LinkedIn acquired Redwood City SalesTech vendor Heighten and plans to integrate its technology into Sales Navigator. LinkedIn is looking to leverage feature sets around sales process tracking, pipeline reporting, and note taking. Last summer, LinkedIn acquired sales content sharing vendor PointDrive and recently completed the PointDrive integration into Sales Navigator.
With the announcement, Heighten immediately took down its website, but Doug Camplejohn, Head of Products for LinkedIn Sales Solutions, provided the following feature descriptions:
The sales process tracking feature allows reps and managers to take their sales playbook binder off the shelf and put it into software, making it easier to see actions and content relevant to each pipeline stage.
The sales pipeline reporting feature lets managers and reps see their current opportunities in a more efficient way, and update key opportunity fields like amount, close date, stage and next steps on a single screen, with all changes automatically written back to CRM.
Finally, the intelligent notepad makes it easy for reps to take free-form notes and rapidly move information back into their CRM system with a single click. It also gives them instant access to key deal content such as person and account profiles, collateral, and competitive battle cards. This feature brings note taking into the context of a specific sales opportunity, reduces the heavy lifting involved in CRM data entry, and gives sales reps insights on-command
It is unclear, however, which of these capabilities will be integrated into Sales Navigator. “Over the next few months, we will be evaluating which of Heighten’s features we’ll be bringing to Sales Navigator,” said Camplejohn. “I’m also excited by the caliber of talent that Heighten brings to LinkedIn.”
Heighten has a staff of ten.
“The Heighten intelligent workspace is truly unique in its ability to bring together all of the key systems salespeople rely on — CRM, calendar, email, social and delivered — in an innovative, intuitive, and user friendly way,” blogged Heighten CEO, Luke Braud. “This approach to sales productivity is a natural extension of LinkedIn’s goal to make Sales Navigator the best version of LinkedIn for Salespeople, the System of Engagement, and ultimately influence every relationship‐based sale for our customers.”
Heighten received $7.36 million in venture funding last September. The acquisition price was not disclosed.
I answered the above question on Quora, but I thought it was worth posting the answer on my blog as well.
B2B is a broad category, so I will be providing a high-level process:
Start with the open web — the company website, corporate blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo, and SlideShare.
Jump to the LinkedIn and Twitter pages of key executives.
Continue with third-party review sites such as TrustRadius, G2 Crowd, Glass Door, and Quora. Also compare web (Alexa, SimilarWeb) and social media activity (Owler) of the company vs. its top competitors.
If a US public company, obtain their 10-K, 10-Q, Annual Report, Proxy, and 8-Ks. Also, review all material on their investor page and look for Fair Disclosure Earnings Transcripts (Seeking Alpha, NASDAQ), investor presentations, financial models, etc.
If a US or global public, analyst reports are often available subject to a one week embargo. Vendors with analyst reports include D&B Hoovers, Factiva, Zacks, FactSet, Capital IQ, and Investext. Reports with fewer than five pages tend to only look at the stock, and provide little in the way of detail. Particularly good are the Initiating Coverage reports as they often entail an overview of the business.
If a US or global public, review the synopsis of material events going back over a decade. Significant Developments are available from Reuters, Factiva (Reuters), D&B Hoovers (Reuters), Capital IQ, and FactSet.
If a European private, they are likely to have filed financials, directors, and shareholdings with a local registry. You can obtain these through D&B Hoovers, Bureau van Dijk Orbis, or local registries.
Major companies are profiled by MarketLine and Global Data. Check to see if they or key competitors are profiled. Industry vendors also profile companies and products within their target segments. These profiles include SWOTs, company histories, market shares, and overviews of key products and segments.
Determine the firm’s list of competitors. If it is a public company they will list this in a proxy. If it is a private company, refer to Hoovers, Global Data, or Marketline.
If you are looking for technology employed, refer to Datanyze, HG Data, BuiltWith, DiscoverOrg, or RainKing.
Review all news for the company. The open web thins out quickly, so you are best off using an archival service such as Factiva or LexisNexis
For Intellectual Property and Legal, use LexisNexis or Westlaw. You can also search the USPTO site for trademarks and patents.
Check research from industry vendors. Most focus on only one or a few sectors (e.g. Gartner, Forrester, and IDC for Hardware and Software). A few provide higher level market overviews at the country or global level which include national or regional market shares, forecasts, and mini-profiles of the top 3-4 competitors in the market:
MarketLine (country and global)
Euromonitor (country or global)
BMI (Emerging Markets)
IBISWorld (US, China, Australia, Global)
A few US industries are required to file with state or federal agencies. These include banks (FDIC), insurance (states), and nonprofits (990 forms with the IRS).
Larger companies file ERISA forms (5500s) annually with the Department of Labor. This filing covers benefit plans so is useful for direct research on a company and plan advisors. Judy Diamond offers a freemium service (FreeErisa) for ERISA filings.
If the firm has PE or VC funding, refer to Crunchbase, DataFox, Mattermark, PrivCo, or other vendors that collect this detail. Crunchbase and Owler provide this information for free.
Setup news alerts on the company and competitor you are evaluating. This can be done via Owler, Contify, InsideView, D&B Hoovers, Factiva, and LexisNexis.
Obtain a credit report (D&B, Experian, or local credit company if overseas)
Research the company family tree and review major subsidiaries and recent acquisitions. Global Family Trees are available from D&B Hoovers, Bureau van Dijk, and InsideView (parents and subs only). Public companies also list their subsidiaries in their 10-K (Note 21).
M&A research can be performed with Zephyr (Bureau van Dijk), Mattermark, FactSet, Capital IQ, and other vendors.
This is a quick overview for secondary research. For primary research, reach out to customers, partners, and former employees. They can be identified via Case Studies (generally fans so don’t be overly reliant on them), customer references on site, TrustRadius, G2 Crowd. Former employees can be determined via LinkedIn. Partners are generally listed on the company website.
One area that is particularly difficult to obtain is pricing data. Some B2Bs are transparent while others publish virtually no details, particularly if they have complex product lines and pricing. Don’t be surprised if you find little in this area beyond “Pricing begins in the five digits” for many vendors. Pricing details may require primary research and this will provide data points, but not full price lists.
If you are performing regular competitive analysis work, consider joining SCIP (Strategic & Competitive Intelligence Professionals).
LinkedIn hit the half billion member mark, continuing its pace of adding 50 million members every nine months. LinkedIn also supports ten million job listings and over nine million company profiles. Members continue to post 100,000 articles per week. However, the active monthly user rate remains around 25%.
In comparison, Facebook has 1.8 billion members and Twitter has 328 million. The top five countries are the United States (138 million), India (42 million), China (31 million), Brazil (29 million), and United Kingdom (23 million).
LinkedIn published connection data by country and region for the first time with the top five most connected countries (i.e. average member connections) listed as the UAE, Netherlands, Singapore, UK, and Denmark. UAE profiles average 211 connections. By metro area, London leads in average connections with 307 per member followed by Amsterdam, San Francisco, Jakarta, and Milan. Staffing and recruiting is LinkedIn’s most connected industry (unsurprisingly as the firm’s largest revenue source is their Talent Solutions products), and human relations its most connected job function.
LinkedIn connectivity rates by job function and level indicate a strong focus on staffing, consulting, and PE/VC roles.
The top five industries are all highly networked occupations including staffing and recruiting, VC/PE, human resources, management consulting, and online media. With respect to job functions, product management was the number two most connected occupation after human resources. It was surprising to see that sales reps did not even make the top five (outside of Business Development which is a senior level mix of partnership, licensing, and relationship management), but product managers had very high connectivity. Of course, the sales function would span both junior and senior sales reps along with business and consumer sales, while product management consists of more mid and upper-level management.
“The impact of half a billion professionals connecting and communicating is very real, and very accessible to anyone who wants to take part today,” said Aatif Awan, LinkedIn’s VP of growth and international products. “We’re excited to think about the potential of what a highly connected global community of professionals can do, and the value that is created for every member of the global workforce.”
LinkedIn, which is operated as an autonomous division within Microsoft, has over 10,000 employees.
Microsoft announced Relationship Sales, a bundled version of MS Dynamics for Sales Enterprise Edition and LinkedIn Sales Navigator Team. The new bundle will be available for sale on July 1st. The service is priced at $135, which is “about one-half the cost of competitive solutions in the market,” according to Microsoft EVP, cloud and enterprise group Scott Guthrie.
LinkedIn also announced a set of insight enhancements for its MS Dynamics connector. Insights help sales reps by
Leveraging signals across email, CRM and LinkedIn to get contextual recommendations for the next best action within Dynamics 365 for Sales, facilitating introductions directly through the company’s network and sending InMail, messages and customized connection requests.
Engaging buyers with tailored content throughout the account lifecycle and getting account and lead updates, including news mentions and job changes.
Building strong relationships with existing contacts through access to LinkedIn profile details including photos, current roles and work history.
The new service displays company and contact intelligence across Account, Contact, Lead, and Opportunity records. Insight features include icebreakers, TeamLink introductions, Lead Recommendations, and LinkedIn intelligence. Daily synchronization ensures that active accounts and contacts are shared between the services and that Sales Navigator activities (e.g. InMails, messages, notes, tags, and call logs) are uploaded to Dynamics 365.
“Sales Navigator with Dynamics 365 will dramatically increase the effectiveness of salespeople by tapping into their professional networks and relationships, giving them the ability to improve their pipeline,” said Guthrie.
“Microsoft has been focused on integrating its acquisitions and the LinkedIn to Dynamics 365 [to] Office 365 is the latest [iteration],” said Constellation Research Principal Analyst Ray Wang. “Customers already use these three products in disparate fashion spending time doing arm chair integration. What they’ve been looking for is the ability to take the data and insights in these three products and put them to work.”
Wang believes that cross-platform functionality can be quite useful. For example, “How do you find out who knows whom inside a company? Traverse your Office 365 data, your [Dynamics 365] CRM database and your LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and you realize Joe and Abdul have known each other since university days. Let’s put Abdul on the sales call.”
As LinkedIn member content is view only, Relationship Sales does not provide any member content enrichment or data maintenance. Thus, Relationship Sales would need to be used in conjunction with other services such as Insights Enterprise (InsideView OEM with MS Dynamics) or D&B Hoovers for CRM to obtain a full sales intelligence and data maintenance solution.
LinkedIn recently introduced their new Storylines feature parallel to the LinkedIn feed. StoryLines are “curated interest-based feeds that surface developing stories to help you discover and discuss news, ideas, and diverse perspectives from the largest group of professionals, publishers and editorial voices ever assembled.”
Articles are based upon information LinkedIn has about each reader such as their industry. StoryLines are intended to combine industry expertise with individual network commentary. A unique hashtag makes “it easy for you to join the conversation and add your own take on the issue.”
LinkedIn emphasized that StoryLines promotes a diversity of opinions and sources. “Each story includes multiple perspectives, ranging from news publishers and influencers, to people in your network, so that you can easily weigh up diverse opinions”
StoryLines are curated via a combination of editorial curation and algorithmic filters. When stories break, an editor writes a summary and identifies diverse sources. An algorithm then adds additional member commentary. This approach ensures a multiplicity of views that pull members out of “filter bubbles” which would otherwise reinforce current views and biases. Topics will be business related
“I don’t want just one point of view”
LinkedIn VP of Product Tomer Cohen
Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn believes it can avoid the problems of “fake news.” Inaccurate content that is intentionally deceptive, including fake news, is not acceptable on our site,” said VP of Product Tomer Cohen. “Our combination of algorithms and editors creates an experience where trending news is validated by editorial to ensure that it is professional and comes from trusted sources.”
Cohen added, “The content members write and share on LinkedIn becomes part of their professional identity — it can be seen by their boss, colleagues, and potential business partners. Promoting fake news can damage your reputation, and there is no hiding behind anonymity on LinkedIn.”
Other features include related stories and follow options for topical experts.
The new feature is being rolled out to US members and then will expand internationally.
LinkedIn mobile also added feed personalization tools which will soon be available via desktop. Amongst the filters are options to follow companies, industry leaders, and publications. Users can also hide posts, and unfollow people and companies. Unfollowing people allows users to retain connections without seeing the connections posts.
LinkedIn has struggled to customize their feed for users, but StoryLines sounds like a smart innovation. By creating a curated trending topic category and placing it to the right of the feed, they can provide relevant content and discussions without it overwhelming the user feed. Furthermore, by curating a set of diverse viewpoints, members are provided with a broader set of perspectives.
Since the beginning of the year, I have noticed an improvement in LinkedIn’s feed. Gone are the eye candy stories from Business Insider covering bots and bikes. Also, there are fewer viral stories about enterprising individuals overcoming hardship. Instead, they have done a better job of surfacing posts from my connections and articles in my field.
The launch of Sales Navigator Enterprise (covered last week) was another indicator that they are focusing more on the Professional side of Professional Social Networking.
LinkedIn unveiled a series of enhancements to Sales Navigator including a new Enterprise Edition, CRM widgets, and integration of PointDrive into the Team and Enterprise editions. The Enterprise edition includes Single Sign-On, PointDrive sales messaging, 50 InMails per month per user, and TeamLink Extend.
While the original TeamLink feature was limited to Sales Navigator subscribers that opted into the service, TeamLink Extend allows opted-in co-workers to share their personal LinkedIn networks with sales reps, even if they are not Sales Navigator licensors. “That means, if you’re trying to reach a prospect, you can quickly see if anyone in your company has a connection with that person, and reach out to your colleague to ask for warm introduction,” said LinkedIn Sales Solutions Head of Products Doug Camplejohn.
The first 1,000 TeamLink Extend seats are included as part of the Enterprise Edition contract.
PointDrive, which LinkedIn acquired last summer, is designed to solve two problems with emails: attachment laden emails lack “control over narrative” as emails provide little flow, story, and “experience for the buyer.” Also, they provide no visibility into who is viewing the email. Thus, post-demo messaging is haphazard as emails don’t communicate a story very well.
According to LinkedIn, there are 5.4 decision makers involved in the buying decision which means that there is a high probability that sales emails with rich media attachments are being forwarded to others.
Bill Burnett, Director of LinkedIn Sales Solutions stated that the goal of PointDrive is to “turn this [email] exchange into a truly more engaging experience” which provides real-time sales signals about what content decision makers are viewing. Instead of sending long emails, buyers are directed to a PointDrive landing page which allows the sales rep to control brand, content, and commentary. PointDrive was designed as a “mobile first” interface with landing pages supporting both traditional and mobile browsers.
Brand and product information are “now presented in a way that truly differentiates and engages the buyer” through personalization and organization. PointDrive also provides easy access to sales rep bios and contact information (see image on left). Each attachment is displayed in a framed box with sales rep narratives and document descriptions alongside the marketing piece. PointDrive supports embedded collateral, pricing sheets, presentation decks, multimedia, and images which are all displayed within the PointDrive landing page. Users do not need to download content or window out to other documents.
PointDrive is customized to the seller allowing firms to convey their brand identity. Burnett claims that creating a PointDrive is “as simple as creating an email.” Users upload content and grab links, videos, and Google Maps. “We’ll lay your brand and identity on top of it for you so that when you are ready to share with your leads [and] share with your connections,” said Burnett.
Real-time alerting metrics are provided for each document view. Thus, PDF analytics indicate who viewed the document, when viewed, how much total time buyers or influencers spent viewing the document, total pages viewed, and how much time was spent on each page. It even captures the viewing browser and location of the viewer. This intelligence is available for both the original recipients and any forwarded viewers.
Sales reps have control over actions taken on PointDrive embedded content. They can block downloads, password protect the element, set expiration dates, and track forwards.
Burnett calls this a “new way for sellers within Sales Navigator to engage with customers and prospects much deeper into the sales funnel.” The service also provides “tremendous value for account managers or anybody inside of your organization that’s communicating on a regular basis” with customers and prospects.
“The new Sales Navigator features are to enhance the overall customer experience of Sales Navigator, and to integrate it into daily workflows to get people the information they need as easily as possible,” said LinkedIn Senior Marketing Manager Derek Pando.
PointDrive is available as part of the baseline Team and Enterprise editions. While Enterprise Edition users will have unlimited access, Team Edition users will be limited to ten PointDrives per seat per month.
The Enterprise Edition includes additional management reports.
A new CRM Sync feature allows sales reps to take notes, send InMails, and track calls from their iOS and Android devices. Information will initially only synch from Sales Navigator to SFDC, but additional platforms will be supported later this year.
Finally, Sales Navigator added new SFDC and MS Dynamics widgets which display Sales Navigator profile details such as photos, work history, job titles, and TeamLink shared connections. Widgets will soon be available for Oracle, SAP Hybris, NetSuite, SugarCRM, Hubspot and Zoho.
“LinkedIn is a valuable pool of data that’s a great fit for CRM,” said Ian Campbell, CEO of Nucleus Research. “As long as it doesn’t limit or preclude users from using other CRM options,” he told CRM Buyer, “this is a good move that will add value.”
Camplejohn told TechCrunch that LinkedIn is not looking to muscle in on Salesforce or other CRMs.
“We’re not competing at all with Salesforce. We like the position that we are in. Ours is about the connections and activities that are happening. For us, the best play is to be a complement to all CRM systems so that we can exist in that world.”
LinkedIn Sales Solutions Head of Products Doug Camplejohn.
The Enterprise Edition begins at $1,600 per seat per year with multi-volume discounting available. LinkedIn Sales Solutions published the following feature table for the three editions:
EY (Ernst & Young) has already signed up for 30,000 enterprise seats but will be able to leverage TeamLink opt-ins amongst its 250,000 global employees.
Camplejohn hinted to Ingrid Lunden of TechCrunch that gamification and other incentives will be deployed in a future release to encourage TeamLink participation.
Sales Navigator “has good traction with companies focused on B2B sales,” said Constellation Research Principal Analyst Cindy Zhou “Navigator’s ability to facilitate social sales through third-level connections is one of the primary revenue generators for LinkedIn, and a key driver for the Microsoft acquisition.”
Furthermore, PointDrive “provides one centralized location for prospects to access content, and it’s all trackable by sales and marketing. This is a bonus for organizations considering the Enterprise Edition and a good bundling strategy.”
On the negative side, Zhou raised concerns about whether sales reps would manage the TeamLink opt-in responsibly. “Organizations using TeamLink will need to be aware of their responsibility to properly train users to not abuse the access to connections.”
LinkedIn announced additional search tools for Sales Navigator. New filters helps sales reps target accounts and leads. Amongst the new screening options are searching for new execs, searching for specific departments by size, headcount growth at the company or department level, public company revenue, and headquarters postal codes.
One of the new search filters is senior leadership changes at companies which help identify new contacts with a higher likelihood of considering new products and solutions. “Multithreading is critical to ensuring your deals don’t go dark. Start by identifying companies where senior leaders have changed roles or joined the organization in the past three months,” said LinkedIn Product Manager Alex Lee. “These could be great indicators that it’s time to reach out.”
Revenue screening will be underwhelming as it is limited to public companies listed on global exchanges. While the data is screenable in multiple currencies, the revenue data is limited to US, British, Indian, and Australian companies; the vast majority of companies would not be screenable via this filter. Furthermore, because the data is limited to four countries, it is likely to cover fewer than 20,000 of the 50,000 active global publics. Unless a company is specifically targeting public companies, users should screen based upon LinkedIn employee sizes. Employee values are based upon the underlying membership data and screenable to the department level. As such, they provide much better filters for targeting by size, growth rates, and departmental size.
These new options offer a range of new opportunities in account targeting, utilizing LinkedIn’s vast professional data banks to help optimize and improve your outreach efforts. And as data usage and personalization becomes increasingly commonplace in marketing circles, the need to customize and focus your outreach will becoming ever more important – LinkedIn’s well-placed to capitalize on this trend and help give forward-thinking businesses an advantage.