Business social network LinkedIn announced improvements to Sales Navigator, its "system of engagement" for salespeople launched in 2014.
The update covers three key areas, but the most significant for salespeople is the improved integration with Salesforce.com's cloud customer relationship management platform.
Instead of having to manually add leads and accounts to Sales Navigator, the update is designed to automatically import the most relevant accounts from Salesforce.
LinkedIn had already offered some integration with Salesforce as well as with its CRM competitor Microsoft Dynamics, but LinkedIn considers the improved integration, or CRM sync as the company calls it, more advanced.
"We've taken the integration a step further," Mike Derezin, vice president of sales at LinkedIn, told eWEEK. "Now we have the ability to add value by knowing what accounts the salesperson is working on that matter to them. We can bring the best of LinkedIn to help them by letting them know about things like job changes or who else at the company they know."
Before the update, Sales Navigator users would have to manually add that information from LinkedIn. Derezin points out this could require a lot of work since a sales rep might have several hundred accounts. "It's far more effective if that information is already there. This sets the groundwork of how we'll make far more information flow back and forth."
Asked to elaborate, Derezin says LinkedIn plans to offer more relevance in news feeds and provide more alerts related to sales reps' customers and prospects. He also said LinkedIn plans to integrate other CRM systems with Sales Navigator.
In June, Microsoft announced its intent to buy LinkedIn for $26.2 billion. Now Derezin says there are plans to offer a deeper integration with Microsoft's CRM system.
LinkedIn efforts to extend its CRM integration is a factor that helped convince Microsoft to buy the business social network, Jeff Kaplan, managing director of consulting firm THINKstrategies, told eWEEK.
"These enhancements clearly indicate the additional value Microsoft sees in merging its Dynamics capabilities with LinkedIn’s new approach to CRM, which led to its decision to acquire the company for a premium price," Kaplan said.
LinkedIn says that more than 20 customers have already been actively using the new CRM sync feature ahead of its formal release.
Enterprise social marketing firm Sprinklr is one of the customers that tried out LinkedIn's improved CRM integration.
"What's most valuable here is the move towards more automation. The fact that all my teams' leads and accounts are automatically updated helps make them more productive and keep their accounts even more relevant," Chris Kieff, Sprinklr's security and sales operations director, said in a statement.
Integration with Gmail
On the mobile front, LinkedIn has updated its Sales Navigator mobile app with more so-called discovery features. With the update, users will now get alerts and recommendations about other people at a company they're already talking to beyond the main prospect or customer.
Derezin notes that a major sales decision could easily involve five to 10 people and the mobile update surfaces information and recommendations on up to 10. “We already do this for desktop users, but the mobile app has a cleaner UI,” he added, noting also that the company estimates that about 25 percent of Sales Navigator users are predominantly mobile users.
On the Gmail front, Sales Navigator now integrates directly with the popular email service. For example, users will be able to access all LinkedIn public profiles and public contact information from within Gmail and save a contact as a lead in Sales Navigator without leaving the Gmail inbox.
"Again this is another move to take Sales Navigator to where the customers are," says Derezin. A right bar in Gmail will show "rich" information such as the universities, friends and colleagues a sales person has in common with a contact. This is what LinkedIn calls "Ice Breakers."
The update to Sales Navigator went live July 19.