Will Sales Navigator help you find clients more easily than what you're doing now?
This post breaks this question down into four parts.
How much prospecting can you do for free on
How can you stay a free LinkedIn member forever?
Don't prospect over the Commercial Use Limit.
What is prospecting on LinkedIn?
Activity that you think of as prospecting on LinkedIn, might not all count towards what LinkedIn sees as prospecting.
Connection invitations & messages don't count as prospecting. The limits that you hit for too many invitations and too many messages is about spam control.
Searching & viewing profiles do count as prospecting depending on who it is.
- For people you know (1st-degree connections,) it's not prospecting.
- For people you may know (2nd-degree connections,) it's prospecting in some cases.
- For people who you don't know (3rd-degree connections,) it's prospecting.
Searching for companies is prospecting.
The prospecting limit: The Commerical Use Limit
The Commerical Use Limit tracks prospecting activity.
When you hit this limit, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial (i.e. entry into LinkedIn's freemium model). If you don't sign up, searching is taken away until the 1st of the next month.
Is writing content prospecting?
Posting content does not count as prospecting. Nor does reacting to, or commenting on posts.
This is all available for free.
You can meet and build relationships with anyone on LinkedIn through content: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-degree connections.
It doesn't even have to be your content.
Click here for examples of LinkedIn content lead pools.
How to choose between Sales Navigator
and the competition?
Who is the competition?
Basic meat & potatoes VS AI (Artificial Intelligence) platforms
Sales Navigator is a sales engagement platform. AKA a lead generation platform. AKA a lead research platform.
You find prospects from a searchable database of company & employee information. Some platforms publish event alerts, such as recently funded companies.
These are what I call the basic meat & potatoes sales research platforms.
You can go fancier.
What to compare on different meat & potatoes platforms
1. Forget the bells & whistles. Can you find enough IPCs (Ideal Paying Clients)?
Don’t get distracted by bells & whistles like email personalization, automated email sequences, and automated dialers.
These are outreach tools. You'll get to that later.
The first priority is getting enough businesses that are reasonably close to your IPC.
It’s got to be super easy to get a list of businesses from your SEP (Sales Engagement Platform).
Enter in a few search criteria. Hit go.
Now, it's fantastic if your SEP gives you business names, website, accurate employee names & titles, accurate email & direct phone number.
A platform that gives you businesses & websites is good enough for your primary sales engagement platform.
It's a pain, but you might need other Saas tools or even services to get accurate contact names, emails & phone numbers.
2. Ways to find businesses
By search criteria
Search criteria is information like location, company size, industry, and keywords. There may also be annual revenue, fortune level, public/private status, technology used, company growth, and other criteria that cuts down on the extra research you have to do qualifying companies.
Of these, industry has the biggest impact on how easy it is to find companies.
On a platform that offers an industry code (most do,) every business has an industry code, typically picked by each company. Some platforms use SIC (Standardized Industry Classification) codes. Others use their own industry coding system.
Because every business has an industry code, every business can be found, as long as you know it's industry code.
Searching by industry can still give you a big list to look through, when the coding scheme isn't granular enough.
For example, there are thousands of businesses under the industry code "Computer Software".
This is where keywords come in to narrow searches within "Computer Software" or other industry code.
The tutorial in the last section of this post provides an example of searching by keyword and industry.
By newsworthy events & alert
Notification of specific company events is an alternative to searching for businesses by semi-static criteria.
GetLatka provides funding information "straight from the CEO's mouth" for fast growing SaaS companies.
3. Data accuracy and missing data
Millions of records on a platform is impressive.
Don't get fooled.
What use is this if the data you need is out of date?
This problem shows up particularly for employee names & titles. And by extention emails & phone numbers.
Even though Sales Nav doesn't provide emails & phone numbers (other than what members volunteer), it does better than most platforms for accurate employee data, because LinkedIn members keep their profiles up to date.
Where do you go to check who works at a company? Probably LinkedIn.
The data is updated by the data source... the ideal scenario.
This isn't perfect either.
Not all employees are guaranteed to be on LinkedIn.
However, those who are on LinkedIn typically keep their profiles up to date on information that Sales Navigator searches.
Sales Navigator VS LinkedIn searching
Sales Navigator interface, filters and keywords
Sales Navigator searches are by people (Lead result tab) or company (Account result tab) by entering keywords and filter values.
A nice feature of Sales Nav, is moving seamlessly between the tabs.
So, start with a company search on the Account tab. For a company of interest, when you choose to browse employees, you're automatically moved to the Lead results tab where you can use Lead filters to search for employees of that company.
Sales Navigator VS LinkedIn search capabilities
1. Sales Navigator has more filters, and more powerful filters than LinkedIn
Sales Navigator has filters that LinkedIn doesn't have: industry, department headcount, department headcount growth, annual revenue, technology used, and more.
When LinkedIn has a similiar filter to one in Sales Navigator, the Sales Nav filter has more functionality.
Sales Navigator filters offer more suggested values, and more granular refinement options.
For example, Sales Nav's Geography filter (vs LinkedIn's Location) offers more value suggestions from the dropdown, plus a choice of searching by region or postal code.
2. Searches with multiple filters for people & companies
On LinkedIn, multiple filters are available for people searches, but not for company searches.
Companies can be found by name on LinkedIn.
But you can't refine further, by location or headcount, or any other filter.
You need Sales Navigator to do this: search with multiple Account filters.
3. Exclude is only available in Sales Navigator
Exclude allows you to remove specific filter values.
It reduces the number of searches needed.
For example, use Exclude to find USA minus California and New York (rather than search through every state in the US).
(1) Add New York and California to Geography.
(2) Hover over the blue icon, one at a time. Click on the exclude symbol.
What happens to your LinkedIn account when you have Sales Navigator?
LinkedIn becomes LinkedIn Without Warnings.
- Unlimited searching & opening profiles for profiles of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-degree connections
- Unlimited company searches
- See everyone who's viewed your profile in the last 90 days. I wouldn't buy Sales Nav because of this, but it sure is nice to have
- Content and hashtag searches (this one's the same with or without Sales Nav)
- LinkedIn Learning, previously Lynda.com.
Why do you need LinkedIn, if you have Sales Navigator?
Social is on LinkedIn.
Also, sometimes it's more convenient to work in LinkedIn, especially searching & opening for profiles by name.
Sales Navigator tutorial (with an honest account of the good & the glitches)
The tutorial walks through this example:
Find SaaS companies in the US with up to 10 employees.
Step 1. Find companies on the Account tab.
Step 2. Within interesting companies, find employees to contact on the Lead tab.
Step 3. Reaching out
Step 1. How to find companies
Filters: Geography, Company headcount
Why not use the Industry filter?
There are too many Industry value choices to choose from. Some companies are under "computer software" and others are under their area of specialty.
We'll get a better result by picking a keyword that's likely to be on most SaaS (Software As A Service) company pages.
PRO TIP: How to find kewords that your prospects use to describe their companies
In LinkedIn on any company page > About tab > Overview > Specialties.
Specialties is a list of keywords that the company uses to describe itself.
I wonder how these keywords compare to what you get from a pricey SEO tool.
Company headcount & number of employees on LinkedIn
Company Headcount is the Company Size from the company page About tab.
It can be out of date, for fast growing, or shrinking companies.
The number of employees on LinkedIn is directly below the Company size.
It's the number of LinkedIn members who include this company as current experience in their profile.
Number of employees gets inflated when consultants from agencies, who aren't employees, report their assignment at this company as current experience in their profile.
The result for our search is 7K
Saas companies in the United States with up to 10 employees.
Sales Navigator shows you the first 2,500 results (you can only see 1,000 results in LinkedIn.)
To see all 7K results, break the search down using filters.
I’ll use the Industry filter to do this.
From the image above, you can see that SaaS companies are in many industries: financial services, publishing, marketing and advertising, computer science and more.
Full list of LinkedIn industry codes: https://developer.linkedin.com/docs/reference/industry-codes
Now, you don't know what industry a company page will report.
To find as many companies as possible, search for every value of Industry that makes sense.
Here are a few result, when the 7K result is broken down.
Keyword: “saas”, Geography="United States", Company headcount="1-10", Industry="financial services": 132 results.
Keyword: “saas”, Geography="United States", Company headcount="1-10", Industry="computer software": 1.5K results.
And so on, until searches are completed for all values of Industry that make sense.
Step 2. How to find employees
Follow company links where the descriptions look like they are your IPC (Ideal Paying Client.)
There's a link to all employees (who have this company in their profile experience section,) as well as a link to the decision makers.
Both links take you to the Lead results tab, where you'll find some of the same filters as well as filters specific to searching for people's profiles.
Below each person’s name is their headline. Headlines usually includes title and company, making it easy to find suitable company contacts.
In this example, I followed the Decision Makers link.
Sales Navigator automatically populates the Seniority filter with CXO, Directors, and VP values.
Seniority allows you to easily select by job titles. It's easier than entering titles on the Title filter.
Here’s a Seniroity Filter quirk to watch for, demonstrated by a seperate search.
A search for CXO who currently works at Google returns a profile with a Digital Marketing Consultant title.
Here's the reason.
Profiles can have multiple current positions.
This member is presently the CMO at one company and a Digital Marketing Consultant at another.
The search returns profiles that have a CXO title in any current position and work at Google.
We want the search to return CXO profiles only if they are currently employed at Google.
This glitch occurs for all Lead filters that leverage job experience information: seniority, function, and title.
And a bit about the Function filter...
Function values are derived by Sales Navigator. Values from the filter drop down include: business development, information technology, operations, media & communication, sales, engineering, administration, etc.
I haven’t located a list of which titles are included in which functions. I have seen profiles from the same company turn up for multiple functions.
Sound advice: Try examples before you use this filter for real.
Other Account Filters: Technology used
Want to find companies by the technology they use?
The Technology Used filter, of course!
Search for companies in Toronto, Industry=”Information Technology and Services” that use jQuery and WordPress plugins.
How cool is this?
Step 3. Reaching out to employee contacts
Sales Navigator's workflow is contained within Sales Navigator & LinkedIn
There's no cold emailing or cold calling.
You build relationships over a period of time, then setup a sales call.
If prospects want to meet with you, they give you their contact info.
There's no need to find emails or cell phones.
Within this context, it makes sense that Sales Navigator does not provide employee contact info.
For serious prospecters, this means outreach heavy lifting is done outside of LinkedIn with externally sourced employee email & phone info.
Now it's your turn
I hope you found this post useful.
Please post a comment if you have anything to add or questions.