When Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff opposed Microsoft's acquisition, some were skeptical of his motives. According to Beinhoff, Microsoft will have an unfair advantage over competitors due to LinkedIn's database of 450 million professionals.
Microsoft did its part to allay the fears, assuring that it would share the data, and we all slept happily. Except it looks like Beinhoff may have been right after all.
According to The Information, LinkedIn in talks with SugarCRM about access to a small portion of the data. The company will provide datasets such as name, title, and photo for use in sales, but not much else.
LinkedIn will also offer this information to organizations that use its Sales Navigator tool, with Oracle and HubSpot also in talks. This limited sharing may appease EU regulators, but it does little to allay the fears of Salesforce.
Microsoft may yet deny access to the data in other ways, or selectively choose companies based on competition.
However, a LinkedIn spokesperson said these plans are separate to the acquisition:
“Over the past year LinkedIn has been in ongoing discussions with key CRM providers to develop a partner program that offers more value to our joint customers. The goal of our CRM partner program is to offer more efficiency and productivity to sales professionals around the world, by allowing leading CRM systems to integrate Sales Navigator functionality directly into their applications.
Consistent with our existing Sales Navigator integrations with Salesforce and Dynamics, we do not transfer LinkedIn member data to the CRM companies themselves. What we do offer is a widget that allows our joint customers to view similar information to what they would find within Sales Navigator, such as LinkedIn profile information and relationship insights. Joint customers of CRM partners will be able to view LinkedIn profiles and relationship insights within their CRM application, and that access will continue after our deal closes with Microsoft.”
Microsoft has declined to comment on the matter. The deal has already received approval in the US, Canada, and Brazil, and will likely close before the end of the year. Unfortunately, that's a very limited time frame to build serious opposition.