Salesforce Deduplication: How to Dedupe Data in Salesforce

How do you update a lead in your database if they move jobs or across the country? Does your CRM or marketing software capture and combine new and existing data without creating duplicate records? Let's discuss duplicate lead management (in Salesforce and beyond).

Salesforce deduplication is crucial to successful go-to-market. Many organizations still run Salesforce dedupe processes manually, but more and more are turning to deduplication tools to improve data quality. Cleaning and deduping data are essential processes to ensure your sales and marketing teams are working with high quality data rather than slogging through a mess. You want to avoid mistakes like contacting one contact multiple times or missing important details like a move to a new company.

This article dives into all you need to know about deduping leads, contacts, accounts and opportunities, including Salesforce duplicate management. We’ll explain how to dedupe records in your Salesforce database and improve Salesforce deduplication management using data automation software like Syncari.

[Related: What is Salesforce CDP?]

Getting started with Salesforce deduplication

Today, Salesforce is one of the most popular customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, with close to 20% of the global CRM market. It helps businesses of all sizes manage sales, marketing, and customer service activities to provide the most value for their customers.

While Salesforce has a built-in deduplication feature to update databases and dedupe customer and sales records, it’s not enough for many businesses (more on this later). But, to start our discussion, it’s important to know what the Salesforce dedupe functionality includes:

  • Matching rules: Matching rules are the criteria used to identify duplicate records in Salesforce.
  • Duplicate rules: Duplicate rules determine where matching rules are applied and what happens when a matching rule discovers a duplicate.

Matching rules first determine if there’s a duplicate record in your Salesforce records. Duplicate rules then send an alert (on the record you’re viewing) to let you know there’s a potential duplicate record. You can also set up an automatic block of duplicate record creation.

[Related: Data Deduplication Software Guide]

How to dedupe leads, contacts, accounts and opportunities in Salesforce

Every company’s deduplication logic is different and depends on its data sources, database structure, workflows, and ways of doing business. So while there’s no general rule to determine how your organization dedupes records or which of your records survives, there are some guidelines. To get you started on the right foot, follow these 4 steps to dedupe your Salesforce records:

1. Clean and normalize your data

Clean and normalize your data before your deduping process, especially the data fields involved in your deduplication logic. For instance, before extracting a domain, clean up the email and website data, so you don’t extract the domain “ibm.con” from a wrongly typed email address “johndoe@ibm.con.”

You want emails to match with the right domain, e.g., “ibm.com.” Also, clean up company names that don’t match, e.g., “GE Corp.” and “GE Corporation,” and normalize phone numbers to a standardized system, e.g., “305.668.6868” to “+1 (305) 668-6868.”

2. Identify duplicate records

The next step in Salesforce deduplication is identifying duplicate records in your database or CRM tool. The most common data field to identify duplicates is the email address. You may choose additional fields like phone numbers, website domain, and company to improve your ability to catch more elusive duplicates.

If your customer data exists in multiple systems, decide exactly where the deduplication should happen. In Salesforce? Or other software? (Generally, it’s a good rule of thumb to run your Salesforce deduplication efforts in a data automation platform, as this distributes the clean data to your other systems.)

3. Develop your deduping logic

Once you’ve identified duplicate records in your database, the next step in Salesforce dedupe is determining the surviving or winning records (the records you’ll keep) versus the non-surviving or losing records (the records you won’t keep). Merge the non-surviving records into the surviving records or discard them.

At the start, your deduping logic is likely to have gaps, allowing duplicate records to slip through. Don’t get discouraged! Test, iterate, and improve with each run. Go through many iterations of running your algorithm (in a safe environment). Review the dedupe results, make adjustments to your rules, and repeat the process again to develop stronger deduplication logic.

4. Test and iterate

Test, iterate. Then test and iterate some more. Once you have your deduping logic, test it on a small scale (outside your master database) and continue to improve it until it captures almost 100% of duplicates. You’ll need a sandbox or data management tool for this testing.

Update and dedupe your database when you’re okay with the results. Now you can execute your logic in your Salesforce CRM.

[Explore Syncari’s Customer Data Automation tool]

Limitations of Salesforce deduplication features

While Salesforce deduplication tools help remove duplicates, many users find them inadequate. Some limitations of the Salesforce deduplication tools are:

  • Salesforce deduplication is a manual, time-intensive process: The Salesforce dedupe process takes a lot of time and manual tweaking. There’s no functionality to select multiple groups of duplicates or schedule automatic deduping.
  • You can merge only 3 records at a time: When viewing duplicates, you can only merge 3 records at a time. Regardless of how many duplicates you have, you must repeat the process until all duplicates have been merged.
  • There are limited matching rules and options: Salesforce’s duplicate rule looks at only a few fields, like name, email, company name, and phone number. This is okay to find obvious duplicates, but insufficient for hidden dupes that require more sophistication.
  • Duplicate records are ignored when importing: Salesforce deduplication tools do not review records uploaded using native import tools, allowing duplicates to enter the system for later deduping.
  • Inadequate matching algorithms: Salesforce’s deduplication features rely on matching algorithms to identify and merge duplicate records. However, these algorithms aren’t always sophisticated enough to accurately find all duplicates. This results in missed duplicates (and/or false positives).
  • Limited customization options: The deduplication features in Salesforce may not offer the customization options you need (different organizations have different customization needs). This makes it challenging to tailor down your deduplication process.
  • Lack of real-time deduplication: Salesforce’s deduplication features typically work in batch mode. With that said, the deduplication process isn’t performed in real time as new data records are added. What’s more, this delay can lead to more duplicate records before they’re identified and then merged.
  • Inability to handle complex data structures: Salesforce’s deduplication features has the potential to struggle with complex data structures (e.g., hierarchies or relationships between records). As a result, you can end up with incomplete or inaccurate deduplication scenarios with your data.
  • Limited cross-object deduplication: Salesforce’s deduplication features primarily focus on deduplicating records within a single object (think leads or contacts). However, Salesforce features don’t always provide the robust capabilities you might need for deduplication across multiple objects. In turn, this makes it difficult to identify and merge duplicates that span different areas within the Salesforce database.
  • Dependence on data quality: The effectiveness of Salesforce’s deduplication features heavily relies on the quality and consistency of the data you enter into its system. If your data is incomplete, inconsistent or contains errors, the deduplication process will likely give you unreliable results.
  • Risk of data loss or incorrect merging: When deduplicating records, there is a risk of unintentional data loss or incorrect merging of records. Unfortunately, this leads to data inconsistencies and potentially losing important information. You have to carefully review and validate your data to avoid issues like this.
  • Performance impact on large datasets: The deduplication process can be resource-intensive — particularly when dealing with large datasets. This can result in longer processing times, less than ideal system performance, or the need for additional resources to handle the deduplication workload as effectively as you need it to.
  • Limited support for external data sources: Salesforce’s deduplication features are primarily designed to handle duplicates within the Salesforce platform. With that said, integrating and deduplicating data from external sources will likely require various customizations, or even the use of third-party tools.

[Explore Syncari’s Salesforce Synapse Connector]

Signs you need data automation software to back up your Salesforce deduping process

While Salesforce’s deduping functionality is a good start if you run a small organization with few leads and time to spare, it soon becomes inadequate. Your team needs good data automation software if your goal is to scale your sales and revenue engine.

Here are some signs that indicate you need data automation software to support your Salesforce deduplication process. 

  1. Increased data volume: If your organization deals with a high volume of data, manually identifying and merging duplicates becomes time-consuming and error-prone. Data automation software can efficiently handle large datasets and streamline your deduplication process.
  2. Frequent data imports: If you regularly import data into Salesforce, it becomes challenging to manually detect duplicates during the import process. Automation software can seamlessly integrate with Salesforce and identify duplicates to ensure the integrity of your data from the very start.
  3. Inconsistent data quality: If your Salesforce database suffers from inconsistent data quality (such as with incomplete or inaccurate information), automated data cleansing and deduplication tools can standardize and improve your data’s accuracy.
  4. Cross-object deduplication: When duplicates exist within multiple objects in Salesforce (e.g., leads, contacts, accounts), manual deduplication becomes complex. Automation software can analyze relationships between objects and identify duplicates across the entire database.
  5. Time and resource constraints: Manually deduplicating records simply requires too much time and resources. Data automation software can significantly reduce the manual effort required to get the job done. And in turn, you free up more time and resources to complete other tasks.
  6. Compliance and data governance: For organizations with regulatory compliance requirements or data governance policies, data automation software will ensure your company adheres to the rules.

Because of the Salesforce deduplication limitations, you need a powerful data automation tool to oversee and streamline data updates, transfers, and deduping if you run a large organization, have increasing records, or need to process duplicates automatically. You may also need data automation software if your deduping logic requires data from multiple systems and data sets. In the context of importing and managing external lead sources, such as exporting from LinkedIn Sales Navigator, data automation tools can significantly streamline the integration and deduplication process, ensuring seamless data flow and integrity.

Data automation software like Syncari combines cleaning, normalization, deduplication, and integration capabilities in one platform to simplify deduping your database and close all gaps in your deduping logic and process. It then distributes that data to every system you use, not just Salesforce.

[Related case study: How Syncari streamlined operations and boosted customer experience with our very own no-code data automation platform]

Improve your Salesforce deduplication management with Syncari

Syncari, the leading no-code customer data automation software, integrates easily with Salesforce to enable you to dedupe records easily based on your logic. You can easily create rules to find lurking duplicates and merge them in bulk, across all connected systems. Simply define your matching rules and leave it up to Syncari to complete all deduping steps.

Ready to regain control of your CRM databases, erase duplicates, and automate data management and cleaning for greater efficiency across your sales and marketing teams? Begin by requesting a demo of Syncari today. Together, we’ll get Salesforce deduplication off your to-do.

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