You’re on a mission to help sales land and expand into global accounts — without bumping heads with each other along the way. When they sell into global enterprise accounts, they need a clear view of corporate family trees.
So, you decide that it’s finally time to build account hierarchies in Salesforce.
Making the decision was the easy part. But there are plenty of things to keep in mind.
Where do you start? What are your options? How do you avoid putting in hundreds of hours, development resources, and years of technical debt into your company’s Salesforce org?
Here is what you need to know before building account hierarchies in Salesforce.
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Hierarchy data ≠ account hierarchies in Salesforce
One of the biggest mistakes we see across revenue operations and sales teams is assuming that having account hierarchy data is the same thing as having account hierarchies in Salesforce.
Buying account data from a third-party data provider such as Dun & Bradstreet, ZoomInfo, or Leadspace is a fantastic start — but it doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to visualize an account’s corporate hierarchy in Salesforce. This is because third-party data providers aren’t able to create lookups in the Parent ID field at scale.
Think of it this way. When you’re building a house, you need different materials like bricks, lumber, and cement. But having those individual materials doesn’t mean that you have a house – without a builder, you only have those materials.
Third-party data from providers act as fantastic materials. But automated account data management tools like Complete Hierarchies are the builders that turn your materials into an incredible home.
Before you start building, think about how you’ll connect the third-party data to your Salesforce accounts:
- Will you create lookups in the native Parent Account field?
- Will you need to create custom lookup fields to understand the hierarchy in Salesforce?
- What will happen to your hierarchy in Salesforce when third-party data changes?
Understanding the limitations of account hierarchies in native Salesforce
Salesforce’s native data architecture comes with inherent limitations and it’s important to understand how they may impact your team.
First, Salesforce only allows you to store one version of a hierarchy. While in reality, most teams need to see account relationships in a multi-dimensional way. For example, a company’s legal structure will likely differ from how a sales team sells into the account (i.e. known as a Sales GTM hierarchy) and it’s important to be able to visualize both without leaving your CRM.
Next, Salesforce requires a child account to be linked directly to a parent account then that account to its parent, and so on. We call this process “chain linking”.
When you’re building a multi-level hierarchy in Salesforce, all of the parent accounts must be in Salesforce. If even one parent account is missing, the following scenarios can happen.
Missing Link: If you don’t link the right accounts together, you will have an incomplete hierarchy.
Missing Account: If a parent account doesn’t exist in Salesforce, you will have an incomplete hierarchy.
Bad Link: If a user incorrectly links an account to the wrong parent then opportunities will be missed.
Any of these scenarios can have a major impact on your sales team. For starters, if a global ultimate parent account doesn’t exist in Salesforce, then linking subsidiaries isn’t possible.
Take the example below where the global ultimate parent account is missing. A sales rep won’t be able to see that Google LLC and Youtube LLC belong under the Alphabet Inc. umbrella. In turn, this can lead to missed selling opportunities or even worse, sales rep conflicts.
Similarly, this can also affect sales operations. If Alphabet’s subsidiaries are not connected, then it becomes both difficult and time-consuming to build a roll-up report that captures key metrics across the entire family tree.
3 ways to build account hierarchies in Salesforce
With these limitations in mind, what options are available when it comes to building account hierarchies in Salesforce?
1. Manual chain linking
The first is to manually chain link accounts to build an account hierarchy. The challenge here is that it’s slow and requires frequent updates because a user would be required to link accounts together one by one.
Other limitations with manual chain linking include human error, trying to understand which account is correct if duplicate accounts exist, the drastic amount of time that it takes, and having to keep account hierarchies up to date if mergers, acquisitions, or changes in data occur.
“Trying to rely on your sales organization and all the different people that are inputting manually into the system to actually accurately create a hierarchy of accounts and maintain that data is a very unreasonable and very time consuming request that will never materialize to what you want.”
Rusty Jensen, Head of Global ISR Sales, Conga.
2. Automated chain linking
Automated chain linking can be done using Salesforce Flow or a third-party data orchestration tool.
While this process is more sophisticated and less time-consuming than manual chain linking, it doesn’t overcome the limitations of Salesforce’s data architecture because it still relies on the native Parent ID field.
With this method Salesforce Flow or the data orchestration tool will refer to a third-party database and stamp the correct account in the Parent ID field – but only if the parent account already exists in Salesforce.
This is because these tools are only able to connect newly created child accounts to an existing parent account. It cannot create a parent account and link it to an existing child account. This means if the parent doesn’t exist, then an account needs to be manually created.
In many instances, if the account hierarchy is multiple levels, this will result in a proliferation of unnecessary accounts to reach the global ultimate parent which leads to an increase in records under management (RUM) costs, processing resources, and clutter for the sales team.
“We have very heavy account hierarchy and complex assignment rules, further complicated by nested hierarchies and rollups. We had written a lot of our requirements in Salesforce with formulas, flows and rollups but we were hitting resource limitations and our instance was very slow.”
Jamie J., G2 Review for Traction Complete
And to make matters worse, this will only leave you with a single hierarchy.
3. Full hierarchy automation
What does it look like when you have excellent materials and a tool that builds it all for you? That’s exactly what happens when you pair account hierarchy data with Complete Hierarchies.
Complete Hierarchies is an AppExchange solution that is engineered from 14+ years of consulting experience understanding the unique data challenges of Salesforce users.
The tool utilizes a different data architecture to overcome the limitations of native Salesforce and provide users with full hierarchy automation. Complete Hierarchies allow accounts within a hierarchy to be associated, even with missing accounts, linkages, or global ultimate parents. This means you can build accurate hierarchies without the need to have every account in your Salesforce org.
“We needed a smarter way to visualize our accounts, roll up metrics, and display contacts based on where they work. Complete Hierarchies gave us what we needed at a fraction of the cost of developing it.”
– Gabe D., AppExchange Review for Traction Complete
Complete Hierarchies is the tool that builds your structure. And it’s backed up with fantastic materials – your third-party data provider, which acts as a source of truth.
Ready to realize the true potential of account hierarchies?
- With Complete Hierarchies, you can remove up to 80% of the manual work required to build and maintain accurate account hierarchies in Salesforce with automation.
- Then, once you’ve laid the foundation of legal hierarchies, you can customize multiple hierarchies using the drag-and-drop interface to reflect your unique GTM needs.
- If you’re ready to provide your sales reps with 360-degree visibility into account structures, never miss another cross-sell or upsell opportunity, and report across multi-level hierarchies with ease, book a demo to see what Complete Hierarchies can do for you.