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 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 has been rolling out a new desktop design to its 467 million members over the past few weeks. The new user experience provides a streamlined navigation, “smarter messaging,” improved feeds, “more intuitive searches,” and assistance with member profile design and assessing who has viewed your profile.
“Our goal is to ensure you can seamlessly access the most relevant professional conversations, content and opportunities whether you’re on our mobile app or on our desktop experience,” blogged LinkedIn Director of Engineering Chris Pruett. “Most importantly, this desktop redesign brings conversations and content to the heart of the platform, so you can more easily share ideas, join a discussion, and discover news and topics you care about.”
One of the focal areas for improvement is their feed. Although the company acquired Newsle and Pulse a few years ago, the feed has remained stubbornly off-message (I last complained about it in my December Five Hopes article). LinkedIn is promising that “with a combination of algorithms and human editors working together, we’ve fine tuned your Feed to surface the most relevant content from people and publishers you care most about. We’ll also be adding new ways for you to dive deep into specific topics relevant to you and follow trending stories.”
“The algorithm is the one taking the signals and the editorial team can highlight a specific story,” said Tomer Cohen head of content, search and discovery products at LinkedIn. “This is what I see as one of our strongest assets on LinkedIn, the collaboration between algorithm and editorial working together.”
The desktop will offer a universal search box for finding people, jobs, companies, groups, and schools. There is a set of filters which allow users to refine their search by content category. The user can then filter further by location, degree of connection, company affiliations, etc.
Post searching is coming soon. They don’t indicate whether they have solved their long-tail content search issue, but hopefully they are addressing that issue as well. If individuals and companies are to use LinkedIn posts to burnish their brands, the content needs to be accessible. It seems pointless to use LinkedIn as a blogging platform if your ideas fall below the surface after a few days and aren’t easily retrievable. They also need to surface postings and updates for individuals and companies within profiles. This content is some of the best material for understanding the interests, biases, and concerns of customers and prospects. It needs to be leveraged for job seekers, recruiters, sales reps, and researchers.
LinkedIn claims that they have already had some success with improving their feed. Over the past year, engaged sessions in the feed grew by forty percent and referral traffic to some their top posters doubled or trebled.
To assist members’ promotional activities, LinkedIn is honing its profile suggestions and providing “greater insight” into who has viewed your profile.
Messaging improvements include expanding the presence of messaging across LinkedIn pages and surfacing ice breakers such as individuals in your network that work at a firm.
I am still waiting for the rollout to reach my account, so I cannot comment on whether LinkedIn achieved their stated goals. However, there is a very popular Open Letter to CEO Jeff Weiner” excoriating him and LinkedIn on the redesign. Issues included the lack of a before and after comparison to assist with feature changes, slow performance, missing / hidden analytics, and weak precision on trending article display. The letter identified eleven areas of concern and includes a set of updates as he has had ongoing discussions with the firm since his letter was posted on the ninth. Normally, one would expect some blowback on any redesign, but in six days the letter has received nearly 6,000 likes and 1,300 comments.
Social Selling vendor Trapit released a set of five enhancements to assist with relationship management. The monitoring service tracks over 100,000 curated web sources. Content categories include blogs, professional journals, social media, and news services. For Twitter, the service supports Retweets, Replies, and Favorites. Trapit also supports “robust filtering” by media-type, source quality, tags, and geographic location. The new enhancements span social listening link tracking, social queueing, message recommendations, and the flagging of content for internal use.
Trapit’s social listening enhancements help reps gather customer and prospect insights from the web and Twitter without the assistance of an administrator.
Link tracking allows sales and marketing to determine which content is driving revenue via social sharing. “Link tracking bridges the gap between social selling activity on Trapit and revenue by applying the same metrics to social sales that have long been a key feature of email marketing and online advertising,” said the firm. “Tracking codes, which customers can ‘set and forget’ directly within Trapit, can now be automatically added to all inbound links, providing integration with all of the major marketing automation platforms.”
Social queue scheduling allows reps to schedule social messages throughout the day even when they are out of the office. An unlimited number of messages can be queued. Trapit supports social sharing via email, SMS, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social networks.
Recommended messaging allows reps to modify messages to comply with the styles (e.g. hashtags) and character limits of various social platforms. Marketing can provide a set of curated messages for various networks which are then posted by sales reps.
Trapit is also a platform for marketers and sales management to distribute internal content flagged as read only. Thus, “Trapit can be used to deliver updates about market developments, competitive intelligence, HR and internal communications, and other information where salespeople will see it.”
“The completeness of Trapit’s platform sets it apart from the standalone tools that salespeople have relied upon in recent years,” said CEO Hank Nothhaft Jr. “As sales teams move from analogue to digital tactics, they need a solution that is not only comprehensive, but also highly efficient and easy to use. We’ve stayed laser focused on empowering salespeople to uncover opportunities and engage buyers across a variety of digital channels, and we’ve coded best practices into the software itself. As a result, sales teams that leverage Trapit consistently outperform their competitors.”
On December 9th, Microsoft announced closure of its $26.2 billion LinkedIn acquisition following EU approval. The full approval process took just about six months. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is “even more enthusiastic” about the transaction than he was in June.
Nadella listed the following “immediate term” integration scenarios:
LinkedIn identity and network in Microsoft Outlook and the Office suite
LinkedIn notifications within the Windows action center
Enabling members drafting résumés in Word to update their profiles, and discover and apply to jobs on LinkedIn
Extending the reach of Sponsored Content across Microsoft properties
Enterprise LinkedIn Lookup powered by Active Directory and Office 365
LinkedIn Learning available across the Office 365 and Windows ecosystem
Developing a business news desk across our content ecosystem and MSN.com
Redefining social selling through the combination of Sales Navigator and Dynamics 365
The emphasis on expanded opportunities for individuals to learn, compete, network, collaborate, and find jobs was a key justification of the merger. “While technology tools are not a panacea for current economic challenges, we believe they can make an important contribution,” said Microsoft’s Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith. “Microsoft and LinkedIn together have a bigger opportunity to help people online to develop and earn credentials for new skills, identify and pursue new jobs, and become more creative and productive as they work with their colleagues. Working together we can do more to serve not only those with college degrees, but the many people pursuing new experiences, skills and credentials related to vocational training and so-called middle skills. Our ambition is to do our part to create more opportunity for people who haven’t shared in recent economic growth.”
LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner views the transaction as an opportunity to expand LinkedIn’s Economic Graph “and ultimately help create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.” LinkedIn will operate as an independent division with “the same mission and vision, the same culture and values, the same brand, and the same leadership team.”
Weiner reiterated LinkedIn’s commitment to its members, their privacy, and information security. The firm “remains focused on growing LinkedIn and creating value for our members and customers with a focus on integrating LinkedIn products with Microsoft.
The EU placed a few requirements on the deal, but did not view the transaction as anti-competitive, a position held by Salesforce.com. The EU evaluated the impact on professional social networks, CRM solutions, and API access. As an accommodation, Microsoft committed to a five year period in which it will
Ensure that PC manufacturers and distributors would be free not to install LinkedIn on Windows and allowing users to remove LinkedIn from Windows should PC manufacturers and distributors decide to preinstall it.
Allow competing professional social network service providers to maintain current levels of interoperability with Microsoft’s Office suite of products through the so-called Office add-in program and Office application programming interfaces.
Grant competing professional social network service providers access to “Microsoft Graph”, a gateway for software developers. It is used to build applications and services that can, subject to user consent, access data stored in the Microsoft cloud, such as contact information, calendar information, emails, etc. Software developers can potentially use this data to drive subscribers and usage to their professional social networks.
Margrethe Vestager, EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy, said: “A growing number of Europeans subscribe to professional social networks. These networks are important for professionals to connect and interact and to find new career opportunities. Today’s decision ensures that Europeans will continue to enjoy a freedom of choice between professional social networks.”
LinkedIn has 467 million global members and supports two dozen languages. The firm continues to add members at the rate of two per second. Last quarter, LinkedIn earned $960 million across three divisions: Talent Solutions ($623 million), Marketing Solutions ($175 million), and Premium Subscriptions ($162 million).
LinkedIn rolled out a new Conversation Starter feature to promote system messaging via a lightbulb icon. The feature analyzes the target individual’s profile to provide a series of conversational options. After selecting a potential opener, the user can modify the text to their voice. Starters include recent profile updates, work anniversaries, recent posts, mutual connections, and shared backgrounds (e.g. alma mater, former employers, groups).
“We know that reaching out to reconnect, ask for advice or network for potential job opportunities can be intimidating, so we’ve added personalized conversation starters in LinkedIn messaging to give members authentic ways to break the ice,” the company said in a blog post.
Unfortunately, the Conversation Starters on their marketing video are mostly focused on connections. This could result in a spate of similar sounding openers that could quickly become SPAM. This focus could be simply a marketing oversight, but variations on “Hi Suzi, I noticed you have X connections at Google. Have you heard…” seem like a weak set of Conversation Starters. While better than cold messages such as “Hi Suzi, I’m reaching out to you because my company…”, their sample seems uninspired. Furthermore, the Conversation Starters do not contain any stored messages from the sales rep to expedite the message creation process.
LinkedIn will soon be rolling out a bot to assist with multi-party meeting scheduling.
Decommissioning Professional Edition Features
According to Intero Advisory, a LinkedIn coaching service, LinkedIn is looking to migrate sales clients from their Professional edition to Sales Navigator. As part of this effort, LinkedIn is dropping two features from the Pro service: 1) Premium Search Filters and 2) Notes and Tags for connections. LinkedIn said these features will be available through the end of March. Users have until then to download any Notes and Tags. To help accommodate users, LinkedIn is offering a free three-month trial of Sales Navigator which includes the transfer of Notes and Tags.
I’ve never been fond of LinkedIn’s InMail service which is limited in its utility. However, InMail claims to have a 15% response rate which is 5x that of email. What’s more the top ten percent of InMail senders net a 30% response rate. According to Doug Camplejohn, Head of Products at LinkedIn, this disparity demonstrates that there are a set of best practices which improve rep response rates. LinkedIn is rolling out a 2.0 version of InMail which assists with sales rep personalization.
“The best InMailers don’t treat InMail as a SPAM cannon, they really think about it as a handwritten note,” said Camplejohn. “They take a little time to personalize things and we want to make it easy for all of you to be that good at InMail.”
The first step was making the InMail box smaller so that it doesn’t cover up the recipient’s profile. Thus, it is easier for reps to identify a personal hook to the recipient. InMail is also providing a set of icebreakers (e.g. recent posts and updates) and shared connections to assist with messaging. A critical new feature is the option to synch the email to CRM, providing an audit trail for InMail communications within SFDC.
InMail 2.0 also supports a signature block, attachments, and a new Inbox with threaded messages. There is also a pending tab for tracking InMails that lack responses.
InMail is included as part of the Sales Navigator service. Professional users receive twenty InMails per month while Team accounts are granted thirty InMails per sales rep per month.
Relationship Science (RelSci) rolled out a freemium offering for their social networking service this week. A free edition provides ten profile views while the Professional edition is priced at $49.99 per month and supports contact synching, relationship finding, news alerts, power searching, and a mobile app. The full feature set is shown on their pricing page.
While the professional edition does not yet support networking, the feature is in development for single users.
RelSci is designed for investors (e.g. PE, VC, Wealth Managers), fund raisers, and business development professionals. It works best at companies where relationships are highly prized for reaching top executives, directors, and donors. The firm marries your contact network with a database of 5 million “movers and shakers” across 1 1/2 million organizations. The enterprise edition allows users to leverage the relationships across their firm, providing a powerful research and networking tool.
Along with standard company and executive profiles, you will find nonprofit board and association memberships, nonprofit and political donations, investments, and news alerts. What you won’t find is emails and direct dial phone numbers. The system is designed for introductions, not cold calling.
The product offers an elegant user interface combined with powerful prospecting tools. Along with standard prospecting, there are screens which assist with trip planning, donor searching, and identifying potential investors.
However, Sales Navigator offers InMail with recommended names to drop while RelSci forces users to request introductions through their network. This could be a potential bottleneck at firms where the strongest networks go through top level execs and the firms’ rainmakers.
Also, if your focus is more directors and managers, you many not find sufficient depth within RelSci. An ABM strategy could stall out due to lack of executive depth in RelSci. For those companies, I’d recommend a full sales intelligence offering (e.g. Avention, Hoover’s, DiscoverOrg, RainKing) in conjunction with free LinkedIn.
RelSci offers powerful screening and visualization tools tied to an elegant user interface. For professional networkers aiming at the upper echelons of companies and boards, RelSci is a superior option to LinkedIn.