Best practices for managing account types in Salesforce

With recent trend of using CRMs for more than sales within Quote-to-Cash (QTC), handling multiple account types (e.g., customers, suppliers, partners, resellers, competitors, etc.) becomes important.

In many cases, a single account can play multiple roles at the same time — this poses a challenge for CRMs which are historically geared towards sales and handling customer accounts only (or customers with minor variations like Customer – Direct, Customer – Channel, etc.).

For example, for wholesale telecommunications, providers are typically customers and vendors for each other, so accounts often have dual roles.

This creates the following implementation requirements for the CRM:

  1. Each account type is different, i.e., has somewhat different data points that need to be viewed differently (as account management and vendor management teams will usually be different).
  2. Still, some information is common (billing addresses, account numbers, contacts, etc.)
  3. Having a single account record is beneficial (all contacts in one place, 360° view of sold and purchased items, etc.) as opposed to creating duplicates for each account type.

This post outlines possible approaches to the multi-role account implementation using Salesforce; however, most solutions will apply to any modern CRM.

Type drop-down/picklist

The simplest, starter scenario to handle multiple account types in CRM is to use a Type drop-down/picklist field.

This field is standard for most CRMs and can be customized to hold required values. To support accounts of multiple types at the same time, Type can be converted into a multi-selection picklist.

Standard Salesforce account type
Standard Salesforce account type

This solution will display a single layout for each account but will enable creation of list views for particular account types such as ‘Resellers’, ‘Customers’, etc.

Good for Account types that are very similar (a few different fields) with identical on-screen presentation.

Using record types

Record types can be thought of as special master fields identifying record sub-types. Record types can drive data visualization (page layouts), allowed picklist values, actions, process flows and others. Record types can be easily added to standard Salesforce accounts.

Record types can be used to define account types such as Customer, Reseller, Supplier and assign different page layouts, fields, picklist values, etc. to each account type. This is great; however, when an account plays two roles at the same time, two separate records need to be created leading to data duplication.

Good for Very different data points & visualization, but accounts not playing multiple roles (or there is little overlap, so duplication of account records, e.g., as a vendor and a customer is acceptable).

Single record type with multiple page layouts/apps/lightning pages

When keeping information in a single record is a priority, but different viewing “modes” are required, this can be achieved by using profiles, apps, lighting pages and page layouts.

In that case, how an account is viewed would be determined by user profile, e.g., sales team sees account as a customer, a vendor relations team as a vendor, etc.

Good for Organizations having teams working predominantly with one account type.

Automated establishing of account type

So far, we assumed that the type of account is known up-front. However, a different approach is also possible — determining account type based on other information in the system. For example:

  • if an account has at least one closed-won opportunity it is an customer,
  • if an account is a vendor on a product item, it is a vendor.

For example, Nextian calculates account, reseller and vendor automatically based on subscription service data:

Nextian account roles


As a rule of the thumb, if each account plays exactly one role use record types, otherwise use profiles or other means to create different views — usually a combination of approaches outlined above will be the optimal solution.

Nextian is a vendor of Quote-to-Cash (QTC) software for cloud and communications helping providers accelerate growth and increase customer lifetime value.

Contact us today to find out how we can help you!

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