We get it. You’re excited to dive into your CRM setup — only to log into Salesforce and discover that there are two separate objects in the CRM that refer to individuals — and then there’s the Account. So you start wondering what to do with each — what’s a Lead object in Salesforce and how do I use it? What about the Contact? 

If you’re anything like us, keep reading. Here’s everything you need to understand in order to get the best use of the Lead object in Salesforce — hint: the answer is likely to not use it at all.

Differences between Leads and Contacts in Salesforce

First things first, what is a Lead in Salesforce? The Lead in Salesforce is the object created when someone fills a form or submits information on your website. A Lead object is a pre-qualified contact with basic information (often their first and last name, and email depending on your form fields) from their first interaction with your business.

On the flip side, a Contact in Salesforce is the record of a person associated with a business account. Both objects are pretty similar. The main difference between leads and contacts is that a contact is a qualified Lead — versus someone who just filled out a form on your website. Your marketing and sales teams use Lead data to evaluate prospects and decide whether or not they’re sales qualified.

So, put simply, a Lead is the early stage of a contact.

When to use the Lead object in Salesforce

Honestly, we say you shouldn’t. One way to streamline your processes is by ditching the Lead object altogether and instead, using the Contact object from the beginning. 

This applies whether you’re using Salesforce alone or the HubSpot Salesforce integration.

How to use Lead objects with the HubSpot Salesforce integration

The short answer is that you probably shouldn’t.

Let’s back up for a second. As we mentioned earlier, the Lead object in Salesforce only contains enough information to give your sales team what they need to identify a sales-qualified lead. Which you can do with the Contact object anyway, so why add an extra step?

One reason teams use the Lead object while using the HubSpot Salesforce integration is because it generates a conversion report in Salesforce. But you can circumvent this by using HubSpot’s Funnel Reports. Another common reason teams use the Lead object is to manage the prospect up to the mid-stages of the funnel. Instead of using the Lead for this, you can use the Opportunity from the point the Lead is sales qualified and implement a Deals Won/Deals Lost Stage.

Enroll now in our HubSpot Salesforce integration course and clear any doubts about how to get the best out of your mar-tech stack.

An overview of Salesforce objects and what they mean

Besides your Leads and Contacts, there are other objects you’ll need to understand in Salesforce and the HubSpot Salesforce integration.

Whenever a Lead is converted to a Contact in Salesforce, it automatically creates an Account as well. An Account is the company your Contact is associated with. If you find this confusing, it’s because in most cases, a business talking about accounts is referring to companies who are already paying customers — this isn’t the case in Salesforce, where an Account is simply a business (the HubSpot equivalent for an Account is called Company).

Next, you have Opportunities. You can create an Opportunity in Salesforce when the Lead is converted to a Contact and Account. In fact, this is the default. An Opportunity is basically a deal in progress, and it includes everything related to the deal, like who’s leading the deal, the Contact, and the potential revenue. Alternatively, you can create an Opportunity and assign the Contact manually.

There’s a caveat though, you only want to create an Opportunity for someone with a high likelihood of converting into a paying customer. One tool to measure your prospects’ likelihood to convert is by using a Lead scoring model, which you can create using the HubSpot Score with the Salesforce HubSpot integration, but you can also do a manual version in Salesforce (if you’re into doing things the hard way).

The most commonly asked questions about the Lead object in Salesforce

Do I need to use leads in Salesforce?

No! Leads are not a requirement in Salesforce. You are able to use the Lead object if you'd like, but we recommend sticking to the Contact object to keep it simple. Hear our take on this in this episode of Inbound Success.

What is the difference between a Lead and a contact?

A Lead is the pre-qualification version of a contact. When Leads are qualified, they are converted to Contacts in Salesforce. Leads store the information that Marketing and Sales need to qualify a Lead for Sales (Sales Qualified Lead). Once a Lead is qualified, the Lead record is converted to a Contact and the Lead record disappears.

What is the difference between a Lead and an account in Salesforce?

A Lead stores contact information before a potential customer is sales-ready. An Account stores company information and is associated with Opportunities and Contacts. Accounts are the primary object in Sales Cloud that connects Contacts, Opportunities, Tasks, and more. Accounts are the single source of truth for all activities surrounding a Company your organization is working with or prospecting.

What is the use of the Lead object in Salesforce?

The Lead object stores information about a potential customer for your business. Leads store very little information and are used to nurture potential customers until they are sales-ready. At that point, they are converted to a Contact, Opportunity, and Account in Salesforce.

Should I use the Salesforce Lead object?

We say no. The Salesforce Lead object can be useful if you only use Salesforce. But, when you're integrated with HubSpot, it's an easy "no!"

Why should I use leads in Salesforce?

Leads provide conversion reporting in Salesforce. When using the Lead object to qualify Leads before converting a Lead to a Contact, Opportunity, and Account, you can use a conversion report to show the volume of Leads converted over a certain period of time. This is a helpful metric for Sales performance and Marketing Lead quality reporting. If using HubSpot, you can replace this conversion reporting with a very powerful alternative > HubSpot Lifecycle Stage Funnel Reports.

What happens when a Lead is qualified in Salesforce?

A Lead is qualified when the Lead is converted. Once a Lead is converted, the Lead record transfers data to a new Contact, Opportunity, and Account record. Then, the Lead record is deleted.

Should you use leads in Salesforce when integrated with HubSpot?

Our take? No. 

Leads are a vehicle for sales. Leads should have as little information as possible for the Sales team to qualify the Lead and convert it to a Contact, Opportunity, and Account. 

While HubSpot Contacts can sync to Salesforce Leads and Contacts, it's cleaner to use the Contact object in Salesforce and leverage a HubSpot inclusion list to only send Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) to Salesforce. That way, you can have all leads in HubSpot and only send the sales-ready leads to Salesforce as Contacts. 

Then, Sales can qualify the Contact and create an Opportunity. Or, they can disqualify the Contact and Marketing can continue to nurture them until they become sales-ready once more.

Want to leverage the power of your HubSpot Salesforce integration? Enroll now in our HubSpot Salesforce integration course.

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