Melonie Dodaro, CEO

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 right for you?

If you are like most people, you are probably trying to determine if you can get by with a basic free LinkedIn membership or if there are advantages to upgrading to LinkedIn Premium Business or Sales Navigator Professional.

In fact, many people currently using LinkedIn Premium Business want to know if the benefits that they receive with this plan are adequate to meet their needs or if they should upgrade to LinkedIn Sales Navigator to be able to accomplish their lead generation and social selling goals.

I have put together a breakdown of the different features and tools included in each of the LinkedIn membership levels, the cost and how they can be of benefit to you.

Basic Free LinkedIn Membership

Let’s start with free LinkedIn accounts, as I have had plenty of questions that come in from my community regarding the LinkedIn free membership.

With the removal of various features that were once available in LinkedIn’s free membership, many are left wondering if LinkedIn is still useful with a free account or if they now need to pay, for it to remain worthwhile to invest their time and resources in.

While you must be more strategic when you do a search, to work around the lost functionality and produce the results you need without going over the monthly commercial use limit, LinkedIn is still the best place for most professionals, B2B businesses and salespeople to find and connect with their ideal clients.

You can still find and connect with your ideal clients, post regular status updates and LinkedIn Publisher posts, as well as engage in numerous ways with your connections. Here is the list of benefits that LinkedIn offers to its free members:

  • 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 business with well over a half billion members. The power of the platform is that you can quickly and easily find and connect with professionals and business people all over the world. 

Paid LinkedIn Membership Levels

LinkedIn Membership Levels: Free vs Premium Business vs Sales Navigator

LinkedIn offers several different paid membership levels, these are the current options and prices when paid on a monthly plan in USD:

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

While there are different upgraded and paid LinkedIn membership levels, such as Premium Career and Recruiter Lite, in this article, I will be comparing LinkedIn Premium Business and Sales Navigator Professional, which are the most useful for the purpose of 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 are feeling limited by your basic free LinkedIn account, you might want to consider LinkedIn Premium Business.

You can start off with a free month trial, and after your free month, you will pay USD $59.99 / month when billed monthly, and less when paid for annually.

Here is a list of tools and features that 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 of the people who have viewed your profile over the last 90 days (you can only see the last five people with a basic 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 that will show you what companies the people were from, the most common job title of viewers and how they found your profile.

See who has been viewing your LinkedIn profile here.

InMail

If you want to reach out and send a message directly to someone you are not connected to (and that you don’t share a group with), 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 amount of InMails to use 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 basic free accounts.

This means you will not lose access to search results part way 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 LinkedIn.com 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 LinkedIn.com
  • 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 the chance for you to try Sales Navigator for free for a month, and after your free month pay $79.00 / month, or less when billed annually. (Note the image above is showing 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 as well as many additional features.

LinkedIn Membership Levels: Free vs Premium Business vs Sales Navigator

I have included the list of additional features as well as benefits of each feature and how they can help with 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.

While the Advanced Search found within LinkedIn can be helpful to find your ideal clients, with the extensive search filters found in Sales Navigator you can precisely search for your exact ideal clients, and you can 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, which will allow you to narrow your search, save you time, and create much more targeted search results on LinkedIn.

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

Automatic Lead & Account Recommendations

Sales Navigator makes it easier than ever to locate potential prospects with their Suggested Leads and Recommended Leads & Accounts features.

Suggested leads will show you recent updates posted by people Sales Navigator recommends based on their similarity to other leads you have recently saved and based on the sales preferences that you saved in your Sales Navigator settings. You can easily see and interact with them as well as save them as a lead.

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

You will see recent updates posted by people Sales Navigator recommends based on their similarity to other leads you have recently saved.

Here you can easily see and interact with them as well as save them as a lead.

Additionally, the Recommended Leads and Recommended Accounts feature, allows you to quickly find leads and businesses which are similar to leads or companies you have already saved.

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

LinkedIn Membership Levels: Free vs Premium Business vs Sales Navigator

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

To get to the Recommended Account section, hover over Discover, located in the top navigation 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 potential accounts (companies) based on your activity and sales preferences. You can easily save potential accounts by clicking the Save as account button.

You can create a more targeted search for leads and accounts using the numerous 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, as well as to the companies you wish to follow. This is a crucial strategy to stay organized for anyone using LinkedIn for social selling.

Every single time you find a prospect or when you 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.

Job Change Alerts

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 who you should be communicating with at a particular company. It’s also an effective natural conversation starter offering an excellent opportunity to engage with them, which helps to keep you top of mind. Learn more about trigger events here.

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

You can see their new position as well as have the ability to quickly send them a message.

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. Click on Learning Center.

LinkedIn Membership Levels: Free vs Premium Business vs Sales Navigator

LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI Score)

Within Sales Navigator, you can also see your SSI score.

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 account you have on LinkedIn, you can access your SSI score here. Here is more about the LinkedIn Social Selling Index.

Deciding Between LinkedIn Membership Levels

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

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

While it may seem like a lot more work to set up your system in the beginning, not only will being organized save you time and effort in the long run, but it will prevent you from getting overwhelmed and 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 like Sales Navigator, getting and staying organized is faster and easier but also provides additional tools and features that will help you to be even more successful with your social selling activities.

Wrapping Up: LinkedIn’s Pay to Play Plans

LinkedIn Membership Levels: Free vs Premium Business vs Sales Navigator

LinkedIn had done the same thing Facebook did when they changed their algorithm for Business Pages making it almost impossible to be seen, that was the start of the Pay to Play model with social media.

Social media has spoiled us over the years with the ability of marketing without spending money. There’s never been a time before that businesses could market themselves without spending any money. 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 that you have found this comparison to be beneficial in helping you decide between the LinkedIn membership levels and which one will work best for you. If you need help modifying your current lead generation or social selling strategy, you can contact me here.

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

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