LinkedIn Sales Navigator: Deciding if It's Worth It
Is LinkedIn Sales Navigator worth it for sales prospecting? And how can you measure the investment — and end it if it's not?
I've consulted my most trusted resources — and clients — on the answer. Because what we need is an honest answer from people who are interested in growing their business — not just LinkedIn's!
Here are the results I've found in guideline format. The consensus seems strong. In 95 percent of cases you may not need a Sales Navigator or Premium level account.
Key Consideration Points
Let's keep it simple. Here's what the average B-to-B sales prospecting person needs to consider. Point by point.
- The Free Trial: Is one month enough time to judge?
- The cost: When and how will it be recovered?
- The yardstick for success: Leads found and qualified faster, not trivial activity.
The Problem With a 30-day Trial
I rarely hear anyone talking about this aspect. Yet I'm not sure why. In most B-to-B sales environments a 30 day free trial is not enough time to judge any sales prospecting tool, tactic or strategy.
Even in today's fast-paced social selling world LinkedIn's 30 day trial period is far too short.
One of my most trusted sales training colleagues put it this way: “What sales team wants to commit to a playing field that moves the goal posts every couple of months? If I have a six month sales cycle, please explain what good a one month free trial does me?”
Thus, please understand that the free trial isn't actually free. It's a discount on your first six months of Navigator subscription. Because many of us need at least 6 to 12 months to understand if this is having positive impact on the bottom line — finding and closing new clients faster.
Justifying the Cost
The fastest way to understand if the investment might be worthwhile is to examine the benefits — but with a sales hat firmly on. Sales Navigator Professional (for individuals) gets you:
- InMail: The one perk that everyone knows about.
- Free incoming InMail: Anyone on LinkedIn can send you a message, free.
- More search filters: You get an additional eight filters (although some are not applicable at all to sellers)
- More saved searches: Very handy if you have a set of searches you do repeatedly.
- More search results: You can see two hundred, four hundred or more.
- Unlimited profile search: You will not need to worry about hitting LinkedIn's arbitrary Commercial Search Limit.
- Introductions: You can send a message to someone you would like to meet through a mutual LinkedIn connection.
- Who’s Viewed Your Profile visibility: You get more visibility into who has viewed your profile.
- Automated lead recommendations and real time news insights on leads.
I'm not saying any of these features are good or bad. Rather, we must question if they are worth paying $79 per month to access. In particular, most of my clients find the ability to search an unlimited number of times beneficial. How much so? This varies on individual experience.
And therein lies the tricky part: Generating enough experience with these features to pass fair judgement.
The Yardstick for Success
This is a tricky issue extending beyond the problem with a 30 day trial. It is unclear when significant cost breaks on the $129 per seat Team fee comes into play. This is not publicly discussed by LinkedIn. More importantly, justifying the cost must come in the form of hard numbers.
Sales related numbers.
The vast majority of businesses I'm finding measure soft value when building a business case for Sales Navigator. LinkedIn itself is encouraging this “soft yardstick” via it's Social Selling Index. (SSI)
True, each category of the SSI is based on a practice vital to success using LinkedIn. They are important to your productivity, effectiveness ... ultimately, your success at finding and closing leads faster.
Beware of Vanity Metrics
LinkedIn's social selling index is flawed as a measurement tool when building a business case.
Because establishing your brand, finding the right people, engaging and building relationships are the basis for the SSI. However, each of these has an (unmeasured) quality component that directly drives business value.
Here's the rub: When reps have a lower skill set at communicating with prospects they will always have lower success at earning meetings and closing deals with them. You can brand, engage and connect all you want.
In the end, the more effectively reps communicate the more deals get discovered, nurtured and closed.
Yet LinkedIn's main tool of measurement is based purely on a quantitative basis.
Bottom line: The SSI is a potential indicator of productivity. However, being an active user of LinkedIn does not make you a productive seller.
Sales productivity takes more; it takes qualitative behavior and specific business outcomes. Knowing how to make a sales appointment via email or InMail trumps being able to simply send email!
What do you think about how I'm approaching this? Am I off the mark? How are you approaching building the business case?