Microsoft announced Viva Sales, “a new seller experience application that brings together any customer relationship management technology (CRM), Microsoft 365, and Teams to provide a more streamlined and AI-powered selling experience.” The new solution is designed for the hybrid work environment where reps leverage video conferences, chats, emails, and documents to close deals. Viva Sales will also support Salesforce at launch.
Viva Sales “represents a new way of working by breaking down silos of data and breaking down silos of experience,” explained Microsoft Corporate VP for Business Applications Emily He. Sales reps “really want a more simplified experience. So, Viva Sales enables a seller to use the tools they already love and use every day, including your email system like Outlook, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, as well as Teams,” she said.
Unfortunately, reps manage these disparate communications channels and their CRM to organize administrative tasks, collaborate on sales, and attend virtual sales meetings. “Yet, all sellers really want is to spend more time with their customers,” stated Microsoft Chief Commercial Officer Judson Althoff.
Continued Althoff, “What if everything a salesperson needed to do their job was brought together in one place – where they already spend most of their day – in calls, meetings, and chats? What if their customer records, data, and tasks were intelligently organized and accessible in the tools they use every day? What if the collaboration environment sellers use to talk to customers automatically provides the next best action and sentiment analysis?”
Viva Sales is a “new modern way of selling” that operates as a “smart CRM companion” that simplifies the seller’s workflows and enriches the CRM. Viva Sales captures AI-driven insights from Outlook, Teams, and Microsoft Office and feeds this information to the CRM.
“Viva Sales empowers sellers to be more connected with their customers, resulting in more personalized customer engagements and closed deals faster,” stated Althoff. “This happens through a simple customer tagging feature, which automates the data capture, saves the seller time, and provides their organization with a more complete picture of deal and customer status. With AI embedded throughout, Viva Sales is like a sales coach to move deals along with recommendations and reminders. This intelligence layer provides sellers the information they need to help them be more productive.”
Viva was launched last year as an employee portal, but Sales is the first functionally-specific edition of the service. Viva Sales will be in public preview in July and generally available this fall. Microsoft Dynamics Sales is inclusive of Viva Sales and “addresses both sellers’ and sales leaders’ needs by automatically enriching Dynamics 365 Sales with customer engagement data captured in Office 365 and Teams.”
Sales reps tag customers or prospects in a Microsoft application. This “tag to capture” functionality alerts Viva to begin capturing account intelligence and offering insights to the sales rep. Viva Sales employs Microsoft’s recently announced Context IQ for capturing relevant content across Microsoft apps and services. This data can then be synced with any CRM.
“What we are focused on is removing the drudgery of manually entering the data into a CRM and then providing the AI capabilities for the sellers,” explained Product Marketing Senior Director Neha Bajwa. “There’s a virtual personal assistant that is sitting and helping them out doing all the busywork that we would normally have to do.”
The objective is to solve the problem of manual data entry without destroying the CRM. Viva runs alongside the CRM, capturing intelligence from other enterprise sales apps commonly deployed across sales teams. The data capture and CRM syncing improve rep productivity while the AI suggestions improve sales effectiveness through better recommendations, reminders, and Next Best actions.
“As you work with a customer, you can not only see your own interactions, [but] you can also see across your company and find all the people that are interacting with your client as well,” said Microsoft VP for Modern Work Jared Spataro. “We’re trying to apply AI not only to remove the boring stuff, but also to provide real value add so that you can cope with the volume and the expectations associated with you doing your job.”
The service recommends next steps, displays complete interaction histories, and pushes reminders to reps. It is also connected to LinkedIn, providing the names of colleagues with strong connections to a contact or account, allowing sales reps to conduct research before a Teams chat.
During a Teams call, reps can view the relevant customer information in a sidebar and access meeting prep notes. After the call is recorded and transcribed, Viva Sales summarizes the call and captures action items. Conversation KPIs and talk tracks are also generated.
Another feature is the generation of customer lists with recent activity, sentiment graphs, and engagement within Excel.
“The future of selling isn’t a new system. It’s bringing the information sellers need at the right time, the right context, into the tools they know, so their work experience can be streamlined,” said Althoff. “Empowering sellers to spend more time with their customers has been our goal — and we’ve done that by reimagining the selling experience with Viva Sales.”
One of the core issues at the heart of CRM implementations is the reliance on manual data entry, argued Paul Greenberg, Managing Principal at The 56 Group. What is necessary is ongoing automation to remove this busy work.
“Sellers rely on digital collaboration and productivity tools to connect with customers and close deals, but a lot of the insights they uncover with these tools don’t make it into the CRM,” Greenberg. “Microsoft is taking on this challenge by offering a solution that complements the CRM. Viva Sales automates the busy work, captures critical information about the customer, and helps sellers get the job done.”