Here’s one overlooked reason it makes total sense for Salesforce to buy Twitter

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Salesforce is rumored to be one of the parties interested in buying Twitter, CNBC reported on Friday.

Why in the world would Salesforce, a business software company mostly used by salespeople, be interested in a consumer social media service like Twitter?

Quick answer: Twitter is one of the most widely used prospecting tools used by salespeople these days.

Long gone are the days of salespeople relying solely on existing Rolodexes and wining-and-dining tactics to sell stuff. Instead, they use social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to learn more about potential buyers and gain real-time insights into what they’re interested in — giving rise to the term “social selling.”

According to a recent survey by LinkedIn, more than 70% of sales professionals said they use these social selling tools, making them the most widely used sales technology. Moreover, 90% of the best-performing salespeople said they use them, while nearly 50% of the respondents said they spend at least three hours a week in those apps. Perhaps it explains why Benioff tried so hard to buy LinkedIn earlier this year.

Salesforce actually published a blog post in 2014 emphasizing the importance of Twitter in selling. It cites things like engagement and lead generation as reasons for Twitter’s effectiveness, calling it the “largest cocktail party in the world.”

Twitter’s massive amount of data could, of course, be used to immediately boost Salesforce’s artificial-intelligence and machine-learning capabilities. Salesforce just rolled out a new AI feature this week called Einstein.

But any person engaged in selling to big companies know the value of Twitter. Vineet Jain, CEO of Egnyte, said Twitter is becoming a valuable tool to his company, which sells cloud storage software to some of the largest companies in the world, like Nasdaq, Ikea, and Red Bull.

“Twitter has made an unintentional impact on the sales side of business, which may be what Salesforce is most intrigued by at this point. Because sales has evolved to a much more personal experience now, I would say that behind LinkedIn, Twitter has become the most widely adopted social tool for salespeople to qualify, prospect, and create conversations with potential customers,” Jain told Business Insider.

It’s also worth noting that Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff didn’t flat-out deny his interest in buying Twitter when Business Insider asked about it in August, after Salesforce bought Quip. Although Benioff made it clear that he couldn’t comment on any potential acquisition activity, he did say Salesforce would continue to look for companies to buy.

“Whenever there’s an opportunity that we feel benefits Salesforce and our customers, we will always do whatever we can to make an acquisition happen. We love being able to take on the risk of an acquisition because many of them become really successful,” Benioff told Business Insider at the time.

Salesforce declined to comment on this story.

Yet Wall Street doesn’t seem too excited about Salesforce’s interest in Twitter. Salesforce shares are down 5% as of Friday afternoon.

“I think it would be an unnecessarily expensive and risky transaction for Salesforce, particularly given the pivot in Twitter’s own business to build up the media side of its business,” Tom Roderick, a Stifel analyst, told Business Insider.