(This post originally appeared on Forbes)
So will LinkedIn finally integrate with your Customer Relationship Management system? Well…kind of and maybe. And only if you have either Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics (LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. My company is a Microsoft partner).
LinkedIn already has a sort of very light CRM tool called Sales Navigator. The tool provides basic lead management capabilities that uses contact data from a user’s connections and helps target potential contact and account prospects based on certain demographic criteria. Although it helps with basic research, it lacks many of the essential features that you’ll find in a typical CRM such as opportunity tracking, forecasting and marketing as well as integrations with external email and calendars.
Recently, the company announced new enhancements to its Sales Navigator tool which promises to “boost pipeline quality and increase sales and marketing efficiencies.” The updated tool’s CRM Sync capability will now be able to create new contacts (and check for duplicates) in a CRM system using LinkedIn data as well as flag contacts in a CRM system that haven’t been updated within 24 hours after changes were made to them in LinkedIn. It will also alert CRM users when a potential “champion” moves to a new company.
The aim is to increase productivity. “Sellers have countless tabs open, copying and pasting information,” product lead Lindsey Edwards told Adweek. “You want the sellers to be out selling. 40% of sellers’ time is spent on administrative tasks.”
LinkedIn continues to expand the capabilities of Sales Navigator regularly with updates so that its users can better view and track content with their communities and receive real time alerts for potential people in a targeted organization that, based on their activities, may be a potential influencer. New search features and reporting tools have recently been added and more enhancements are planned.
The CRM Sync capability is certainly a big step. But will LinkedIn ever replace a company’s current CRM system? That’s not likely in the near future. Instead, those who want better LinkedIn integration with their CRM system should bear these three things in mind.
First, if you want the integration, you’re going to need either Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics. Unless bigger partnership deals (translation: dollars) are offered by other CRM players, the company is going to stick to the CRM leader and Microsoft’s own CRM offering as sales differentiators and our clients who are hoping that one day LinkedIn will integrate with their CRM system – if not one of the above two – are probably going to be disappointed.
Next, if you’re going to want integration, you’re going to have to pay to play. The CRM integration will only work if you have LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator which runs about $65 to $135 per month depending on whether you buy it individually or for a team and commit to an annual purchase. Your free LinkedIn account is not going to cut it.
Finally, I doubt there will ever be the “holy grail” of true LinkedIn-CRM integration, where you can search through LinkedIn, identify people with certain characteristics and then suck them into your CRM system for prospecting and lead generation activities. As a frequent LinkedIn user, I’m already getting enough spam from people taking advantage of the platform’s existing messaging tools. Allowing CRM systems to access more data would only exacerbate this problem which would likely motivate me – and many other business professionals – to retreat from the network.
But in the meantime, we’ll take what we can get. And if you’re willing to accept both the limitations and the requirements, you can have some integration between your CRM system and LinkedIn.