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LinkedIn's Updated Sales Navigator Looks to Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling The professional-networking giant just rolled out its overhauled standalone 'social sales' offering, which it's couching as a kinder, gentler approach to sales.

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Most people dread cold calls. Making and receiving them equally sucks, a common gripe apparently not lost on the brains behind LinkedIn.

The 313 million member online professional networking hub has just announced an updated variety of its fee-based Sales Navigator tool for recruiters and salespeople, one that it says will cut down on cold calls and boost sales.

Related: The Right Way to Network

If it delivers on LinkedIn's claims, then hooray for fewer frown-inducing "smile-and-dial" moments and yes to more laid-back "warm introductions," a term LinkedIn uses to describe non-hard sell social connections made with Sales Navigator.

The product, which used to be part of a suite of sales-related options within LinkedIn's site, has been peeled off as a standalone offering. Pricing plans are approximately $540 (basic), $780 (professional) and $1,200 (team) per seat if purchased annually. (LinkedIn also allows people to pay per month. but the price breakdown is a bit higher.)

While this may come at a steep price, social sellers (people who leverage social media to find and chase sales leads) are 51 percent more likely to beat their quota than traditional sellers, according to LinkedIn's Social Selling Survey Index.

The retooled version of Sales Navigator (available now for mobile web and desktop, with a mobile app in the works) embraces softer, subtler "social selling" over hard sales. LinkedIn group product manager Sachin Rekhi told TechCrunch that it covers four key areas -- "establishing a presence on social networks, finding the right people, engaging with those people, and building trust."

Related: LinkedIn's App Just Got More Useful

LinkedIn says the overhauled tool addresses them all. How? By recommending sales leads, delivering news mentions about influential contacts (through its newly acquired Newsle feature), notifying users of key contacts' job changes and more. It also identifies mutual connections -- your own employees and/or coworkers included -- at companies you're honing in on.

Sales Navigator, which companies like Hootsuite, ADP and Juniper Networks already successfully test-piloted, also integrates with two widely used CRM tools, Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce.

Sales Navigator may lend you an edge in social sales, or so LinkedIn says, but it's still up to you to ABC, Always Be Closing. There's no magic button in the tool for that.

Related: LinkedIn Has Just Launched a Discreet, Standalone Job Search App

Kim Lachance Shandrow

Former West Coast Editor

Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here

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