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SUCCESS INSIGHTS: Leads or Contacts - Which is Right for my Organization?

Knowledge Article Number 000212710
Not all organizations utilize the Leads Object within Salesforce, and some customers have been wildly successful through utilizing Contacts instead of Leads. There are valid use cases for a Salesforce implementation that uses Contacts exclusively or Contacts in conjunction with Leads. Here are the pros and cons associated with both approaches:

Pros and Cons of Using Contacts Exclusively:
  • Tasks could be created and associated with Contact records, and Record Types could be created specifically for these Tasks. Page Layouts could be used in conjunction with the new Record Types to ensure that the existing Task Page Layout is preserved, and Reports that specify the new Record Type as criteria could be run.
  • Many contacts can be associated with a single account, and the team could easily keep track of all contacts - whether the contact is a person or a company, along with when they were last contacted. This would give multiple teams a 360 degree view of Contact-related activities, whereas Lead activities do not always offer the same level of visibility.
  • A lookup field could be created on the Person Account to indicate whether that person has an associated business contact record. Once that is built, a Custom Report could be created and provided to an inside sales team to show a linkage between B2B and B2C contacts.
  • Contacts can be associated with Campaigns as a Campaign Member.
  • Assignment Rules only work with Lead (and Case) records. If your organization ultimately wishes to automate the assignment process down the road, additional work would need to be performed - whether its in the form of Workflow rules, Apex triggers or both. 
  • When Opportunities are created directly from Contacts, Conversion Reports will not be available out of the box like they would be for Lead Conversion.
  • Duplicate contacts could still exist and will need to be resolved manually.
  • Who sees what - contact visibility is tied to account visibility and your organization's Org Wide Defaults, and the Sharing Model must be taken into consideration.
  • Additional custom fields may need to be added to the Contact records to indicate whether a given Contact has been qualified and to what extent.
Pros and Cons of Utilizing both Leads and Contacts Simultaneously:
  • Leads can quickly capture fields that matter to the Sales and Marketing teams most across multiple channels. Once they are created, they can be assigned quickly to an individual or a queue using Lead Assignment rules. 
  • Auto-Response Rules can be created to acknowledge the receipt of new Leads through the Web-To-Lead form.
  • Leads can be easily converted to Contacts and Accounts along with an associated Opportunity (optional).
  • "Unread by Owner" feature would allow your organization's users to view a list of unread leads that they own. A lead will only be considered "Read" when the owner of that lead views / edits that lead in the UI. It will remain "Unread" even if someone other than the owner views or edits the lead record, and once it has been "Read", it will come off the list view My Unread Leads.
  • Campaigns - new Leads can be imported and associated to a campaign at the same time. When the imported Leads are created to Opportunities, ROI reports can be run out of the box. Those Leads can be mass emailed, and list views can be created by Campaign to track Lead progress.
  • Despite your best efforts, lead data will get dirty due to prospects’ job changes, human error, and duplicate or incomplete submissions. Although users may need to spend a few more clicks upfront, but those clicks will help ensure that your organization's data is input in a clean manner going forward.
  • If Lead Conversion is used, your organization's Salesforce Administrator will need to perform a one-time mapping of Custom Lead Fields to associated Account, Contact and Opportunity records each time a new Custom Lead Field is created.

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