one of the most important differences between the two," says cold email expert, Heather Morgan.

Ms. Morgan reminds us also how cold emails arrive without context. This is often the first time prospects have heard from you. Further, "you haven’t yet earned their trust or attention yet," says Ms. Morgan.

Context is key. Why talk at when you can talk with? Why push when you can pull, attract the conversation to you? 

The most effective sellers use Sales Navigator as:

  • their only research tool to target & identify companies & target contacts… to develop a list from scratch

  • a primary tool—adding profile data from various other sources (e.g. purchased lists with email and direct-dial phone information)

  • a secondary tool—using purchased data (e.g. DiscoverOrg, InfoUSA) or proprietary "house" lists as primary… supplementing with LinkedIn profile data (to qualify leads)

Beware: The days of using LinkedIn for sales prospecting, at no cost, are gone. You no longer have choice. Since acquiring LinkedIn, Microsoft has clamped-down on free users… hard. I’m not a fanboy for LinkedIn so here’s why purchasing Sales Navigator is required.

Reason 1: Search filters. You need them. Sure you’ll get a few using the free version of LinkedIn. But you’ll be hard-pressed 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.

Reason 2: 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” and 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 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 very good data sources to consider investing in too.

Grabbing attention with InMail®

Oops. Decision-makers are less-and-less receptive to receiving messages on LinkedIn lately. 

Still, most sellers use InMail and connection requests as a primary communications tool.

This is no longer a best practice, not recommended in most B2B sales environments. InMail is best applied as part of a multi-pronged approach. (email, phone/voicemail, InMail, direct mail, etc.)

Don't expect InMail to be a game-changer, nor more effective than standard email. 

InMail's value-add is slim. It's not why high-performing 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. (I've discussed this before)

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. We make this experience available to you in our Academy and quarterly workshops.

Our 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.

Tracking progress with a CRM

Using a CRM to track "Navigator sourced leads" remains a best practice. This helps track how many deals flow from contacts leaning (fully or partially) on data found on LinkedIn and Company profiles.

Most organizations (large or small) are not tracking hard ROI on Sales Navigator; instead treating it as a cost of doing business---a line item expense.

Buying Navigator is like buying any other list to prospect from. (except this is on a subscription basis) However, many organizations do wish to understand how many leads are being pulled 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.

Researching targets

Research is LinkedIn's most valuable deliverable to you. Navigator comes with bonus tools which are, in fact, mandatory. 

However, data and insights on LinkedIn is supplied by users. Thus, it's accuracy is only as good as the user provides. The emerging "next practice" is using other sources of data in combination with LinkedIn profile and activity stream insights.

Infousa, DiscoverOrg (and now Zoominfo, absorbed by DiscoverOrg), your own proprietary database.

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 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.

The emerging problem with "showing your homework"

The ugly truth: Referencing research gleaned from LinkedIn, quick Google research, trade publications, article quotes... all of these "proofs" of researching targets are becoming less-and-less effective. 

Yes, you read that correctly. Our community's most effective tactic remains "showing you've done homework" in email and voicemail messages. This will still get conversations started more often than any other tactic.

But new factors are:

  • How you present research findings (what you've observing)... the exact words you use (and avoid)
  • Quality of research... if it takes you 5 minutes or less it probably won't work (because competitors are seeing it too!)

This is why our community is so valuable. We're finding work-arounds and using fresh, new tactics to provoke conversations. 

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? Please share in comments below.

Jeff Molander

Sales communications coach 

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