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Microsoft’s LinkedIn Makes Nice With Salesforce Through a Software Update

Mar 21, 2017

LinkedIn, which as of December became part of Microsoft, just updated its Sales Navigator tool that helps salespeople find and cultivate leads among millions of LinkedIn members.

Known as a business-oriented social network used by professionals of all stripes to post resumes, LinkedIn also makes money from recruiters who pay to use it for headhunting and bymarketers to pitch products and services.

Sales Navigator targets that last group and is typically used along with fuller-featured sales software, known as customer relationship management (CRM). This update adds better integration to Salesforce's market-leading CRM product now and will do the same for Microsoft's competitive Dynamics software later.

This is an important point given that Salesforce tried to buy LinkedIn—but lost out to Microsoft's $26.2 billion bid. Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff then complained about Microsoft's market power and "monopolistic" tendencies. Salesforce (crm) also complained to European regulators that Microsoft might foreclose LinkedIn data to its rivals.

That's why it's interesting to hear Douglas Camplejohn, head of LinkedIn's Sales Solutions, say that Sales Navigator's integration with Salesforce is deeper than its integration with Microsoft (msft) Dynamics CRM.

With the update, any activities a salesperson performs in Sales Navigator using a desktop or mobile (Android or iOS) device can be saved directly to that user's Salesforce CRM account. That is critical because many salespeople work primarily within that CRM application. Any email, contacts, or notes not stored in that primarily application could get lost in the shuffle. LinkedIn will add analogous links to other CRM applications—including Microsoft Dynamics CRM—later.

Ron Langer, sales director of mobile software specialist Mobilize.net, says Sales Navigator is a useful way to locate a person with a certain title at a specific company, along with that person's email and phone contact info. Once he has that info, he imports it into Salesforce for future use.

LinkedIn is also integrating PointDrive software acquired last summer into Sales Navigator. That means instead of sending a long follow up email to a prospect crammed with links to articles, YouTube videos, or other content, a salesperson can just send a single link that will take the recipient to what Campblejohn describes as a "beautifully rendered" web page with all that content available.

"It's a better experience for the recipient because you're not clogging their email box, and it's better for the sender because he will know if the recipient clicked on it or forwarded it," Camplejohn says. HubSpot (hubs) and other companies offer similar functionality.

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PointDrive will come with two versions of Sales Navigator: the existing Team edition and a new Enterprise Edition, list prices for which are $1,200 per user per year, and $1,600 per user per year respectively. Team edition comes with 10 PointDrive links per month; Enterprise users get unlimited use of PointDrive. The lower-end Professional version remains $80 per user per month or $780 per user per year.

Now that Microsoft has dropped so much money on LinkedIn, the pressure is on to move more of Linkedin's 467 million users worldwide into the "paying customers" category. That's one reason to offer PointDrive with the higher-priced versions of Sales Navigator. LinkedIn itself does not disclose what percentage of its users pay for services.

Others, however, are happy to investigate. Lab42, a Chicago-based research firm, recently surveyed 500 adult LinkedIn users in the U.S. and found that 85% of them use LinkedIn for free. Of the 15% who pay, 4% said they buy Sales Navigator. A similar survey in 2011 found that 24% of respondents paid for LinkedIn.

Microsoft needs to reverse that trend and add more paid customers at a time when Facebook (fb) is trying to make its consumer-focused—and the world's largest—social network more business-friendly.

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