With a Jobs-esque “oh, and one more thing…” on Tuesday, LinkedIn’s head of product for Sales Navigator Doug Camplejohn opened the door for LinkedIn’s potential ascension to the CRM throne.
At its core, what is a CRM? It’s two elements: a database of customer information and the interface for getting data in or out. Getting data in is usually administered via salesperson activities. Getting data out is typically done by managers or the growing discipline of Sales Ops.
The top two CRMs in the world are Salesforce’s Sales Cloud and Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM at 18% and 12% marketshare, respectively. Salesforce’s cloud product tends to attract midmarket companies while Dynamics started as on-premise and thus attracts larger organizations with legacy infrastructures.
Both incumbents are poised to get disrupted by the strategy LinkedIn announced just last week when it simultaneously unveiled two new programs: limited database syncing and the SNAP partner program.
LinkedIn already has the world’s largest and most complete database of business users. Because the business world uses LinkedIn as the digital replacement to both the business card and the resume, each user has an external incentive to maintain their own record in the LinkedIn database. This makes LinkedIn not only the most complete database but, thanks to self-updating, also the most current.
Up until now that “most perfect of sales databases” has been off limits. However, on Tuesday, sales leaders and operations professionals’ ears perked up when the company announced a new feature that will provide (very limited) sync’ing of a user’s sales database with the central LinkedIn database:
LinkedIn will now allow users to create a connection between their CRM database and the central LinkedIn database. At the moment, that connection is limited to validating whether the user’s CRM has an outdated account for a prospect — the “No Longer at Company” flag in the above screenshot. However, the real point is that for the first time the central LinkedIn database is being referenced along similar lines as a CRM database.
As more validation features are added, at some point it may sense to stop validating and instead use the primary database itself. When this happens, the CRM database simply becomes a slice of the self-updating master database — perhaps the pooled set of employees’ first-degree connections. Goodbye hassle of populating a business database from scratch, and goodbye continually updating that database.
The other part of a CRM is the interface. On Tuesday, LinkedIn announced its SNAP program along with some flagship partners in each of several interface categories, such as pipeline review, document signing, and analytics.
InsightSquared was the featured analytics partner. Pipeline review, showing a salesperson’s open pipeline along with number of connections, was accomplished via the June acquisition of Heighten. Document signing was via Swedish company GetAccept.
Some partnership programs are a library of peripheral add-ons to supplement a relatively complete core product. SNAP is different: it is that core. Each of the examples shown on stage were core flows that every sales manager in the audience would need to manage work in their primary CRM.
These partners accelerate LinkedIn’s path to creating enough of a complete user experience that a sale leader may soon no longer need an alternate CRM. Even more, LinkedIn completes the user experience via best-of-breed solutions in each area — only possible in today’s API-enabled technical architecture.
Purely as an observer, I imagine LinkedIn will gradually add to their database “validation” features until there is no need to validate anymore. And I expect their SNAP interface partnerships to expand until users can do everything they need in LinkedIn Sales Navigator without ever having to exit and navigate a traditional CRM.
What about Microsoft Dynamics? Microsoft acquired LinkedIn in December of 2016. Microsoft has a strong on-premise business with Dynamics. For cloud, Microsoft would do well to pair Dynamics’ sales and services engine with the now-apparent potential LinkedIn product to create an unstoppable combo for the next generation of CRM.