LinkedIn Spiffs Up Sales Navigator

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LinkedIn this week announced three updates to Sales Navigator. One is deeper integration with Salesforce CRM data, allowing leads and accounts to be imported into Sales Navigator automatically. More than 20 LinkedIn customers already are using this feature.

The second is direct integration of Sales Navigator with Gmail, allowing users to access all LinkedIn public profile details and public social contact information from their emails, and to save a contact as a lead in Sales Navigator.

The third is a new tab on the Sales Navigator iOS and Android apps, which will serve up to 10 daily lead and account recommendations, customizable by the user. The recommendations will expire after 24 hours and new ones will appear.

"Social selling is playing an increasingly critical role in the life of the modern day sales professional," said Tom Lee, senior product manager for LinkedIn Sales Solutions.

"Our goal with Sales Navigator is to be the primary system of engagement in a sales professional's social selling efforts," he told CRM Buyer.

The main reason for the updates is that Microsoft, which recently inked a deal to acquire LinkedIn, is trying to ensure maximum exposure to its products by the most popular solutions in several areas, suggested Denis Pombriant, principal at Beagle Research.

"That means Gmail integration, because Gmail is a big competitor with Outlook," he told CRM Buyer. "It means Salesforce, because it's the biggest CRM on the planet. Also, Salesforce already has good integration with Outlook, so this really is just ensuring sales users have multiple approaches to using LinkedIn."

With Microsoft acquiring LinkedIn, why no integration with Microsoft Dynamics?

"The Microsoft acquisition has not closed yet, and we will continue to operate as business as usual," LinkedIn's Lee explained. "We also are committed to supporting our customers with the tools that they already use and will continue to do so."

Sales Navigator "will continue to partner with multiple companies to support our customers, and we anticipate supporting multiple CRM integrations in the future -- and also other sales tools," he added. "Our strategy has been, and will continue to be, one of ubiquity."

Once the Microsoft deal is completed, there will be some changes in LinkedIn's road map, predicted Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of research at Nucleus Research.

The updates will give sales people relevant information in the field. It will let them locate prospects more easily, as well as be more efficient and better equipped to serve customers, Lee said.

Meanwhile, customers will be able to have "intelligent and thoughtful conversations" with salespeople, he noted. "No one enjoys cold emails or poorly prepared sales people."

LinkedIn "needed to add CRM sync functionality to their premium Navigator productm as it was long overdue," observed Cindy Zhou, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

"At the price they charge and its value proposition to sales reps, Navigator's previous manual process to tie in leads and contacts was a roadblock for growing sales and existing user adoption," she told CRM Buyer.

However, the sync is one-way only, being unilateral into Navigator, Zhou pointed out. Bidirectional sync and contact append features would have been preferable.

The integration with Gmail "is an OK first step," she said, "but enterprises are mostly on Outlook, and that was a miss. With the Microsoft acquisition, I would expect to see Outlook on the road map soon."

The deal will hurt smaller players, such as InsideView, that have "differentiated themselves by providing greater context and information on contacts in CRM applications," said Wettemann. They'll "have to do more to show the additional value they provide beyond what LinkedIn delivers."

Microsoft already partners with InsideView, she noted, so "it will be interesting to see how that unfolds -- or unravels."

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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