Microsoft bought LinkedIn. Will the life of a salesperson change?

If you have not been living under the rock then you know that Microsoft beat Salesforce and bought LinkedIn in an all-cash deal last week. Big ticket consultants (and know-all magazines) are predicting that Microsoft buying LinkedIn is going to hurt Salesforce big time.

While part of the analysis rings a bell, I’m surprised how no one is writing about the impact of this deal on salespeople. In my view, neither Salesforce, nor LinkedIn or Microsoft can provide a purposeful solution that delightfully addresses the contextual needs of salespeople in every domain. Sales people value context over content.

While there is a valid need for storing sales operational data for future projections, learning and training, none of the existing tools alone can impact a sales outcome. The purchase of LinkedIn by Microsoft just means that salespeople will now have more data poured on them of their prospects and clients at any given time without realization of the context in which they operate.

At most organizations of any repute, Salesforce (or for that matter any CRM system) have become a system of records of sorts for tracking behavior of sales people. So most large companies happily declare productivity gain for sales people just by installing a CRM (Salesforce, MS Dynamics etc) — I witnessed this first hand at a recent too-big-to-fail bank’s asset management division. However, on spending time with the sales people on-ground for few weeks revealed that most of the time sales people didn’t even use the Salesforce data to make any meaningful decisions. Salespeople use bunch of different tools — news, Salesforce, LinkedIn,Facebook,Eventbrite, calendar and many more to qualify their prospects, build relationships, close deals and nurture existing client relationships. They used the CRM solution to retrieve information only when necessary.

Most of the time technology and business execs at large companies do not look (or purposefully overlooks) the context in which the data about customers, prospects and their connections and transactions are getting used. Context of use is perhaps the most important thing in today’s business — everyone is busy with their apps on their smartphones — how can you give the information that provides the optimal and relevant information just when you need it.

In the same big bank (mentioned above), during our contextual inquiry with sales force, we found that the sales people discover, consume and share data in different ways 30 days, 7 days and 5 minutes before meeting a prospect or a client. We recommended building a custom mobile application that provides the information the sales people need based on their context — make it relevant and helpful rather than shower them with data.

I’m sure that in all domains — healthcare, wealth management, private banking, travel & hospitality — salespeople value context more than content.

Neither Microsoft nor LinkedIn have the UX focus and discipline to integrate key capabilities and create an experience that will change the lives of salespeople.

What do you say?

Polymath: dad, husband, co-founder, strategist, Computer Vision enthusiast, visual thinker and dog lover.

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