If you’re frustrated with Sales Navigator, or not finding useful tips on how to get your paws on as much LinkedIn data as possible, you might be asking: Is Sales Navigator worth it?
The LinkedIn database is not just big, 756 million members and 55 million companies (Jun 2021: LinkedIn and Kinsta.) It’s big, and current relative to the competition. LinkedIn has solved, better than anyone else so far, the problem that stale data is worse than no data.
That's impressive. And a good part of what makes Sales Navigator a good buy.
But, to decide if Sales Navigator is a good lead generation data source for your business, it boils down to this:
- Is the free version of LinkedIn sufficient for your prospecting needs?
- Is Sales Navigator search functionality granular enough for your search requirements? That is, do Search Navigator filters allow you to express what you’re searching for?
- How tolerant are you to manual verification?
This post explores these bullet points through 5 examples that show you how to use Sales Navigator filters with consideration to limits and glitches. Yes, glitches. Excluding glitches in an exploration of Sales Navigator value is for cowards and keyword jockeys.
Bonus section: Sales Navigator license extras, such as eliminating the Commercial Use Limit, InMail, etc., as well as features that should be extras.
1. How to see more than 100 pages of a LinkedIn search result?
LinkedIn searches display at most 100 pages of results, including for searches with more than 100 pages of results. There are 10 contacts per page, and a limit of 1,000 results per LinkedIn search query.
The search for this example: find all CTOs in California.
If 1,000 profiles is enough for your purposes, you’re done in one search.
If you need all search results, break down the search into smaller searches of at most 1,000 results each.
First I’ll show you how to use filters to narrow a search in LinkedIn, then in Sales Navigator.
With the free version of LinkedIn: it’s tough to accomplish
In LinkedIn, the search criteria using People filters get 15,000 results:
- Locations: California, United States
- Title: “CTO” or “Chief Executive Officer”
To see all the results, split the original search into smaller searches of at most 1,000 results each.
But, as I’m about to show you, it’s not easy to break down a large search in the free version of LinkedIn.
How to split a search using Location & Industry filters
Identify search criteria for smaller searches, of at most 1,000 results each, with different Location-Industry combinations.
- CTOs in San Francisco Bay Area for different Industries.
- CTOs in San Diego Metropolitan Area for different Industries.
- And so on, until all city-industry combinations in California are covered.
CTOs in San Francisco Bay Area in the Internet industry has 798 results, which is fine.
However, not all industries in San Francisco Bay Area have 1,000 or less results:
- Computer Software: About 2,500
- Information Technology & Services: 1,100
- Internet: 798
- Telecommunication: 176
The Computer Science search has be to split into smaller searches.
Connections filter for further search narrowing
The Connections filter only has 3 values, limiting the number of smaller searches.
The search criteria for 1st degree connections:
- Locations: San Francisco Bay Area
- Title: “CTO” or “Chief Executive Officer”
- Industries: Computer Science
- Connections: 1st
Repeat for 2nd degree connections.
Unfortunately, in the free version of LinkedIn, you can’t search your extended network (3rd degree connections.) Using Connections, you can’t fully break down the search for CTOs in California in Computer Science, unless these CTOs are all in your network.
Next options: the Locations filter suggestions doesn’t break down San Francisco into smaller locations. From here, try other filters: current company, past company, school, profile language, etc.
There’s a lot of trial & error.
Under the free version of LinkedIn, trial & error needed to find smaller searches is limited by the Commercial Use Limit, which caps searching & browsing.
Between the 1,000 profile limit per search query, the Commercial Use Limit, and lack of LinkedIn filter granularity, the free version of LinkedIn does not have search functionality to easily make accessible all results of a large search.
Let’s see how this search works in Sales Navigator.
With Sales Navigator
On the Lead Results tab, the search criteria for all CTOs in California is:
Geography: California, United States
Title: Chief Executive Officer, CTO
Right off the bat, Sales Navigator has more search functionality than LinkedIn.
- More results for some searches, in this case 17K+ vs 15K+
- More employment information per profile on search result pages
- Filter drop-down suggestions have result volumes making it easier to break down searches
- The result limit for Sales Navigator lead searches is 2,500 results, so 40 pages of 25 results per page.
To see all 17K+ results of the search, use filters to split the search into smaller searches of at most 2,500 results.
The search-splitting approach is the same as LinkedIn, but as I’m about to show you, splitting searches in Sales Navigator is much easier.
How to split a search into results of 2,500 or less using Filter suggestions and the Exclude filter
1. Using filter suggestions, find a filter to split the search.
Company headcount is a good filter to split the 17K+ search. There only has 3 searches over 2.5K to split into smaller searches: 1 -10, 11-50, and 51-200. And, there are only 9 Company headcount values in total, limiting the number of smaller searches.
2. Create a mutually exclusive Exclude search query.
Add the Company headcount (1-10) filter to the search criteria.
Then, expand the Industry filter to get suggestion result volumes.
Split the 3 biggest Industry searches into 2 groups.
Industry Group 1: Computer Science (1.5K), Internet (499).
Industry Group 2: Information Technology & Services (746).
Add Industry searches to Group 1 and 2, so Group 1 + Group 2 results are over 50% of 5K+. For example, 3K+.
Industry Group 1 (2K+ results): Computer Science (1.5K), Internet (499), Renewables & Environment (71)
Industry Group 2 (1K+ results): Information Technology & Services (746), Research (108), Medical Devices (103), Biotechnology (108)
Group 3 search criteria: CTOs in California Exclude Group 1, Group 2.
3. Repeat steps 1-3 for other Company headcounts with results 2.5K+: 11-50, and 51-200.
With Sales Navigator, more than 100 pages or all results of a search, can be seen in a few steps. It’s much easier and faster than trying to split a search under the free version of LinkedIn. Sales Navigator has a higher result limit per search query, more powerful filters, and filter suggestions with result volumes. Plus, there is no Commercial Use Limit in Sales Navigator.
These are the reasons why Sales Navigator has more search bandwidth than the free version of LinkedIn.
The remaining examples walk through other Search Navigator filters as well as filter glitches you’re likely to come up against.
2. How many employees work at a named company?
The search for this example, on the Accounts Results tab: run any search.
Scroll through the results. It won’t take long to find a result that has different employee headcounts depending on whether you look at: the Account result page, “all employees”, or a Lead tab search “Total result”:
Employee headcount glitch
In the example below, the 3rd company has 3 different employee counts from various places in Sales Navigator and LinkedIn: 1001-5000 employees, 359 employees, and 362 employees.
- Account results page: 1001 – 5000 employees. (Range is from the LinkedIn company page)
- Sales Navigator company profile: “All employees (359)” link. (Current employees)
- Click “All employees link” to get a Lead search: 362 results. (Current or past employees)
- LinkedIn company page: 1001 – 5000 employees
- 2 & 3 above are initiated from the Account tab. The result is the same as 3 for searches initiated from the Lead tab. From the Lead tab, search for Company: Paladin Technologies: 362 results. (Current or past employees)
Employee headcount glitch solution (heads up: manual)
#1, #4: Account result headcount ranges are from LinkedIn company pages. Be aware that LinkedIn company page headcount ranges, updated by LinkedIn members, are often out of date.
#2: All employees (359) – current employees, probably what you’re searching for.
#3, #5: Searches that result in a Lead list, whether initiated from on the Account tab (#3) or Lead tab (#5), have a Total result of current or past employees. This includes Lead tab searches that specify “Current” in the Company filter. If you’re searching for current employees only, profiles have to be confirmed manually.
A LinkedIn company page best practice: Keep the company headcount range up to date.
3. How to find all salespeople in a named company?
The search criteria for this example, on the Lead Results tab:
- Company: <company name>
- Function: Sales
If you don’t know all the sales titles you’re looking for (or you can’t be bothered typing them all in,) the Function filter attempts to find them for you.
Function “sales” is the way to ask Sales Navigator to: “find everyone who works in a sales function.”
But, if you’re looking for just salespeople, Function can return profiles that aren’t relevant to your search.
It’s not a glitch.
Function not-glitch (more like poor filter design)
Function “Sales,” doesn’t return just salespeople and sales management. It includes people who work with sales, that is, have a sales function, but are not in a selling role. Sales administration, sales operation, data analysts, and others can all be included in Function “Sales”.
So, don’t be surprised when you see non-sales titles in a Function “Sales” search result.
Non-sales title results may be irrelevant, but they are not wrong. The feature is working as its designers’ intended.
Here’s an example of how irrelevant Function filter results can be, if you're just looking for salespeople.
For the search below, 25% of the 27 results are profiles with sales titles.
The remaining 7 profiles are sales operations, technical, project management and senior technical management. That is, people with a sales function (according to Sales Navigator,) as opposed to a selling role.
How do you find the salespeople from all the titles the Function filter returns?
Manually review of profiles for titles that aren’t relevant to your search criteria.
Now, reviewing 7 profiles isn’t a show stopper.
It’s a bigger job with 2,500+ results. First, the search has to be split up to see all results, and there can be many more profiles to confirm, depending on how Sales Navigator aggregates sales function titles. The Function formula aren’t published, they appear to be a combination of current & past titles and profile content.
OK, that’s confusing enough. But it’s not the only thing that makes results confusing.
You don’t get not-glitches and glitches in an orderly fashion in results.
Glitches and not-glitches present concurrently, depending on how profiles are setup and limitations in Sales Navigator itself.
Next up: The multiple current employments glitch, demonstrated in the next example.
4. How to find all salespeople in a company with up to 50 people?
The search criteria for this example, on the Lead Results tab:
- Company headcount: 1-10, 11-50
- Function: Sales
The first person in the result is employed at Datto, Inc. which has 1.5K+ employees.
The requested Company headcount ranges are 1-10 or 11-50.
Why are employees from a company with 1.5K+ employees included in the result?
Multiple current employments glitch
The first result profile has 6 current employments at different companies.
I have to say, this profile is setup following best practices for multiple current employments.
But, Sales Navigator is not fully current-employment ready.
So, even with properly setup member profiles, Sales Navigator’s Multiple Current Employments Glitch return results outside of the search criteria.
Here are a few guesses as to why this profile is included in the result that with Function and Company headcount search criteria.
Guess #1, Multiple Current Employments glitch. Company headcount and Function criteria aren’t from the same company. The profile is included due to a sales Function title, Senior Vice President Americas Sales at Datto Inc. and a headcount of 1-10 or 11-50 at any other current employment company (Tastes Farmers Market, Neon Software, etc.).
Guess #2, Function not-glitch. Advisor is a sales Function title applicable to two companies with headcount 1-10 or 11-50. If Advisor isn’t a relevant sales title for your search, the result is relevant.
I’m leaning towards Guess #1. The Account result company banner refers to Datto Inc., not any of the Guess #2 companies.
Multiple current employments glitch solutions (heads up: manual)
How do you filter for a better result with the Function filter, to avoid searching for and entering specific titles, a big job for 5M+ results?
You can’t, as long as there are profiles with multiple current employments that don’t all match your search criteria. Sales Navigator mixes & matches titles and companies.
The profile above followed best practices, so there’s nothing in the profile employment setup to change.
The profile below is another story. The employment setup for this profile is asking for incorrect search results.
The vendor partnership with Microsoft is setup as a current position.The member works at a company with company headcount 12, and will be returned in searches with this criteria: Function Sales and Company Headcount 10K+.
5. How to find CEOs for companies with 5 – 25 salespeople?
This search is run on both Sales Navigator tabs. First Accounts, then Leads, and uses Custom lists.
1. On the Account Results tab:
- Run searches for companies with different Industry-Geography combinations, with this criteria: Department Headcount: “Sales” between 5 and 25
- Save results of interest in a Custom list
2. On the Lead Results tab
- Search for CEOs in the Custom list built on the Account tab.
On the Account Results tab
Not-glitch alert. Department headcount, based on Function, has includes titles that may not be relevant to your search.
But, Department Headcount is for a specific headcount range, possibly giving a better search result than Function.
The number of salespeople in different sized sales departments can be roughly estimated. For example, a sales department of 15 salespeople likely has 1 or 2 non-sales titles (i.e. sales administrator.) Probably, a sales department of 150, has a more than 2 non-sales titles.
From the first search, I saved 25 companies to a custom list, BC ITS.
Save accounts of interest in a Custom list: click “Select all” or select companies of interest > “Save to list” > “Add to a custom list”.
Saved lists are accessed from Sales Navigator’s top navigation menu, through “Account lists”.
Custom lists are capped at 1,500 entries. You may need more than one list depending on how many companies you are researching.
On the Lead Results tab
Now we’ll find the CEOs for the companies in the Custom list.
On the Lead Results tab, enter the Custom List.
Notice that Geography and Industry filters are not populated for the Custom List.
This is not a glitch.
Geography and Industry not-glitch (rather, it’s good design)
You don’t necessarily have the same Geography or Industry as your employer(s).
A common mistake is a Lead tab search for Geography: Atlanta as a search for people who work at companies in Atlanta. On the Lead tab, this search criteria is for profiles with Location “Atlanta”, likely where these people live, not their necessarily company’s locations.
Geography and Industry on the Lead tab è returns member profiles.
Geography and Industry on the Account tab è returns companies.
The Geography and Industry search criteria, entered as Account search criteria to create your Custom list, don’t apply on the Lead tab.
FYI: The 3 filters available to isolate companies on the Lead Results tab are Company, Company headcount, and Company type. Be aware that results are touch and go due to the Multiple Current Employments Glitch.
How to use the Seniority level filter to find C-levels
Add a Title filter: CEO, Chief Executive Officer
Why are there 70 results? There are 25 companies in the BC ITS custom list.
Use the Seniority level filter to see why the result is almost 3 times what’s expected.
- Open the custom list (“Account lists” from the top navigation menu).
- Click “Find leads” on the 1st account, then on the Sales Navigator company profile “All employees” to get a list of employee profiles. Due to the Employee Headcount Glitch, this may include past employees. I know, it never ends.
- Filter by Seniority Level “CXO”.
- Browse profiles to find the correct leadership title for that company. For example “President”.
- Repeat for all companies in your custom list.
The first company, Paladin Technologies has:
- Two CEOs for other companies (in the CXO search result)
- A President, but no CEO (not in the CXO search result)
This explains why the search result (Custom list: BC ITS and Title: CEO, Chief Executive Officer,) is 2 -3 times bigger than the list of 25 companies in the BC ITS Custom list.
Multiple current employments glitch partial solution (when searching for specific titles)
Unfortunately, adding “President” to the Title filter can return more irrelevant results. Sales Navigator returns anyone who has a President/CEO/Chief Executive Title at any company. Not just Titles of “President” at the companies of interest.
Partial solution: create a separate search for each C-level title of interest, CEO, Chief Executive Officer, President, etc.
It doesn’t entirely get rid of the pesky MCEG, but cuts down on manual review for relevant results.
Sales Navigator license extras and missing extra features (bonus section)
LinkedIn loves to promote all Sales Navigator extras as equal.
I don’t agree.
Some extras help you prospect, and others, well, they range from nice to have to head scratch-er.
Removal of the Commercial Use Limit and access to your extended network (3rd degree connections) - keepers
These two features remove prospecting limitations within LinkedIn (to Sales Navigator levels ,) so you don’t have to go into Sales Navigator to view profiles or for simple searches like searching for a person whose name I know.
I’d buy a premium license in a heartbeat that just removed the Commercial Use Limit, minus off course, “out of network” profiles, which is no biggie.
For people who use LinkedIn as a 2.0 prospect career history Rolodex, and only want unlimited search & browsing, I bet a LinkedIn premium product with these two features, sans Sales Navigator filters and sans other extra features, would be a hit.
InMail (AKA JunkMail) – not worth it
First, InMail is from people you don’t know, giving it the look & feel of SPAM, which gets ignored.
Second, social selling is not for everyone. 60 InMails a month is not enough for most people to start enough business conversations to replace email & phone outreach.
Who’s viewed your profile? Nice to have
I wouldn’t buy a Sales Navigator license, or any LinkedIn product to get it.
It’s kind of like insights on: Who notices you in Starbucks in the last 90 days? For prospecting commercial use purposes, people who view your profile are only relevant if they’re prospects, and even then it might not mean anything.
Recommendation to LinkedIn: include “Who’s viewed your profile” in the free version of LinkedIn.
Open Profile – not worth it, not even nice to have
A guess for the intention of Open Profile: give prospects a way to contact you without sending a connection request.
As LinkedIn features go, it’s not well known, so not a huge deal, but I don’t like it because it opens the door for more spam DMs from sellers, who tend to be experts in LinkedIn loopholes.
Downloading search results- should be included in Sales Navigator
Sales Navigator has custom lists, which are nowhere near as wonderful as downloading results. Many apps are easier to use than Excel, not so for Custom list.
Emails and phone numbers including direct lines & cells- should be included in Sales Navigator
The Sales Navigator version of contact information is InMail (issues discussed above) to warm up leads, who give you their contact info. It’s a social selling strategy.
This picture is the complete lead generation experience, meaning there’s no need to provide contact info, only if you are really really good at social selling and building brand recognition on LinkedIn.
Otherwise, plain and simple, you need another data source for emails & phone numbers.
Now, finding a reliable data source for contact info is no small thing. So, email and phone contact information available from Sales Navigator, with verified emails, direct lines and cells, is most welcome.
Granted, it’s a challenge. The privacy issues are a dog’s breakfast.