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Like many of our clients, we need help getting exposure for our services – namely the awesome websites we create and marketing we do on behalf of small manufacturers.

We decided to test drive LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator to see if it lives up to its claims – and to determine if it’s a worthwhile tool to recommend for our clients.

The company bills it as a sales tool that allows you to find the right people and companies using their advanced search process.

Once you sign up for it, you access Sales Navigator (SN) from your LinkedIn profile, but it’s a stand-alone tool with its own set of features. (Figure 1)

LI Sales Navigator

Figure 1: Accessing Sales Navigator from the LinkedIn profile

For example, you can create your own lists as well as add notes about your LinkedIn contacts and leads (which you can’t do outside of Sales Navigator).

Once you save a lead, you then see that person’s (or company’s) posts in your SN feed, which is separate from your personal profile feed.

Overall, we like Sales Navigator. It’s relatively easy-to-use once you get the hang of it. We recommend watching the helpful tutorials.

The tool also provides an efficient method for quickly viewing, in one place, the posts from the companies and people you’ve identified as potential leads – without having to scroll through all the non-relevant but fun stuff in your profile feed. (We’re looking at you Kevin O’Leary aka Mr. Wonderful from Shark Tank 👀.)

But, it has its disadvantages, too, especially for smaller manufacturers. What follows is a list of the pros and cons to help you determine if Sales Navigator is the right tool for your in-house sales and marketing team.

PROS:

Easily find the right people — One of the most difficult sales tasks is finding the right people within companies. Sales Navigator lets you search by company – and then easily view all the people with LinkedIn profiles within that company. This makes it easy to focus only on the people relevant to you and your business.

Create lists relevant to you — In addition to creating lists of Qualified Leads or Prospects, you can create lists using your own in-house database. Think Active / Inactive Customers, Past Inquiries, etc.

See the “big picture” about a person — View current position, previous positions, education, etc. plus any groups or people you may have in common. The tool also provides a list of people similar to your lead / prospect / customer.

Add notes, tags, etc. — Not everyone provides their contact information to their LinkedIn profile. As you gain this information, you can add it to people’s profiles in Sales Navigator – as well as who they report to.

Use powerful search capabilities — You can search for prospects by geography, title, industry, etc. You then create new lists from your searches. We list this feature as a benefit, but because it’s so powerful, it has taken us a while to fully understand and use.

Target connections of leads, customers — This feature is good if you want to target the connections of your customers or of leads that didn’t pan out (re: we usually connect with others in our industry).

Respond to alerts — We love that Sales Navigator comes with its own feed. This means you see the updates from the people and companies you’ve saved in your lead lists. Using the Sales Navigator feed, you can then begin to like, share or comment on their posts – which helps you get on their radar without having to send a “can we connect” request too early in the game. The other nice feature is sorting by Alert type (Figure 2) – re: Career Changes. Here you can see if one of your leads or customers changed jobs.

LI SN Cover

Figure 2: Sorting by Alert type

CONS:

Requires dedicated time — To make Sales Navigator really work for you and your team, someone has to spend time each day reading the alerts and responding to them (if appropriate) – or at the very least, keeping tabs on what your leads / customers / etc. are doing. A haphazard approach won’t work.

Has a learning curve — The tool isn’t as intuitive as it looks. To figure out how things worked, we spent time watching the tutorial videos and taking notes and then figuring out how the various pieces fit together.

Not everyone has a good profile — Because LinkedIn isn’t seen as a viable marketing and branding tool for small manufacturers, many within the industry don’t have active profiles or robust company pages. This lack of information can make it difficult to get the best value out of SN.

You still need to keep your company page updated — The time spent in SN is in addition to the time needed for adding content to your company page and personal profile, as well as responding to Notifications, etc.

CRM Integration a misnomer — One of Sales Navigator’s selling points is that it integrates with your CRM. That’s true only if you’re using a big name product, such as Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, Salesforce, Infor, and HubSpot. You’ll also pay an additional fee.

Comes with a fee — Sales Navigator is $80 a month – a relatively high price point when compared to other similar tools. However, when you consider what purchasing a list can cost (e.g. buying a trade publication list) and that you can only use it once, Sales Navigator offers value for the price.

Did we see ROI?

In terms of generating new business, we did not. But that’s because the fault is ours. We didn’t put in the time to consistently “work the program” as they say, nor did we go in with a strategic mindset or plan.

After writing this piece, we realized we could get much more value out of LinkedIn by making it a part of our morning routine – meaning, spending the first 15 minutes of each day logging in to see what our prospects and customers have posted, as well as figuring out all the features.

Daily use also means we have a much better idea of how small manufacturers are using (or not using) LinkedIn – invites to webinars and virtual events, product promotions, and links to website content – and helps inform us on how to better position our clients.

Is Sales Navigator right for you?

With all of this in mind, should you consider adding Sales Navigator to your sales and marketing strategy?

Yes:

You have someone on staff willing to figure it out and spend the time required to create lead lists and engage with people. Sales Navigator is a great tool for Sales and Business Development people as it offers a focused and cost-effective method for networking online.

Caveat: You should view Sales Navigator as part of a long-term sales and marketing effort for building brand awareness and relationships, and thus leads, over time.

No:

You don’t use LinkedIn or don’t see the value. If this is you, we recommend you check out our May 2020 issue, “Sell with LinkedIn,” for in-depth information about the platform and the changes Microsoft (who owns it) has made to it. You’ll also read a great case study about how Industrial Packaging in Worcester, MA is using LI to generate leads.

Manufacturing Marketing - May 2020

Read more about LinkedIn in our May issue

LinkedIn: Connect with us:
Dianna Huff
Rachel Cunliffe

Contributing Author: Rachel Cunliffe


Dianna Huff is the founder and president of Huff Industrial Marketing, a full service agency that tackles a host of marketing and communications challenges for manufacturing companies.

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