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  • Writer's pictureMichael Venman

Purposeful Duplicates in Salesforce

I started working with a client and they had an interesting set up, so interesting that it reminded me of my first ever time ploughing through the challenge of tracking my Revenue Funnel.

I'd been working at an online job site (to remain nameless...) and had just moved into my first Sales Manager role. We had recently grown to 20 sales reps and tracking the success rate of the contacts we were working became the challenge of the moment. At the time I was working with a Consulting firm to help me realize our vision, and I suggested we opt for to create a lead from existing contacts every time a sales process begins. I wanted to see the funnel in one place and easily identifying my conversion rates. I wanted it for reporting and process consistency.

This can be defined either as a Sales person beginning to prospect or a Marketing Qualified Lead, but the end result is the same. When you start to track the top of the funnel (the beginning of your sales process) you create a lead, then use the Lead to Opportunity Conversion Report to see the full conversion flow. If you are diligent with your process, and EVERY new sale begins at Leads, it's amazing to see how easy the reporting can be.

Although... I ran into some problems. Eventually these would lead me to tear this system apart and return to the traditional Salesforce methodology (Lead -> Contact/Account -> Opportunity). This was a very costly mistake as it kept my sales team from getting into a rhythm with how I was asking them to work within the tool.

Technical Salesforce infrastructure

The first issue that came up was that... well... Salesforce isn't built this way. Ensuring that all the gaps plugged and that the Lead record, and contact record were updated to note whether there was an ACTIVE lead (definitions tbd of course) and the Contact should be ignored was terribly difficult to keep consistent. Creating processes to ignore targeted duplicates and to retain historical duplicate leads became a nightmare as finding specific records became a challenge. Finally, the use cases around deletion (this was 10 years ago) required APEX which became a fixed piece of architecture I couldn't manage.

My Salesforce Consultant, to their credit, did exactly what I'd asked for, but it ended up creating more "technical" debt that then needed to be replaced. Later I'd think back on this moment when I wanted to call a client "dumb ass" for an idea they insist on and don't see the impact of. I wish mine would have done that with me, so now I make sure to speak my mind (maybe without the name calling).

Integrations with Marketing Automation Tools

Our next challenge was the Integrations to Marketing Automation Tools. By default, they will use the email address as the id of the record, so having multiple lead records (non-converted) and a contact became a tough challenge. You can customize an automation to ensure the correct record is synced to your MAP, but this then abandons the Contact record and now you have a record in SFDC that "should" be integrated... but is not.

Campaign visibility on a lead also cannot be seen fully, as the campaign memberships are split across the duplicate leads. When a lead converts, their campaign membership automatically is added to the Contact, but if Leads are being abandoned, those campaign interactions won't get to the Contact.

Seeing the pre-sales funnel (generally we build this as Prospect/Respondent prior to the MQL funnel stage) is very difficult to make consistent and can be reported on in the lead creation process, but is itself non-linear. In addition, creating any sort of Lead Nurturing or warming process can be a large challenge.

Cross-Sells/Up-Sells and Account Based Sales

One of the key benefits to working with an existing customer to upsell, is having the account level visibility on a contact to make the most attractive pitch. When associated to an Account, you can see other contact relationships, other deals that have been won and lost, and the internal working team who may have context. When you limit your view to a small window (the lead object) you miss a ton of context.

Looking back, this could be solved as removing the lead duplication process for Up-Sells/Cross-Sells (creating an Amendment Opportunity instead), but this limited the ability of my sales reps to effectively sell, defeating the point of having a reporting infrastructure in the first place. Either way... that's another tough part


Purposeful Duplicates is a great idea for transactional sales, but as soon as the business shifts to a GTM strategy that requires greater context or complexity, there is a costly and time consuming change to move from it. If you are considering it, I'd offer the advice of thinking about your business and whether it will change from transactional to complex. It can provide very easy funnel tracking, but you sacrifice architectural flexibility at scale to pivot should things change.


The Sales Nerd is a GTM Systems consulting firm that specializes in rearchitecting Sales and Marketing Funnels in your CRM and MAP. We've seen many types of challenging puzzles, and love to geek out of them, so please reach out if you have one to share.


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