Should I upgrade to LinkedIn Sales Navigator? A Guide for SMEs(SMBs)

LinkedIn will shortly roll out a new desktop version of its software which will look much more like the mobile version. The aim is to create a simpler and more consistent experience for users. To achieve this LinkedIn has moved or removed several features e.g. the summary field has been re-positioned, only one published article is now shown on the front page instead of three.

For anyone involved in sales and recruitment currently using a free or Business Plus account the big changes are loss of (i) multiple search filters and (ii) saved searches (iii) tagging feature.

Whether you decide to upgrade will probably come down to how important these features are for you, however it may be also that Sales Navigator is a better fit for how you work. Let’s look at it.

What is Sales Navigator?

Sales Navigator is a prospecting tool which bolts onto and complements the main LinkedIn.com programme. It was developed from LinkedIn’s recruitment product and therefore looks completely different from the standard LinkedIn.

Unlike LinkedIn.com, Sales Navigator is structured around companies not individuals. Sales Navigator was tailor made for account based selling and incorporated features which promote a social selling approach i.e. using social networks to build relationships with buyers.

If I had to sum up Sales Navigator up in one word it would be “focused”. This is a tool for business who know who they want to sell to and are prepared to invest time in nurturing those accounts. If your business has thousands of customers making small decentralised purchases Sales Navigator is not for you.

Once you have chosen your target accounts Sales Navigator will provide you with multiple data and insights about those accounts and your key targets. Based on your target criteria the software will also suggest other potential leads for you to investigate.

The Ultimate Sales Search Engine

LinkedIn is the most comprehensive and accurate database of business professionals on the planet. For many Free and Business Plus account users the incredibly powerful search functions in Sales Navigator will clinch the deal.

The Lead Builder search feature is almost identical to the advanced search on LinkedIn.com but with extra filters that come with the premium account.

Anyone who has used the LinkedIn.com advanced search will immediately recognise the Lead Builder screen and if you have come across Boolean search, you will be reassured to know that Sales Navigator supports this.

Once a target search has been refined this can be saved as a “saved search”, 15 saved searches are allowed.

Social Selling is Embedded

The latest version of Sales Navigator (launched 31st July 2014) has been designed with social selling in mind. Cold calling is no longer effective. Buyers are engaging suppliers at much later point in the sales cycle, already armed with extensive research. Business must find less intrusive ways to reach and engage with these buyers. Many companies are using a social selling approach with great success.

This is how Hubspot defines social selling:

“Social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Salespeople will provide value by answering prospect questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy”.

A simple model of social selling looks like this:

· Establish a presence on social networks

· Find the right people

· Engage with those people

· Build trust

Notice that the model doesn’t mention making a sale. Sales come once the relationship is established. This doesn’t mean that sales targets are thrown out of the window, it’s just a different route to the same destination.

Sales Navigator makes it easy to track and engage with prospects by providing up to date information about news and shares from target accounts and individuals.

If a social selling approach just does not resonate with the way you do business then Sales Navigator may not be for you, however even for businesses with a traditional sales model LinkedIn provides the most comprehensive business database and phenomenal search power which could well make it a good investment.

Key features include:

· Send connect custom invites without an email address

· Send InMail messages to people who are not connections

· Organise prospects by company

· More focused news feed

· Powerful advanced and saved search feature

· Ability to tag prospects into categories

· Track company and individual news mentions

· Track company and individual shares on LinkedIn

· TeamLink subscribers can view colleagues’ connections

· Automated lead recommendations

· CRM integration with Salesforce and MS Dynamics CRM

Social Selling Score (SSL)

The social selling score is a unique measure of an individual’s effectiveness on LinkedIn. Large organisations use it to monitor how well a sales team is using LinkedIn. Until recently the score was only available to organisations with a sales team of 25 or more, now anyone can get their free social selling score here.

The score measures your effectiveness on four factors:

· Establishing personal brand

· Finding the right people

· Engage with insights

· Build relationships

The SSI score does not measure sales effectiveness per se, however LinkedIn have conducted comprehensive research which showed that people who adopt a social selling approach create 45% more opportunities.

The Social Selling Score is available as a unique score for every individual

How useful is this score? Some organisations have found it extremely useful others regard it as irrelevant. My experience is that most people find it helpful to have a personal score, and in a team it can lead to some healthy competition.

What does Sales Navigator cost?

Until recently there were three options:

Sales Navigator Basic No longer available to new users

Sales Navigator Pro £53.99

Sales Navigator Team £77.99

Prices are per person per month based on annual billing.

*Team is the version aimed at large sales teams and includes sales management dashboard.

SUMMARY

Should you upgrade? Having read this article, you may already be clear that YES Sales Navigator is for you or NO it is not.

If you are still undecided then consider:

· Do some or all your team use an account based approach to sales? (it may make sense for some but not all the team to upgrade)?

· Are you using traditional sales methods but finding them less effective?

· Is the ability to search in depth and save target lists important?

· Are you interested in developing or exploring a more social approach to selling?

· How many extra sales would you have to make to justify the Sales Navigator cost?

Members have become used to accessing LinkedIn’s powerful database for free — currently only 2% pay for membership. There are few organisations in my opinion that would not want the rich features and targeting ability that Sales Navigator provides, how many extra sales would you have to find to justify the cost? One, two?

The good news is LinkedIn has just announced that the free trial period for Sales Navigator is now being extended from one to three months.

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