How to Fix Duplicate Leads in Salesforce

If you’re a veteran Salesforce user, you’ve probably heard a lot about duplicates (often referred to as “dupes” or “dupe records”).

Duplicates plague nearly all Salesforce instances. They are a hot topic in operations, but unfortunately, most small companies fail to get them under control. 

A common request encountered at Iceberg is to “fix our duplicate issue.” One client recently added it to a list of what they considered low-hanging fruit that our team could spend a few extra hours on. But it’s wrong to assume that a duplicate problem is something that can be corrected quickly.

One can’t simply jump in and start merging leads in Salesforce. First, you need to get clear on what you’re looking for, how you’re going to find it, and how to fix it effectively (without destroying the wrong data). 

Let’s dig into what’s typically required to successfully remove duplicate leads in Salesforce.

Featured in this article: how to find and correct duplicate leads in Salesforce.

  1. What are duplicate leads?
  2. How do you find duplicate leads in Salesforce?
  3. How can you remove duplicate leads?
  4. What can you do to prevent future duplicates?

What are duplicate leads?

Before you can start cleaning up your duplicates in Salesforce, you have to decide what a duplicate is (and what it isn’t). You may be thinking, “a duplicate is just two records with the same company or person … right?” The short answer is: Not necessarily. It’s a bit more complicated than that. 

Let’s use accounts as an example. 

  • Scenario 1: You sell ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software to Fortune 100 companies. There’s no reason you would ever intentionally create multiple accounts for a company like GE. In this situation, you could use the Account Name field to check for duplicates. You know that ‘GE’, ‘General Electric’, and ‘GE Inc’ are all duplicates—an easy fix. Crafting your definition of a duplicate will be a relatively straightforward process. 
  • Scenario 2: You sell POS (Point of Sale) systems to individual franchises. There were over 13,000 McDonald’s locations in the US in 2019, so finding two accounts with McDonald’s in the name doesn’t mean you’ve found a duplicate. In this situation, your definition of a duplicate will need to be more complex. 

You will need to construct a clear, written definition of what a duplicate is before moving forward. A “fuzzy” definition won’t cut it. If there is any room for interpretation or subjective judgement, it will be difficult to eliminate duplicates in a programmatic way. Plus most Salesforce instances contain far too much data to rely on case-by-case judgement calls.

Don’t forget to consider cross-object duplicates. If you only think about comparing leads to leads while crafting your definition of a duplicate, you’ll end up only partially cleaning your data. Most Salesforce instances contain lead records that are duplicates of contact or account records. In order to achieve a thorough cleanup, you’ll need to account for these cases, too.

How do you find duplicate leads in Salesforce?

Once you’ve defined what a duplicate is, you’ll need a way to find out which records in your Salesforce instance meet that definition. If you start cleaning before figuring out what sort of duplicate issue you have on your hands, you could expend a lot of energy without putting a dent in the problem. 

At this juncture, you need a tool that can scan your instance, compare records, and tell you which ones meet your criteria. Choosing a tool that can also automatically merge records identified as duplicates can potentially save you a lot of time. The team at Iceberg is impressed with Cloudingo, though there are a number of options available in the retroactive cleanup market.

How can you remove duplicate leads?

Once you’ve identified your duplicate records, you’ll need to conduct retroactive cleaning to sort out the existing mess. For maximum efficiency, use an automated tool like Cloudingo to merge duplicates where appropriate—but be careful with this step. It isn’t possible to reverse a record merge in Salesforce. There are no redos if you make a mistake.

Think through how each rule you include in an automated cleanup could impact your data. When in doubt, be less aggressive. For example, it can be tempting to use a canned rule like “the newest record is the Master record when merged.” But what if there’s bogus or incomplete data in the newest record? A brash rule like this can easily destroy the wrong information.

Pro tip: Before launching the automated cleanup process(es), task someone with performing a few manual checks to catch issues with your rules. A process that contains a mistake could cost you a lot of time cleaning or replacing data.

What can you do to prevent future duplicates?

Some companies might be able to get by simply asking an SFDC admin with operations expertise to run retro cleanups at regular intervals. However, if you’re truly serious about maintaining high quality data in your Salesforce instance, just cleaning up existing records isn’t enough.

With a tool like Cloudingo, you can scan your data and auto-merge duplicates every week, every day, or even every hour. But the trouble with this approach is that a new duplicate can still cause a problem during a small window of time before the next automation runs.

Imagine this: 

You have your daily cleanup automation scheduled to run at midnight. 

Earlier in the day, a decision-maker at an existing account with an important, active opportunity downloads a whitepaper as part of their research. 

This action triggers the creation of a new lead record in Salesforce, but it’s a duplicate of the existing account record. 

The new lead is automatically routed to a Sales Development Rep, who fails to check the system for duplicates (of course, this never happens… right?). 

The SDR contacts the decision maker, which results in an embarrassing conversationand an angry Account Executive.

If you want your Salesforce instance to stay clean enough to avoid awkward scenarios like this, you’ll need to implement a system for real-time cleaning as well. Fortunately, there are technologies available to help with this, too.

Tools like LeanData allow you to create a workflow for your records which can be triggered at specific times, like when a new record is created or when the data in a record is updated. These workflows can be configured to check for duplicates, merge matching records, convert leads, update fields, send email alerts, and more.

A cleaner Salesforce is within reach

No one person, plan, or tool can guarantee a duplicate-free Salesforce instance. But with the right technologies and implementation plan, it’s possible to find and correct the majority of duplications.

A quick recap:

  1. Create a clear and actionable definition of a duplicate
  2. Use your definition to identify your duplicate records
  3. Employ a tool to retroactively clean existing duplicates
  4. Employ a tool to quickly find and fix future duplicates

Need assistance setting up an effective system to catch and clean duplicates in Salesforce? Iceberg’s team of RevOps specialists can help. Contact us today to learn more about how Iceberg can partner with you to implement a plan to get you more reliable data.