Overview of Leads, Account and Contacts – The Salesforce Data Model

In this episode of the ShellBlack Whiteboard, Shell introduces the concept of Leads, Accounts and Contacts and how they differ in Salesforce data model. Shell discusses the best practice for dealing with companies with multiple locations and the importance of nesting Contacts under the Accounts. Additionally Shell touches on how to use the Account Site field and how Salesforce is an "Account Centric" database.

View this video on YouTube: http://youtu.be/dZJI2ZDMGQs

Part two of this segment Lead Status, Qualification and Conversion

Transcription of the video:

Welcome everyone to ShellBlack Whiteboard. I’m Shell Black, President and Founder of ShellBlack.com and Salesforce MVP. We’re going to make a two part episode of this because Leads is a big topic, so I’m going to give you an idea of what we’re going to get into.

In the first segment what we are going to go over is really the dictionary definitions of what is a Lead, what is an Account, what is a Contact and really understand the differences in the data model between Leads and Accounts and Contacts. In our second part of this series, we’re going to get into qualification, the conversion process, we’re going to talk about when to convert, should you convert early or late in your process and we’re going to answer the age old question that comes up a lot, especially on success, https://success.salesforce.com/answers and the community is, “Do I have to use Leads?” – so stay tuned for that answer in the second segment.

Okay, so with this first part, let’s get into it. A Lead is a record that contains two bits of information. It contains some information about a company and it has fields that contain information about a person. So, think of it as a business card. A lot of people use this analogy and I think it is very appropriate. When you get a business card at a meeting or a trade show, you have information about the company. Acme is the company, their website and you have information about that person, John Doe, maybe their cell phone, maybe their email information about that person. In the lead side of the fence, I’m going to have this kind of demarcation line here, but on the lead side of the fence, the data model is very simple. There is no good way to relate one lead to another Lead, so think of them all swimming around in a fishbowl. In Salesforce speak, one is not more important to the other. You have yet to determine that until you start qualifying, which is part two.

So, let’s talk about what is an Account and what is a Contact. There is a tab in Salesforce for Leads and there is a tab that you see for Accounts and Contacts. An Account is a business entity, it’s a company, so if it has a mailing address and that’s kind of a good rule of thumb to think about, if there’s a mailing address, it’s probably an Account and what Salesforce wants you to do is when you are working with Contacts is to nest those people, those Contacts where they work. So if this is Acme, the global headquarters and these people work at this location, you are going to associate these Contacts with this Account. You may have multiple Accounts for a single company. You’re thinking that sounds a little bit odd, but let’s talk about physical location. So if this is the global headquarters for Acme in Chicago and we have a Dallas office with a different physical address and you know people that work at this different location, you want to put those Contacts into a separate Account in the database. Nest the people where they work, so you know when you’re calling on these Contacts, they work at this location and you’re calling on these Contacts, they work at this location. You can tie those together a couple of different ways. You can use the parent Account, which creates a hierarchy relationship between them so you know that this is the global headquarters.

The other thing that you can do to help make it easier on your users is there is a field called “Account Site” which is typically a location. So, Acme is the name of the company, the Account Site field is global headquarters, Chicago, this is Acme, the account name in the database with Dallas as the site field to know that this is a different physical location that that. Main thing to know, best rule of thumb: different address, make a different Account. Nest the people that work at those locations under that Account. Real quickly, you’ve noticed this is a much more complex and robust data model than the Leads bucket. It’s an account centric data model where basically, in Salesforce speak, the Account is really the center of the universe, the top of the food chain in the data model and things are below that, typically in the database. You can have as many Contacts as you want. You can have 10,000 contacts at one company. Salesforce can handle it. You can also have as many Opportunities associated with that Account as you would like. You can have custom objects, but they all kind of circle back and nest under this Account again kind of the top of the food chart.

So this is a very structured database model in terms of leads where there is no good way to associate that I know five people who work at the same company in the Lead side of the house. One thing that you’ll find out is that you can move a Lead into an Account and Contact through this process called conversion using the convert button. That will change the data model of this record when it comes across the fence almost like a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly. It will change the record structure when you convert from a single record into multiple records. When you convert Acme the company becomes an Account, John Doe the person becomes a Contact and potentially during that conversion process, you can create an Opportunity. So the conversion process really moves information over to this other side of the fence where you’re dealing with Accounts and Contacts, and Leads is again this kind of fishbowl. Typically Leads are a bucket where you’re prospecting and trying to determine if this person is a good fit for what you do and that’s really kind of our segue into the next topic which is the conversion process, the timing of that conversion process, what makes something qualified or a good fit for your company as well as answering the age old question on “Do I have to use Leads?” There might be a situation where that doesn’t make sense.

Thank you for tuning in. You can reach us a couple of different ways. I’m on Twitter @Shell_Black. You can also email us at whiteboard@shellblack.com which goes to me. I hope you enjoyed this first part. Look for another segment of ShellBlack Whiteboard on Lead conversion and the rest of the Lead process.

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