In this special episode I take a break from the normal format to concentrate fully on a comprehensive review of LinkedIn's Sales Navigator product.
I believe that this product is critical to the future of LinkedIn who are still trying to break away from an unhealthy reliance on their flagship Recruiter product so I thought it was about time I upgraded and gave Sales Navigator a thorough appraisal.
What is Sales Navigator?
The first thing to understand about Sales Navigator (SN) is that it is not a conventional premium account. It's DNA comes from the Recruiter product and so it sits separately from LinkedIn.com.
To access SN you click on a link from within your normal LinkedIn account which opens a separate tab with a different user interface. Premium accounts are basically normal accounts with added features, SN is very different and is designed for people who are focussed on using LinkedIn as a social selling tool.
It is principally a lead generation and social listening tool, it's not a CRM (contact/customer relationship management) tool....not yet anyway!
One of the first things you notice about SN is that LinkedIn have chosen to rename things, despite the fact that they are (mostly) the same as the traditional features on LinkedIn.com. For instance;
Leads - translation = People
Account - translation = Company
Lead builder - translation = Advanced search (with all filters)
This all seems rather pointless to me and merely adds to the confusion, I must admit I started to smell a rat when I saw this. My suspicion being that by using different terminology LinkedIn were trying to give the impression that SN is more unique than it really is.
- Unlimited searches and profile views (Lead Builder)
- Saving companies for monitoring activity
- Saving people for monitoring activity
- News monitoring
- Integration with Salesforce (CRM)
- Team management and analysis
As previously mentioned this is pretty much the same as advanced search in LinkedIn.com. The only differences are that you have more filters and real time numbers ie as you search with filters you can more easily the result number change (not especially useful)
Searching on any premium account is less restricted (number of searches and profile views) than when using LinkedIn on a free account but a Business Plus account will give you all the same features on its advanced search function bar the extra search filters.
What I like about Lead Builder is that it is a simplified and easier to use version of advanced search. The main fields of interest in an advanced search should always be "job title" "Keywords" "Current company" and "location" plus the 4 most useful filters are "function" "seniority level" "company size" and "industry" SN only gives you these options initially but once you get to the search result you are able to use all premium filters.
I'm not convinced the extra filters you get over those on a Business Plus account justify the extra cost but I guess that depends on what you are looking for.
In conclusion Lead Builders main strength is it's simplified UI which is important when the user is not experienced with LinkedIn.
SN's best feature is that it collates LinkedIn activity from companies and people into one place, making it much easier to monitor your prospects and potentially engage with them. Activities are broken down as follows;
- All Updates - confusing name as this includes all shares and updates!
- Lead updates - saved people that have changed their profile
- Lead shares - status updates & published posts from saved people
- Company shares - Status updates from saved companies (Accounts)
- Company news - This is from Newsle, a company acquired in 2014 that searches the internet for news on organisations.
- Potential leads - Mostly status updates from other employees of accounts who you haven't saved as a lead but also occasionally includes updates from people that are connected to multiple people at an account. This is the most useful part because it quickly shows you who the most active people are within the business and this allows you to engage with them - that could be your route 'in'!
When you view a company in SN you have the option to 'save as account' and you can then view an account from the accounts page. Viewing an account allows you to see all the activity of the employees of that company which is very useful.
This page proves a list of all of your saved people. Individuals can be saved within an account or individually. All type will appear in this page. This list can be filtered and messages/InMails can be sent from this page.
With SN you have a separate inbox from your main LinkedIn.com inbox.
All messages you send from SN and any replies you receive are only seen in your SN inbox.
Bizarrely SN does not have the new 'conversation' style inbox and you are not able to send attachments with messages created in SN.
You also get an allowance of 15 InMails a month.
This allows the administrator of the account to monitor the activities of all employees with an SN account as well as seeing their SSI - a useful measurement to gauge how much they are actually using SN and LinkedIn as a whole.
This feature allows you to see if anyone at a target company (Account) or a specific person (Lead) is connected to any other employees at your company.
You can of course get exactly the same benefit by just being connected to all your colleagues but that is unrealistic if you work in a very large multinational organisation.
Spotting introduction/referral opportunities is key to winning business on LinkedIn and this feature can really help sales professionals to spot opportunities from within their own company that they would otherwise have not been aware of.
This was the one area I was unable to test or get any many independent views about. LinkedIn severely restricts access to its data for any outside parties apart from Salesforce who are able to integrate their product with SN.
I'm not exactly sure how powerful this is in practice but my information is that the integration is useful if you already use Salesforce but not a reason to change your CRM to Salesforce!
This has been the most surprising outcome of my analysis. Profiles viewed through SN are significantly less useful and informative than on LinkedIn.com!
How crazy is that?
When you view a profile in SN you have the following features missing;
- Relationship tab inc. Notes, Reminders, How you met and Tags
- Share profile
- Save to pdf
- Background image
- People also viewed
- Things in common
You do however see your message history at the top right of the profile.
The popular Who's viewed your profile feature is evident in SN but the design is a lot more basic than the free version.
During my research I spoke with Alex Low from JLL, a real estate company with over 28,000 employees on LinkedIn worldwide. Alex has an interesting case study highlighted by LinkedIn showing the success that JLL have experienced with SN.
Alex highlighted the strengths as being TeamLink™ and the social listening features of SN. They started with 150 licences, a number that has now doubled as SN easily paid for itself within 6 months.
These two features pay off in different ways, TeamLink™ can give you immediate results by identifying introduction opportunities from within the business, the low hanging fruit of LinkedIn!
Alternatively the social listening features are more likely to pay off over the longer term. It is often true that decision makers in target companies (Accounts) are often not very active on LinkedIn but junior, more digitally aware management are and JLL have benefitted by building relationships at that level something they believe that will pay dividends in the future.
Alex was very clear that for a company of their size, investing in Sales Navigator was a "a no brainer".
Sales Navigator is still a relatively young product and it shows, there are plenty of areas for improvement and if LinkedIn are serious about this finally lowering their dependance on Recruiting products then they have some serious work to do.
It seems illogical to me that profiles are better in LinkedIn.com and that SN uses an old, outdated inbox. Most troubling of all is if I am going to target someone as a 'lead' then I need to make notes, categorise them and schedule when to keep in touch. These features are available in the free version of LinkedIn so it makes no sense whatsoever to not include them in this premium business development product.
There is no doubt that LinkedIn are in a unique position to lead the way in social selling and Sales Navigator is an exciting and promising first attempt to provide a valuable tool for forward thinking sales professionals and organisations.
TeamLink™ is a feature that is only useful to large organisations and the social watching features are unlikely to justify the cost in the short term so it is my conclusion that SN is a good choice for blue chip multinationals.
As for the rest of us?
At a price point of £540+vat/€732/$820 per person/year I would advise sticking with a lower level premium account such as Business plus.