Microsoft’s history has shown that the company never does anything without a clearly defined purpose. This is not to say that the company always achieves its purpose; Microsoft has had its share of failures. However, you can bet that before Microsoft shelled out more than $26 billion to acquire LinkedIn, it had already planned a way to profit from the investment.
When the acquisition was announced, industry analysts were positively giddy over the possible implications. Initially, however, all they could do was speculate on how Microsoft would employ the newest member of its family. Most analysts looked at Microsoft’s history of integrating products for inspiration, predicting that the company would find some way to integrate LinkedIn with Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics or other platforms. A lot of the speculation focused on human resources, analytics and social marketing. The idea that integrating LinkedIn and Microsoft Dynamics 365 might provide sales personnel with some valuable tools seemed to be overlooked by many experts.
However, in April 2017, Microsoft made an announcement that has given sales teams a reason to cheer. Integrating the LinkedIn Sales Navigator tool and Microsoft Dynamics 365 will allow sales the ability to access LinkedIn’s database of approximately 500 million users.
How Sales Team Members Can Benefit
Microsoft is touting the integration as a way to make sales personnel more effective by allowing them to tap into their professional relationships and networks as well as the professional relationships and networks of their colleagues. As an example, suppose your company would like to woo XYZ Corporation. Attempts to contact Joe, the person with the power to make decisions, have failed. However, after linking Office 365, Dynamics 365 and LinkedIn, you discover that Joe attended college with Pete, a member of your sales staff. You could assign Pete to the account, anticipating that Pete might successfully get Joe to take his calls.
Alternatively, you might discover that Pete has a connection to Joe’s personal assistant. You could still assign the account to Pete, but you might also consider asking Pete to introduce a senior salesman to the personal assistant.
Blurring the Lines
The integration of Dynamics 365 and LinkedIn is yet another example of how the lines between ERP, CRM, artificial intelligence, EAM and other tools have become increasingly blurred. For example, integrating Office 365 with LinkedIn could allow users to receive a news feed from LinkedIn that features articles related to the projects on which each user is currently working.
Integration can also give the members of your sales team access to more information regarding the person they are about to meet. Suppose you have a meeting scheduled with Linda. Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant, can brief you immediately before the meeting. The briefing might include information such as, “You and Linda are both attended Oklahoma State University, the winners of last night’s game. You both know Ann Doe.” Cortana might also ask whether you want to review Linda’s LinkedIn profile, have Cortana send her the presentation or review the history of your meetings with Linda.
The basic concept of integrating information is nothing new. Sales jobs have always involved a certain amount of networking to secure introductions, generate leads or identify new opportunities. In the past, this has required manual integration, time and guesswork, so the process has provided uneven results. Microsoft is simply automating the process, giving sales professionals more time to concentrate on their current and potential customers.