When Microsoft announced that it was acquiring professional social network LinkedIn, many people gasped at the huge price tag.
The fact that Microsoft was engaged in a bidding war against Salesforce for the network helped in that regard, but most people took the perspective that the price tag was an indication of the value that Microsoft and others saw in LinkedIn’s treasure trove of data. Much like IBM’s acquisition of The Weather Channel, this deal was about tuning algorithms by using the vast amount of data available.
But there is never a singular reason for the acquisitions in these cases and Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, made mention of this in his Q2 earnings call. He spoke about LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator offering and suggested that the salesperson system of engagement could translate into a huge opportunity:
"Sales Navigator's success on multiple CRM platforms makes it an essential tool for every B2B salesperson and one of our first integration scenarios will be to redefine social selling by enhancing Dynamics 365 with LinkedIn capabilities. The combination of LinkedIn's business solutions and Dynamics 365 gives us a more comprehensive portfolio of business SaaS solutions and strengthens our position in this growing and competitive market."
Sales navigator is a complex offering, but a simple enough idea. The product allows sales professionals to tap into LinkedIn's unparalleled data about professionals and their organizational affiliations to sell more stuff. It’s as simple as that; salespeople live and die on quotas -- Sales Navigator helps them to achieve their quotas so they have more time to enjoy their boozy lunches and sports cars (but, since we’re a responsible publication, hopefully they don’t enjoy the two together).
And Sales Navigator would appear to be a solution with both existing success and future potential -- the new enterprise edition of the offering significantly ramps up the potential of the offering.
Enterprise edition: Helping salespeople get their tentacles ever further
The latest offering from LinkedIn, Enterprise Edition, is aimed for the highest velocity sales organizations. It allows sales professionals to send 50 InMails per month, includes single sign on and an interesting new feature -- TeamLink. Regular users of LinkedIn will know that for those wanting introductions to leads could go through their own personal connections for an intro. Sales Navigator customers could use TeamLink to essentially pool the networks of all the sales professionals in their organizations to extend their reach.
Succumbing to the reality that not everyone within a particular organization will be a Sales Navigator customer, the new offering allows anyone in the organization to opt their own LinkedIn network in to the TeamLink pool. Obviously individuals might feel a little bit uncomfortable with potentially sending unwanted contact to their own LinkedIn connections, but everything is OK in the interests of organizational performance, right? TeamLink Extend is free (at least up to 1,000 seats) for every organization with an Enterprise Edition contract.
Providing control and visibility over content
A disconnect existed in the sales space when a salesperson had a successful meeting and was requested to send more information to the prospect. Historically the only option was to bundle up a bunch of documents and attach them to an email. In doing so, the salesperson lost control and visibility over the process -- the email can be forwarded elsewhere, and the salesperson has no awareness if the materials are even being looked at.
This new offering leverages LinkedIn's 2016 acquisition of PointDrive -- a content packaging, delivery and analytics company. This new release sees LinkedIn integrating PointDrive into Sales Navigator Team and Enterprise Editions. PointDrive means that salespeople can package up the relevant content (presentations, documents, etc) and deliver them in a desktop or mobile-responsive way. Additionally, and arguably more importantly, PointDrive gives users both control and visibility around the engagement that a prospect has with the sent content.
Answering the concerns about Microsoft-centricity
When the acquisition happened, people wondered if LinkedIn would play nicely and integrate with other CRMs beyond Microsoft’s own Dynamics product. Today LinkedIn is extending the integration between CRM and its own product but, more importantly, is doing so for both Dynamics and Salesforce CRM customers. Additionally it is intending to develop new functionality to cover other CRM products from the likes of Oracle, NetSuite and SugarCRM, among others.
The reality of today, good or bad, is that everything is about effective selling. LinkedIn has created an incredibly valuable source of professional information -- and by delivering insights, functionality and tools to increase the chances that salespeople can convert their prospects, they’re helping the selling process. More left-leaning individuals may have a fundamental moral issue with that but, alas, that is the construct within which we all exist. Sale Navigator looks set to extend the benefits it offers salespeople.
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