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4 standard objects you need to know to use Salesforce

Dec 21, 2015 | Admin, Advisory Services, Latest News, Sales Cloud

If you’re new to Salesforce, it can seem a bit…overwhelming. You know it’s incredibly powerful, transforming how sales, marketing, fulfillment, and customer service teams (really the majority of your business teams) work, but in the eternal words of Uncle Ben from Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

standard objectsLuckily, Salesforce doesn’t have to be complex. Like most things in life, we have a tendency to make it harder than it needs to be. By building a solid foundation of the basics, Salesforce becomes much easier to understand. For example, an object “allows you to store information in your Salesforce organization. The object is the overall definition of the type of information you are storing. For example, the case object allow you to store information regarding customer inquiries. For each object, your organization will have multiple records that store the information about specific instances of that type of data.” Let’s break that down. Basically, the object is the “type” of data you’re storing. For example, if you have a contact named John Smith, the actual data (or record) is John Smith and all the information you’ve attached to him, but the object that the John Smith record is attached to is a contact. Still lost? Take a look at the diagram.

A full list of standard objects can be found here, but below are the four most common types that will get your sales team up and running quickly.


1. Lead

Since most businesses need revenue to survive, sales is normally very important. If your business is very sales focused, leads will be one of the most first standard objects you’ll need to know. In its simplest definition, a lead is a “sales prospect who has expressed interest in your product or company.” This prospect has taken the first steps to show interest in working with you, but that interest hasn’t been fully established. It is a combination of an individual and company. You can gather leads from a variety of sources–purchase them, collect business cards at a trade show, or have visitors fill out a form on your website. The lead fields contain an individual’s name, company name, and contact information, among other data. Like business cards thrown into a fishbowl at a trade show, leads do not lend themselves to establishing a hierarchy of any kind.

When a lead is converted, account, contact, opportunity (optional), and task (optional) records are created.

Some of the key fields of the lead object include the following:

  • Name. This is the person’s name. This field becomes the contact name upon conversion.


  • Company. This is the name of the company the individual works for. This field becomes Account name after the lead is converted.


  • Lead Source. The information on where the lead was collected (e.g., Web, Social Media, Referral, etc.). This field is transferred, under the same name, to the contact object that is created during conversion.


  • Lead Status. This field tracks the life cycle of the lead, showing where the lead is in the qualification process (e.g., Not Contacted, Attempting Contact, Contacted, Disqualified, etc.).


  • Industry. The industry in which the individual and company operate, (e.g., Health Care, Marketing, Education, etc.). This field is transferred to the new account object upon conversion, under the same name.


  • Fields that contain contact information, such as address, email, fax, phone number, etc. The data from these fields is transferred to both Account and Contact objects when a lead is converted.


2. Account

The Account object is probably the next most important standard object you need to know. An account is an organization. This can be just about any kind of organization that is somehow involved with your business–your current customers, companies that wish to buy your goods/services, businesses that you’ve partnered with, competitors, or non-profit entities. Unlike with the Lead object, hierarchies can be created within the Account object.. This is very important, as an Account may have multiple contacts, locations, cases, or opportunities attached to it. Here are some of the important fields to track in the Account object:

  • Name. This field refers to the name of the company or organization.


  • Industry. As with the lead object, this field indicates the industry the company or organization works in.


  • Type. Allows for a way to further classify the commercial/non-profit entity (e.g., partner, reseller, customer, and so on).


  • Fields that contain billing and shipping information.


3. Contact.

The standard object Contact indicates a person who is associated with an account. For example, an employee would be the contact while the company the employee works for would be the account. Some of the important fields in this object include the following:

  • Name. This is simply the contact’s name.


  • Account Name. This is the company name in the form of a link to the account record that the contact is associated with.


  • Lead Source. This field tracks where the lead came from and is transferred from the Lead object upon conversion.


  • Fields that contain contact information.


4. Opportunity.

While the Opportunity object is optional when converting a lead, this standard object is where a lot of organizations spend the majority of their time. There is good reason for that. An opportunity refers to a sale or pending deal. If you think of sales as a path, the opportunity is the step after a lead. So why is the opportunity record optional? The main idea here is that there are times when someone may become associated with your business, but there is no intention of ever selling anything to them. For example, let’s say that you meet John Smith from XYZ company at an event. You enter John in as a lead, but as conversation progresses, it is determined that XYZ company would be a perfect partner for your business. At this point, you don’t want to lose John’s information, but you don’t plan on selling to XYZ company. This would be a perfect time to convert John from a lead into a contact and XYZ company into an account, but have no opportunity created. However, if there’s money on the table, a lead record converts into an opportunity, as well as a contact and an account. Some of the key opportunity fields include:

  • Opportunity name. If opportunity is created upon conversion of a lead, the opportunity name is automatically created in the format of “Account Name–”. One note here: it’s good practice to come up with a standardized naming convention that makes sense for your business. A lot of businesses append the name of the product being sold after the company name and the dash (e.g., Acme Inc.– 300 Dell LCD Monitors). If the name of the opportunity is the same as the name of the account, then reporting gets confusing.


  • Close Date. This refers to your best guess of when deal will close.


  • Stage. This shows where the potential deal is in the sales process. Is it in Product Demo, Negotiations, or Contract Review? This field is associated with Probability Percent (likelihood of closing a deal), Forecast Category (used in the forecasting module), and Stage (e.g., Open, Closed Won, Closed Lost) fields.


  • Amount. This refers to what the deal is worth. You should enter an exact number if you know it or your best guess.


  • Next step. This field refers to what needs to be done to move the deal to the next stage–hopefully Closed Won.


There are a lot of objects in Salesforce (hundreds if you include both standard objects and custom objects), but having a working knowledge of these four standard objects will give you a great start. Just like perfecting any skill. build a solid foundation first. Master the standard objects, learn how to best use them, and soon your business will be converting leads, working opportunities, and enjoying accurate reports.


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