Social selling: Microsoft Relationship Sales brings LinkedIn Sales Navigator to Dynamics 365/CRM

By:  Dann Anthony Maurno

Yes, practically everybody in business knows LinkedIn; but many have not yet delved into LinkedIn Sales Navigator, the company’s toolset that builds upon classic LinkedIn for “social selling.”

Now that LinkedIn is part of Microsoft, Dynamics 365/CRM partners in particular should be taking note and assessing the value of the social network with their clients. Through the Microsoft Relationship Sales application, LinkedIn Sales Navigator integrates with Dynamics 365/CRM. When used together, Dynamics 365 users may find that LinkedIn becomes a platform to “leapfrog” the first introductory sales call and enter the second. LinkedIn Sales Navigator provides an introduction to the prospect, and arms the salesperson with knowledge of his or her requirements.

Shawn Tabor, a senior solutions architect with Hitachi Solutions America and a Microsoft MVP, has evangelized LinkedIn Sales Navigator in recent months and has demonstrated the application at CRMUG Summit 2017, eXtreme365, and for local CRMUG chapters.

He attributes the sudden and keen interest to the fact that “the integration with Dynamics 365 is relatively new in this form,” but already very robust.

Previously, Sales Navigator was sold as its own solution, “and it was quite expensive. Our user community didn’t adopt it wholeheartedly because in many cases, the license for a single user for Sales Navigator was about the same as it was for Dynamics 365. It’s a very powerful tool; but doubling your licensing costs is not for everybody.” The bundling into Microsoft Relationship Sales (starting at $135/user/month for 10-99 seats), “makes it much more attainable, and the ROI is a lot better,” says Tabor.

Users will find quite a different experience from the classic LinkedIn interface. “Rather than a crowdsourcing visualization of information and stories, the Sales Navigator interface is more focused on the leads and the accounts that you are actively following,” says Tabor. (See graphic.)

“But the biggest piece of it is, to me, the mobile piece,” he continues. “With the mobile Sales Navigator, you have connectivity through a server-side sync between LinkedIn and Dynamics, and you can work within Sales Navigator where you have all your other information, notes, and InMails, and get that information back into Dynamics in a seamless way that allows you to work without having to hop around.”

Lead Builder and TeamLink

The Lead Builder, which appears alongside the Search field, is an advanced search aimed at discerning leads and accounts to follow. Here you can run queries based on numerous criteria, “And to really hone into that audience that you want to reach out to,” says Tabor. Among the criteria:

  • Keywords and Tags
  • Geography
  • Relationship
  • Company, for either current or past employees
  • Industry
  • Title, Function and Seniority Level

Within the Lead Builder window is a toggle to “Show TeamLink Leads.” This focuses LinkedIn’s familiar “How You’re Connected” feature to mine relationships within your organization for a “warm handoff” versus a cold call; this relationship might be a first-degree connection (or second or third), or other commonalities like alma mater, membership in the same LinkedIn group, a past employer – the type of information a salesperson can use with discernment.

Within LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you can create Leads (e.g., using the Lead Builder described above) based on the contacts within D365 associated with Opportunities that you own, as described in the next section.

Integration with D365: Cross System Awareness

Salespeople with their own LinkedIn profiles cannot just flip the switch from social media into social selling. The D365/Sales Navigator integration requires some hands-on configuration by a CRM administrator.

Note how Sales Navigator activity is reflected in a Dynamics 365 for Sales interface (see graphic).

Integration is chiefly through a widget found in D365 Account, Contact and Opportunity forms, which display Sales Navigator activity (including Notes, InMails, Messages and Phone Calls).

The D365 Opportunity entity is the distinguishing differentiator between Dynamics and LinkedIn. In D365, a Lead can be a Contact or an Account, which is typically assigned to an individual or team.

Looking at a Dynamics 365 Lead and Contact Profile, Sales Navigator information includes:

  • Icebreakers identify commonalities between the salesperson and prospect (e.g., past employers, LinkedIn groups)
  • Team Link (“Get introduced”), described above
  • Related Leads: map out an entire buying committee – useful in focusing information to the decision maker

The Account Profile offers a broader view of the account itself, with:

  • Recommended Leads at an organization, based on those familiar commonalities
  • Connections, which uses TeamLink to uncover the best way to get introduced
  • News, for Account and Lead Updates (be it a lead in the news or a job change; company news).

In any instance, the salesperson has the option to “Save as Lead” any individual who is surfaced.

InMail as a CRM artifact

LinkedIn InMail enables you to correspond with indirect connections (e.g., second- or third-degree connections, LinkedIn group members). With a Sales Navigator subscription, users have 150 InMail credits per month – which, Tabor advises them to use judiciously with “high-quality” correspondence.

The TrackBack to CRM option “pushes [an InMail communication] as a completed activity, so you will have that history in your Dynamics 365 activity feed,” Tabor explains. Better still, “If you have a successful connection [meaning] they actually respond to the InMail, you get credits back.”

PointDrive, for content sharing and tracking

Sending a “Thought you’d be interested” email to a lead, with an attached PDF or YouTube link, is likely to elicit a groan; also unlikely to get much of a response.

Sales Navigator’s PointDrive is a content-sharing application, but one that 1) enables you to personalize the content, and 2) tracks engagement with that content by the lead.

That engagement tracking is possible as the content is saved in the user’s Sales Navigator cloud instance (with unlimited storage). Content is shared as “presentations,” with segments that include, for example, links to a website, a YouTube video clip, a PowerPoint, or PDF file. The user can personalize the header and add what Tabor calls “flavor text.”

As he explains, “Not only can you send that really tailored, customized collateral to that recipient; but you then gain metrics on what they did with it. So, when you follow up with them, you have built-in bullet points to focus on; you know that they really looked at Slides 15 through 17 of your slide deck, and focus your conversation on those topics that are very important to them, or very interesting at least.”

Interestingly, LinkedIn acquired PointDrive in July 2016, a month after the acquisition by Microsoft was announced. LinkedIn’s own global sales organization had used PointDrive for a year and “found the tool invaluable,” as LinkedIn VP of Product David Thacker described at the time (in an article on LinkedIn). “[They] simplify the buyer-seller conversation in ways that result in more productivity and generate greater efficiency.”

So, perhaps the idea of “social selling” remains an abstraction. Social media is one application, CRM is another, and besides, who has time to learn something new?

But there’s nothing new about salespeople looking for leads, making the most out of a connection, or getting a handle on a customer’s business needs. There are new ways to do all of that, using LinkedIn and Dynamics 365.

About Dann Anthony Maurno

Dann Anthony Maurno is a seasoned business journalist who began his career as International Marketing Manager with Lilly Software, then moved on as a freelancer to write for such prestigious clients as CFO Magazine; Compliance Week;Manufacturing Business Technology; Decision Resources, Inc.; The Economist Intelligence Unit; and corporate clients such as Iron Mountain, Microsoft and SAP. He is the co-author of Thin Air: How Wireless Technology Supports Lean Initiatives(CRC/Productivity Press, 2010).

Dann can be reached at