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Salesforce expands integration with Outlook email to help sales reps

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(Bloomberg) — Inc. is taking another step forward in its partnership with Microsoft Corp., expanding integration with the Outlook email program to help sales representatives streamline tasks such as scheduling meetings and responding to messages.

With the new SalesforceIQ Inbox for Outlook application, Salesforce is folding its predictive technology into an email service that has more than 400 million users. The app will let executives work directly from within Outlook on their desktop computers, boosting productivity by automating key steps while interacting with their customers.

Email continues to be a crucial tool used by sales representatives when they’re trying to land a deal, said Steve Loughlin, chief executive officer of the SalesforceIQ unit.

“There are all these data sources that sales reps are trying to access — they’re drowning in the information,” Loughlin said. “This is a way to pull it all together into a single place and deliver it where they are working.”

Salesforce is extending the reach of machine-learning technology after acquiring RelateIQ for $390 million in 2014. With Inbox, predictive tools are folded into Outlook to erase manual steps. For example, the program can juggle potential meeting times inside emails — automatically adjusting open calendar spots as they fill up before emails are returned. Users should expect more products from the new unit, said Mike Rosenbaum, Salesforce’s executive vice president of customer relationship-management applications.

“There’s more to come, more to do, as we start to see what’s possible when we apply these techniques to CRM data,” Rosenbaum said.

Previously, SalesforceIQ Inbox was available on Apple Inc.’s iPhone, enabling Microsoft email users to access the technology. The service has also been integrated with Google’s Gmail on mobile devices and through a software extension on the desktop.

The cooperation between San Francisco-based Salesforce and Microsoft broadens the companies’ growing partnership. About two years ago, the two agreed to make some of their business-software products work better together, signaling a thaw in relations between the longtime rivals.

“A large number of Salesforce’s large customers are on Outlook,” Loughlin said. “This is going to be a huge opportunity.”

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