You may have never heard of Introhive, but the social selling startup is on Salesforce.com's radar screen. The Washington-based innovator announced that Salesforce is among the investors in its latest round of funding.

Other investors include Build Ventures, CIT GAP, Fortify VC, Growthworks Atlantic and NBIF. Introhive did not disclose the exact amount of the funding, but some news report speculate the CRM Relevant Products/Services giant has pitched in $5 million. Founded in 2012, Introhive raised an initial $1.5 million from Build Ventures in June of this year.

"We think social selling is about effectively leveraging the strength of enterprise Relevant Products/Services relationships and managing them in a practical way that brings results," said Jody Glidden, co-founder and CEO of Introhive. "Our customers are seeing great value from the platform. This investment will help us get it in front of more like-minded companies sooner."

Making Social Selling Real

Introhive positions itself as making social selling "real" for companies. Here's how it works: The software Relevant Products/Services-as-a-service application analyzes a company's employee communications privately and securely. At the same time, the software layers on social connections to create an enterprise-wide view of existing relationships with customers and prospects.

Essentially, the software works to leverage this relationship knowledge to improve sales hiring, prospecting, territory assignment, renewals and lead scoring. The promised result: increased effectiveness within the entire sales process.

Introhive reports that its platform is establishing solid traction with customers that see clear ROI in the social selling product. The company expects the new funding to help it accelerate business Relevant Products/Services growth and expand sales and marketing Relevant Products/Services activities.

Introhive gained some traction as part of the Salesforce AppExchange. The company was also named as a semi-finalist of the CRM Idol awards and to the shortlist for PwC's Vision to Reality awards.

Will Salesforce Buy Introhive?

"When I first heard about this investment I wondered if Salesforce was ditching its efforts with Chatter and trying to acquire another company to replace it. But I don't think Introhive will replace anything Salesforce is doing with Chatter," Brad Shimmin, a principal analyst at Current Analysis, told us. "This is a specific use case that's designed to basically help you make introductions to prospects in a nice, gentle manner."

Shimmin said Introhive is a mechanism that could help deepen Salesforce.com's capabilities using social tools and techniques. He sees social selling on the same trajectory as CRM and social marketing, as it's based on the same ideology. But the larger question is, will Salesforce snap up the company like it did Radian 6 and Buddy Media to add to its collection?

"Just as Google does, Salesforce is investing in companies that may or may not eventually be acquisition targets because they make the overall platform better," Shimmin said. "It's simply ensuring that there's continued innovation along an important line of capability associated with their overall collaborative aspects within their line of business apps."