A Blog by Jonathan Low


Dec 18, 2017

How Microsoft Is Using LinkedIn To Take On Salesforce.com

Practical applications which extrapolate the linkage traditional services with its newly acquired network. JL

Bob Evans reports in Forbes:

Microsoft's enterprise cloud Dynamics 365 SaaS revenue over the past 3 quarters has grown 81%, 74% and 69%. At the first level is the corporate market for salesforce automation and customer-relationship management. Beyond that is the revenue opportunity to automate service, support, commerce, CPQ, partner relationships. At the forefront of those efforts is Microsoft Relationship Sales, which pairs Microsoft's Dynamics 365 for Sales with the LinkedIn Sales Navigator tool.
Eighteen months ago, when Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella outbid Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff for LinkedIn, some folks were scratching their heads over why in the world Microsoft would shell out $26.2 billion for a professional social-media site.
But today, with Microsoft looking to do nothing less than completely transform the way businesses sell products and services and engage with customers, the potential of interlacing LinkedIn's 530-million-plus members with Microsoft Dynamics Sales and CRM applications is starting to make that $26.2-billion price tag look like a bargain.
The stakes are massive: at the first level is the enormous corporate market for applications covering salesforce automation and customer-relationship management, and beyond that is the equally vast revenue opportunity for follow-on applications to automate service, support, commerce, CPQ, partner relationships and more.
In some of those areas, Benioff's Salesforce is considered to be a worldwide leader. And Benioff, the ultimate CEO-as-showman, has gone so far as to dub these market segments "the Salesforce Economy," with his company claiming that its "ecosystem of customers and partners will drive the creation of 3.3 million new jobs and more than $859 billion in new business revenues worldwide by 2022."
Hey—nice work if you can get it.
But 2022's a long way off, and in the here and now Microsoft has been crafting an extraordinary record of success in the enterprise cloud—spanning IaaS, PaaS and SaaS—and its Dynamics 365 SaaS revenue over the past 3 quarters has grown 81%, 74% and 69%.
And now, with the LinkedIn integration well underway, leaders at both Microsoft and LinkedIn are aggressively pushing new strategies for exploiting the full power and reach of LinkedIn across every facet of Microsoft's business: data, productivity, enterprise apps, AI and more.
At the forefront of those efforts is an initiative called Microsoft Relationship Sales, which pairs one of Microsoft's SaaS apps--Dynamics 365 for Sales—with the LinkedIn Sales Navigator tool.
In a press release announcing a big customer win for Microsoft Relationship Sales—and we'll get to that very delighted customer in just a minute—Microsoft offered this description for how the fusion of those products will work at customer Park Place Technologies: "By surfacing relationships between people, and then integrating that information within a single platform, Park Place salespeople will be able to access information in a way that saves time and improves productivity."
Park Place offers third-party post-warranty maintenance for storage, software and networking in data centers, and has more than 10,000 customers in 100 countries around the world. Those customers have 28,000 distinct data-center locations with more than 300,000 assets involved—all of which made it essential for the company to leapfrog to thoroughly modern enterprise applications as part of its ongoing digital transformation.
That initiative will be built around Microsoft Relationship Sales (LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Dynamics 365 for Sales) plus Office 365, with an overall goal of boosting the productivity of Park Place's sales team and the whole company's ability to collaborate in real time so that it can continue on its high-growth trajectory while also continuing to deliver superior service to its data-center customers.
Chris Adams, president and COO of Park Place, said in a phone conversation last week that the combination of steep organic growth plus multiple acquisitions in the US and around the world had reached a point where traditional sales and prospecting methods and tools could no longer scale with the company's business.
Park Place began using LinkedIn aggressively a few years ago, and Adams said the company quickly realized that as LinkedIn helped drive more business, Park Place's outdated salesforce-automation and financial systems simply couldn't keep up.
"Our salespeople are what I call the LinkedIn generation—and some are even the InstaGram generation," said Adams. "This is their natural environment."
Noting that each sales rep is required to complete at least 60 calls per day to customers and prospects, Adams said, "We're adding hundreds of new-customer logos every month." And while that hypergrowth is great, it is also pushing Park Place's aging on-premises financial applications to their limits.
So Park Place began looking for a software solution that could scale with it for the next five years by offering a combination of front-end capabilities compatible with the company's LinkedIn-centric sales process, along with cloud-based Financials and CRM apps that could easily handle Park Place's ongoing growth rates both in the US and abroad.
"We looked at a few of the major ERP/CRM solutions out there—and some are big and robust and fancy—but we realized that Microsoft is already driving the wide-ranging integration with LinkedIn, which is what's driving our business, and we determined that that's where the big value is," said Adams.
"But of all of those enterprise apps we looked at, Microsoft was the only one that had the built-in and optimized LinkedIn capability," he added. "All of those other apps are good—but Microsoft's ability to automatically include all of this relevant data for our salespeople directly in line with how they already work was the big differentiator for us."
Adams also said he was surprised—pleasantly surprised—at the reaction he got from the Microsoft and LinkedIn sales reps after expressing to them his concerns about how the shift to the cloud means the impact on Park Place's budget shifts from capex to opex, which Adams said created a nontrivial challenge to Park Place in managing cash flow to pay the subscription fees.
"We said we're a heavy LinkedIn user already, so give us a package that lets us leverage our current LinkedIn investment along with the new SaaS applications we were getting. I think we might be the first Microsoft customer to ask for that, and when they came back--and it was within 48 hours--they gave us a package with a lot of scale in it.
"They were great to work with and I was very impressed."
Park Place CMO Jennifer Deutsch said both her company and her customers are excited about Park Place's ability to expand on its "follow the hero" strategy that she said only LinkedIn can provide and that her company has been able to leverage to great advantage.
"One of the things LinkedIn is really good at is showing how people are changing jobs, so we follow our customers and prospects along and stay in touch with them and build extended relationships," Deutsch said on the call last week with Adams.
"And here at Park Place, because the services we offer to our clients help them reduce costly downtime and drive uptime and efficiency, the IT people we call on and who deploy our services in their companies become heroes—their colleagues
love them," Deutsch said.
"And when they earn that hero status and move to a new job, they want to extend that status to their new company so they want to keep working with Park Place at their new employer. With LinkedIn Sales Navigator, we can do that and much more," said Deutsch.
"It's a tool that helps us very efficiently track, identify, communicate with and build relationships with customers and prospects—and it's helped us achieve a 97% customer-satisfaction rate."
Adams, the Park Place president, emphasized that the dramatic turnaround that CEO Nadella has led at Microsoft over the past few years was a definite factor in his choice of Microsoft Relationship Sales and the Dynamics 365 SaaS apps plus Office 365.
"I wanted to move in the Microsoft direction because I've seen such big changes in the company. For a while, some years ago, Microsoft had become an old-fashioned company—kinda slow, not very innovative—and particularly in comparison to Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon and the like," Adams said.
To me, Nadella has been the key to the huge turnaround at Microsoft—I'm thoroughly impressed with how he's changed that company from risk-averse and old-fashioned to new, hip and leading-edge.
"What he's done with Azure, and then the acquisition of LinkedIn—that was brilliant, and it put Microsoft's CRM front and center for me.
"I said, 'That's who I want to be with.' "


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