Should You Invest In LinkedIn Or CRM?

The world of business-to-business selling is changing and I recently had a conversation with John Smibert, one of the most influential people in professional selling globally, concerning the roles of LinkedIn and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.

LinkedIn has the hearts and minds of salespeople because it helps them find the people they need to build pipeline and also the next employer to progress their career.

CRM, on the other hand, should be the engine for managing sales process but sadly is often a 'manage-up' reporting tool. Sales people are often reluctant to embrace CRM because they feel their contacts, relationships, prospects and pipeline belong to them personally more than they do for their employer.

But CRM can be transformational when it becomes the 'single source of truth' about prospects and clients to manage the entire customer lifecycle for marketing, sales, services, support and finance. The very best implement CRM as a coaching platform for sales managers with their people to review opportunity qualification and discovery, call plans, relationship mapping, sales stage progression with action tracking, close/win plans, and much more... all integrated within the CRM.

LinkedIn helps build opportunity pipeline. CRM manages sales opportunities. LinkedIn's Sales Navigator enables you to integrate the world's most powerful contact database and engagement platform to the leading CRM systems.

LinkedIn and CRM [should] solve different problems and both systems create value in their own right. Each organisation needs to understand how they can extract the best value. Watch this video interview and a full transcript is below. 


John: Hey, you've been a CEO of a CRM provider in recent years in Australia. And you would have seen lots of changes in the way CRM have been progressing. You’ve also see a lot of the problems with the implementations of CRM, and now you’re doing a lot of work with LinkedIn. I’m sensing LinkedIn is overlapping with CRM a lot. How do you see the relationship between LinkedIn and CRM, and how people are using LinkedIn now almost to do a CRM?

Tony: Yes, it’s very interesting, because there’s people asking the question “Will LinkedIn become the new CRM?”

John: I've heard that being asked.

Tony: Yes, and it’s an intriguing question. I know, for example, that Salesforce look at LinkedIn, and they’re a little bit worried about the way that LinkedIn is really moving into what they traditionally see is their space. There’s a few things that we know are true, and that is that LinkedIn has the heart, souls and minds of salespeople, and CRM does not. CRM is historically very much a reporting up managing tool for an organisation. And the way sales reps feel, the way they’re wired is their contacts and relationships and prospects and pipeline belong to them more than they do their employer.

John: Is that really true? I feel that a good sales guy represents his or her company.

Tony: Yes, he does. In inside sales maybe not so much, but certainly for field sales and business-to-business selling. Salespeople tend to feel the way they believe that they operate really is as a hired gun.

John: And it’s probably represented in the fact that a tenure in sales jobs tends to be only about, what, three years these days, on an average.

Tony: Yes, most.

John: And they therefore know they’re going to move on to another company.

Tony: Well, the statistics are really scary. It depends on whose numbers you believe, but anywhere from 40% to almost two-thirds of B2B salespeople don’t make the numbers every year, and a lot of it is not the fault of the salespeople. The way that organisations are doing territory planning and rolling out quotas, they have their blowtorch out on people, they expect them to get up to speed very quickly. So, you’re right; the way an employment contract is written is very much that those prospects are the property of the employer, not the employee.

John: Interesting to see whether it can be enforced though.

Tony: Well, you've got to honour the law of self-interest in any negotiation of putting together business models. So, my view is that what salespeople want to do is they want to build good quality pipeline. The biggest problem they face is, yes, they need to manage expectations of management internally, which they do through a CRM. But the biggest problem they’ve got is they need to build quality pipeline, and LinkedIn enables them to research, find and connect with people, monitor for trigger events, engage early at senior levels, stalk them, in essence, in social to find out what are their interests – I mean, at a business level, not at a Facebook, personal level – at the business level, find out what’s driving industry so they can go and connect with people.

John: LinkedIn is the best engagement tool I’ve ever seen – it’s brilliant for me.

Tony: It is incredible.

John: I can use LinkedIn to engage with anybody I want to target, and I can build a relationship well before I ever meet anybody.

Tony: Yes. And Sales Navigator, which is the highest level of subscription in LinkedIn at the moment, when you combine the power of LinkedIn Publisher for evidencing your credibility and building relevance for the markets that you target, with Sales Navigator for seeing social proximity, doing your research, see who’s connected to the people you’re targeting to get warm introductions – those things are incredibly powerful.

John: So, CRM providers, watch out? How should they be looking at this?

Tony: Well, I think CRM has a role in that CRM is ideal for sales process automation. People need to think about the sales methodology that they use inside their organisation, which is different to sales process. They need to enable their process within their CRM, and then use CRM as a coaching platform to create transparency and help people sell. The weak link in the revenue chain for organisations is sales management. They need to get out of their spreadsheets or the CRM systems, and coach their people.

John: Yes. And that’s the reason a lot of CRM implementation’s a fail, right? They’ve been put in for management, not for the sales guy.

Tony: Correct. The first rule of having a successful implementation of any technology, including LinkedIn or CRM, is serve the user, the user in this case being a field salesperson. And clearly LinkedIn serves the user really well – in their minds help them get their next job as well, so the law of self-interest is honoured – but it helps them build pipeline. They need to implement CRM in a way that helps them execute process.

John: I don’t think LinkedIn are looking to replace a or a Sugar, right?

Tony: Correct, correct.

John: So, it’s really looking at how do we, as an organisation in sales management, use both tools, and make sure we leverage them both, and make sure they work well together.

Tony: To me there is a role for both. And LinkedIn is incredibly powerful for monitoring trigger events, building connections, creating pipeline for, in essence, salespeople to become micro-marketers, and take responsibility for building their own pipeline. Once they’ve identified an opportunity, it belongs in CRM so you can manage that process.

John: Exactly. So, I think that’s cleared it up very much in my mind. Thanks, Tony – I think there'll be a lot of value for the viewers.

Tony: Thanks, John!


Thanks John Smibert for the video interview and transcript which can also be found on on the Strategic Selling Group website where he interviews sales thought leaders from around the world. More of John Smibert's interviews with Tony Hughes:

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Garrett Coakley - Decisions, decisions