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Time Estimate

Understand Account and Contact Relationships

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Understand different types of relationships your accounts and contacts can have.
  • Relate a single contact to multiple accounts.
  • Create a hierarchy among related accounts.
  • Set up an account team.

Three Key Account and Contact Relationships

You’re preparing to meet with Alan and Leung from Get Cloudy Consulting. You’ve done your research in reviewing their company’s history with Cloud Kicks. Now make sure that you understand how the people, their company, and your team fit together. Understanding the relationships between contacts, accounts, and your sales team helps you close deals more effectively and efficiently.

There are three types of relationships between people and the accounts that you’re tracking. Each type of relationship offers a different view into your business.

  1. Relationships between companies (accounts) and the people who work at them (contacts). Relationships between your customers (accounts) and other customers (other accounts).
  2. By relating a contact to more than one account (called Contacts to Multiple Accounts), you can track relationships between people and the companies they work with. Knowing whether a contact has an indirect relationship with Get Cloudy can help move the deal forward.
  3. Relationships between customers (accounts) and coworkers who deal with them (other Salesforce users). Finally, account teams show which sales reps are working on the Get Cloudy deal. Using account teams can help you coordinate better with your sales reps.

Contacts to Multiple Accounts

Your contacts might work with more than one company. A business owner might own more than one company, or a consultant might work on behalf of multiple organizations. Your relationships may be complicated, but keeping tabs on them doesn’t need to be.

When you relate a single contact to multiple accounts, you can easily track the relationships between people and businesses without creating duplicate records. The relationship rules are still simple. Every contact needs to be directly associated with an account. This is the account that appears in Account Name and is usually the company the contact is most closely associated with.

Any other accounts associated with the contact represent indirect relationships. The Related Contacts list view lets you view current and past relationships, and capture unique and custom details about these relationships so you always know who you’re talking to—or who you should be talking to.

Watch the video below to see how easy it is to record exactly how your contacts are related to each account they work with.


For your company to relate contacts to multiple accounts, an administrator must enable Contacts to Multiple Accounts.

Use Relationship Details to Help Close Deals

In preparation for your meeting with Get Cloudy, you check the account record and review the list of contacts. Alan and Leung, who you’ve already been in contact with, are listed, along with their titles and roles. If your company uses Contacts to Multiple Accounts, you might notice that James Gordan is also listed.

The Contacts to Multiple Accounts list shows both direct and indirect contacts for an account.

Although Get Cloudy isn’t the account listed on his contact record, he’s consulted for Get Cloudy and might be worth reaching out to. To accurately represent the relationships your company maintains, you can modify the values in the Roles field and even create custom fields, such as a checkbox to denote the main contact for the account.

Define Company Relationships with Account Hierarchies

Alan and Leung work at the Get Cloudy corporate office in Boulder. But you see several other accounts with similar names: Get Cloudy East, Get Cloudy West, and Get Cloudy Canada. In the Get Cloudy West account record, the main Get Cloudy office is listed as the Parent Account.

How are all these companies related? Are you going to have to dig through every single record to find out? That could take a lot of time!

If you’ve recorded the Parent Account for each account that has one, Salesforce can generate a family tree for your account. The hierarchy shows this relationship for the Get Cloudy accounts.

The account hierarchy for Get Cloudy Consulting.

To view an account’s hierarchy, click the Accounts tab and select an account. Click the hierarchy icon next to the account name.

Best Practices for Establishing Account Hierarchies

You have two basic choices when you’re deciding how to establish accounts for businesses with multiple locations.

Global Enterprise Account

You could establish one global account and link all contacts, opportunities, cases, and so on to that single overarching account. Using one global account makes it easy to find that account’s records and to report on that account at the enterprise level. But it’s harder to manage a large mass of information, and not being able to easily view the big picture might make it hard to see what each location needs from you for your relationship to be successful.

Location-Specific Accounts

Establish accounts for each location and create contacts, opportunities, cases, and so on separately for each location. With this option, you maintain more accounts and need to set up a few more complex reports to get the big picture. But using multiple accounts means you can take advantage of account ownership, hierarchies, specific sharing settings, and more granular reporting. You can also more easily track and report on opportunities, cases, and other interactions for each account.

We recommend establishing accounts for each separate location, rather than squeezing all locations into a single global account. This arrangement lets you concentrate on customer success in each location while still giving you the ability to put the big picture together.

Define Employee Roles with Account Teams

Unless your company is small, it’s likely that more than one person works with each account. For example, the team of employees for an account might include a sales rep, sales manager, support agent, support manager, and marketing personnel. You set up the sales team for accounts you own.

An account with its account team.

With account teams, you can enable the appropriate access to different account roles. Each person on an account team can be assigned different roles and different levels of access to the account and its opportunities and cases. For example, the support agent can see and edit cases tied to the account. The Account Teams feature isn’t set up automatically. An administrator must turn it on and set up the roles that each team member can be assigned.

To make account teams faster to use, you can set up your own personal Default Account Team in your personal settings. Default Teams are a shortcut that saves you from having to enter the same members into the same form over and over again. If the same people usually work together, create a default account team and assign them to it. Then, add the entire default team to your account by selecting Add Default Team from the Account Team related list action menu. You can even set Salesforce to add your default account team every time and eliminate the need to click buttons at all. Visit Setting Up Default Account Teams to find out how.

The account hierarchy shows what companies Get Cloudy is affiliated with. Perhaps Get Cloudy has a parent company that you’ve already done business with.


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