Who’s going to be having sleepless nights after Microsoft’s LinkedIn deal?


Take a typical sales team in a typical organization. When you think about where they’re spending their day, and the tools they’re using — more of them are looking at LinkedIn than they are looking at Salesforce.

Why is that?

LinkedIn is how they navigate an organization: how they find out who the decision makers and influencers are. Salesforce, on the other hand, is where they have to write it all down so everyone else in the organization knows what they’ve been doing.

The problem with this? Right now, CRMs are more about helping an organization track what’s happened. They’re not about helping salespeople sell.

Focusing on the hygiene of an organization’s sales CRM data is incredibly valuable — it not only preserves organizational memory about selling beyond the salespeople themselves, but it helps you get smarter as an organization about how to sell. And while execs love this kind knowledge, sales people… well, they’re thinking about how to feed their family this quarter. Keeping a CRM up-to-date with org changes in a prospect or a customer — who has left, who has taken which role, who influenced what — well, do too much of that and your kids end up going hungry.

LinkedIn solves this problem. Sales people don’t have to check in on an org chart, because by and large, we do it for them when we change jobs or roles. The first thing most people do is update their LinkedIn page. LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator becomes so valuable for exactly that reason. The data on their platform is now lifeblood for many sales folks, and it’s why Sales Navigator has been the fastest growing component of LinkedIn’s premium subscriptions business.

Up until now, these two — LinkedIn’s incredibly detailed data, and a CRM — have never really met. (Sure, there’s a Salesforce plugin. You can read the reviews here. It’s not pretty.) But what if a CRM was built with the assumption that you had perfect knowledge of your customers’ and prospects’ organizations? That updated live as they changed roles and companies? And similarly, how would Sales Navigator look different if you could incorporate perfect information about all the sales and prospecting activity that your company had ever had with each contact at every company — regardless of whether or not that contact was at their present company, or a previous one that you’d attempted to or successfully sold into?

If I was a salesperson, I’d imagine that I’d find that information incredibly helpful.

And as for executives — there’s a reason that data hygiene around CRMs is so important (and hence why they force their salespeople to do it). It’s because that data is incredibly valuable. It’s what drives your sales and marketing machines.

So, given that, I can see a pretty compelling CRM value proposition coalescing: never make your sales people update a CRM ever again. Oh, and get perfect data on your customer and prospects. Every. Single. Time.

I’d say it’s as compelling as Success, Not Software was fifteen years ago. Success, Not Data Entry perhaps?

If I were Marc Benioff, the prospect of this would be causing me quite a few sleepless nights.

Written by

Co-host @exponentFM, Co-author @MeasureYourLife, Fellow @ClayChristensen's thinktank, writer @HarvardBiz

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