LinkedIn Membership Levels: Free vs Premium Business vs Sales Navigator

LinkedIn Membership Levels: Free vs Premium Business vs Sales Navigator

LinkedIn Membership Levels: Free vs Premium Business vs Sales Navigator

Have you wondered which of the LinkedIn membership levels are is right for you?

If you are like most people, you are probably trying to determine whether you should upgrade your free LinkedIn membership to LinkedIn Premium Business or Sales Navigator Professional.

And if you are already using LinkedIn Premium Business, you probably wonder whether it’s worth upgrading to LinkedIn Sales Navigator to achieve your lead generation and social selling goals.

I have created a comprehensive comparison guide that describes the features, tools, costs and benefits of each LinkedIn membership level to help you decide which one is right for you.

Free LinkedIn membership

Free LinkedIn membership generates a lot of questions within my community. I’ll address them here.

Many features once available in the free membership are now gone. Most people wonder whether free LinkedIn membership is still useful to them or if they should sign up for a paid account.

With the free LinkedIn membership, you do need to work around the lost functionality and avoid going over the monthly commercial use limit when you do your searches.

However, even with the limitations of the free membership, LinkedIn is still the best place for most professionals, B2B businesses and salespeople to (a) find and connect with their ideal clients, (b) post regular status updates and LinkedIn Publisher posts and (c) engage in numerous ways with their connections.

With the free LinkedIn membership, you can:

  • build your professional identity on the web
  • build and maintain a large trusted professional network
  • find and reconnect with colleagues and classmates
  • request and provide recommendations
  • search for and view profiles of other LinkedIn members
  • receive unlimited InMail messages
  • save up to three searches and get weekly alerts on those searches.

The very premise of LinkedIn is that it is an active social platform for businesses. Its membership exceeded half a billion members worldwide at the time of writing.

The power of the platform is that even with the free membership you can quickly and easily find and connect with professionals and business people all over the world. 

Paid LinkedIn membership levels

How to choose between LinkedIn Free vs Premium Business vs Sales Navigator membership levels

LinkedIn also offers several paid membership levels.

These are the current plans in USD when paid monthly (less when paid annually):

  • Premium Career: $29.99/month
  • Premium Business: $59.99/month
  • Sales Navigator Professional: $79.99/month
  • Recruiter Lite: $119.99/month

While Premium Career and Recruiter Lite are useful to a particular group of people, in this article, I will be comparing LinkedIn Premium Business and Sales Navigator Professional memberships – the most useful for lead generation and social selling.

Here is a comparison graphic provided by LinkedIn of the different LinkedIn membership levels:

LinkedIn Premium Business membership

If you feel limited by your free LinkedIn account, you might want to consider LinkedIn Premium Business.

You can start with a free 30-day trial. After your free month, you will pay $59.99/month when billed monthly, and less when paid for annually.

Here is a list of tools and features you can access with your LinkedIn Premium Business subscription to help you decide if Premium Business is right for you:

LinkedIn Membership Levels: Free vs Premium Business vs Sales Navigator

Who’s Viewed My Profile

You can find an excellent source of potential leads in the Who’s Viewed My Profile section.

This section lists all the people who have viewed your profile over the last 90 days (you can see only the last five people with a free account.)

LinkedIn Membership Levels: Free vs Premium Business vs Sales Navigator

LinkedIn provides you with a couple of basic filters below the top graph, showing you which companies, your viewers are from, the most common job title of the viewers and how they found your profile.

See who has been viewing your LinkedIn profile here.


If you want to send a message to someone you are not connected to (and with whom you don’t share a group), you must send them an InMail.

InMails can be useful when you want to reach out to a potential prospect before you send them a connection request or if they haven’t accepted your connection request.

This is only possible with a premium subscription. You are given a certain number of InMails every month based on your subscription level with an opportunity to purchase more.

Learn more about InMails here.

Extended LinkedIn Network Access

With Extended LinkedIn Network Access, you don’t have to worry about the Commercial Use Limits put on free accounts.

This means you will not lose access to search results partway through the month, which would negatively affect your lead generation searches.

Activities that LinkedIn counts towards the Commercial Use Limits include:

  • searching for LinkedIn profiles on and mobile
  • browsing LinkedIn profiles using the People Also Viewed section located on the right rail of a profile.

Activities that do not count toward the limit include:

  • searching profiles by name using the search box located at the top of every page on
  • browsing your 1st-degree connections from the connections page
  • searching for jobs on the jobs page.

It is important to note that while the Extended LinkedIn Network Access is part of the Premium Business plan, it is not included in the Premium Career plan.

LinkedIn Membership Levels: Free vs Premium Business vs Sales Navigator

LinkedIn Sales Navigator Professional

LinkedIn also offers a free 30-day trial of Sales Navigator. After your free month, you pay $79.00/month or less when billed annually. (Note: the image above shows prices in Pound Sterling; you will be charged based on the currency of your country, i.e., USD, CAD, GBP, EUR, etc.).

With Sales Navigator Professional, you will get all the benefits of Premium Business plus many additional features.

LinkedIn Membership Levels: Free vs Premium Business vs Sales Navigator

Next, I talk about the additional features, their benefits and how you can use them for lead generation.

Sales Navigator Advanced Search features

The Advanced Search in Sales Navigator makes it easy for you to find your ideal clients and potential prospects.

LinkedIn’s Advanced Search available with the free membership can already be helpful to find your ideal clients. But the extensive search filters found in Sales Navigator make its search function even more valuable.

You can search for your ideal clients with precision and then save those searches to receive new results every day, week or month automatically.

In fact, you have access to over three-dozen more filters in Sales Navigator than you do in regular search, which will allow you to narrow your search, save you time and create highly targeted search results on LinkedIn.

Here is a full breakdown of LinkedIn Sales Navigator’s Advanced Search.

Automatic leads & accounts recommendations

Sales Navigator makes it easier than ever to locate prospects with its Suggested leads and Recommended leads & accounts features.

Sales Navigator suggests leads based on two parameters:

  • similarity to leads you have recently saved
  • sales preferences you saved in your Sales Navigator settings.

You can easily see and interact with the suggested profiles as well as save them as leads.

To see the list of leads LinkedIn recommends, click on the Suggested leads link located in the navigation menu in the top left corner of the Home page.

To get to the Recommended leads section, hover over Discover, located in the top navigation bar, and click on Recommended leads.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator recommended leads

On this page, you can see a list of suggested potential prospects based on your activity and sales preferences. You can save targeted prospects as leads by clicking the Save as lead button in their profile boxes.

To get to the Recommended accounts section, hover over Discover, located in the top navigation bar, and click on Recommended accounts.

LinkedIn Membership Levels: Free vs Premium Business vs Sales Navigator

On this page, you can see a list of suggested accounts (companies) based on your activity and sales preferences. You can save potential accounts by clicking the Save as account button.

You can create a more targeted list of leads and accounts using the many search filters available on the left side of the page to further narrow your results.

Sales Navigator notes & tags feature

A monthly subscription to Sales Navigator gives you the ability to add Notes and Tags to the profiles of your prospects and the companies you wish to follow. This is a crucial strategy if you want to stay organized using LinkedIn for social selling.

Every time you find a prospect or connect with a person, you should tag them in Sales Navigator and put them in a specific tagged group based on who they are. For example, are they a prospect, a strategic partner or an existing client?

Here is a complete rundown of how to use the Notes & Tags feature in LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

Notification of job changes

You can easily find out when one of your leads changes jobs with the Job change feature.

This can be useful in many ways when determining with whom you should be communicating at a particular company.

It’s also an effective natural conversation starter, offering you an excellent reason to engage with that person. That’s why it’s called a trigger event – it triggers engagement.

Using this and other trigger events for regular engagement with your network will keep you on their radars. Learn more about trigger events here.

From the Home page, click on Job change in the left navigation menu.

You can see your connection’s new position and quickly send them a message.

LinkedIn Learning Center

With your subscription to Sales Navigator, you get access to LinkedIn’s Learning Center.

To get there, hover over Support in the top blue navigation bar on the right side, and click on Learning Center.

LinkedIn Learning is an online educational platform that helps you discover and develop business, technology-related, and creative skills through expert-led course videos.

With more than 5,000 courses and personalized recommendations, you can discover, complete, and track courses related to your field and interests. You can also choose to add these courses and related skills to your LinkedIn profile once you’ve completed them.

LinkedIn Learning Center

LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI Score)

Within Sales Navigator, you can also see your SSI score. (Although it is possible to see your SSI score regardless of LinkedIn membership level by going here.)

LinkedIn’s SSI score measures your or your company’s performance in four key areas, also known as the LinkedIn SSI pillars. They are:

  1. Create a Professional Brand
  2. Find the Right People
  3. Engage with Insights
  4. Build Strong Relationships
LinkedIn Membership Levels: Free vs Premium Business vs Sales Navigator

Regardless of the LinkedIn membership you have, you can access your SSI score here. Here is more about the LinkedIn Social Selling Index.

Deciding among LinkedIn membership levels

With all the continuing changes on LinkedIn, it can be hard to know which plan will work best for you.

Whether you decide to invest in Sales Navigator or Premium Business or use the free LinkedIn membership, the key is to stay organized with your social selling activities.

While it may seem like it’s a lot more work to set up your system in the beginning, in the long run, being organized will:

  • save you time and effort
  • prevent you from getting overwhelmed
  • enable you to generate leads more efficiently.

You can also avoid making costly mistakes that come with being disorganized, such as sending the wrong message in the wrong context at the wrong time.

With tools such as Sales Navigator, getting and staying organized is faster and easier. Moreover, such tools provide additional features that will increase the success of your social selling activities.

LinkedIn’s Pay to Play professional plans

LinkedIn Membership Levels: Free vs Premium Business vs Sales Navigator

Social media has spoiled us over the years, giving us the ability to market to consumers without spending money. That has never happened before. But social media platforms have caught on to that and decided to capitalize on our need to use them for marketing.

LinkedIn did the same thing Facebook had done when it changed its algorithm for Business Pages. The change made it almost impossible for Business Pages to be seen organically. That was the start of the Pay to Play models on social media platforms.

Upgrading to a paid LinkedIn membership may not be right for everyone, but it certainly will make sense for those who can find, connect and build relationships with their ideal clients on LinkedIn.

I hope this comparison helped you decide which LinkedIn membership level will work best for you.

If you need help creating or modifying your current lead generation or social selling strategy, you can contact me here.

Have more questions about the various LinkedIn membership levels? Let me know in the comments.


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