What Microsoft's Acquisition of LinkedIn Says About Sales Strategy

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  September 06, 2016

The importance of better understanding customers and acting strategically were front and center when Microsoft this summer announced plans to buy LinkedIn for $26.2 billion.

Indeed, everybody and their brother is talking about customer experience these days. And customer relation management systems and social media profiles are two key tools organizations can employ to help them deliver better customer experiences. That’s because CRM and social media sites like LinkedIn (News - Alert) provide a lot of data about individual customers, and in the case of social media were even created by those customers themselves.

Microsoft (News - Alert) already has a CRM solution called Dynamics, but this particular product is a guppy swimming alongside the customer relationship management industry whale known as Salesforce. In fact, there have been rumors in the past couple years that Microsoft has tried to purchase Salesforce. So Microsoft wants to make its CRM Dynamics more competitive.

LinkedIn could dramatically change the relevance of Microsoft Dynamics, says Christopher Woodin, director of Microsoft sales operations at reseller and systems integrator Softchoice (News - Alert). LinkedIn is valuable to Microsoft, he adds, not only because it owns the biggest record of business people and a premium version of LinkedIn that sales people use for prospecting, but also because LinkedIn can help Microsoft pivot from selling businesses technology to selling organizations solutions to make them more competitive.

Woodin adds that LinkedIn is not a technology. Organizations use LinkedIn and buy its solutions to make themselves more competitive – and many companies couldn’t survive or prospect their customers without LinkedIn, he says. Microsoft wants to get in on that strategic thinking and selling strategy, he continues. And Microsoft believes there is an opportunity to further monetize LinkedIn services with its own customer base, which is far larger than the number of LinkedIn customers, he adds.

All of the above is meaningful for the channel both because it points to the importance of solutions-based selling and because Microsoft will increasingly encourage its channel partners to adopt this positioning, says Woodin of Softchoice, a 27-year-old technology systems integrator and reseller (mostly of Microsoft products/solutions) with 1,400 employees and 6,000 customers. Softchoice is known for managing Microsoft’s complex licensing agreements and assisting its customers to select and implement the most appropriate Microsoft technologies to meet their goals.

Edited by Alicia Young