A big part of learning Salesforce is learning the platform’s many standard objects. You can think of a Salesforce object like a table in a spreadsheet — a collection of records that all represent the same type of thing. For instance, accounts are organizations, companies or consumers that you want to track, and contacts are individuals associated with a particular account. You get the idea.

Of course, learning a basic definition is only the first step. To get the most out of Salesforce, you’ll need to understand when to use which object for a specific business purpose. Take orders and opportunities. Both are ways of tracking sales, but they serve very different use cases. Choosing one that’s ill suited to your company’s unique processes could end up frustrating your team and wasting valuable time.

To help you avoid such a fate, we wanted to give you a quick primer on orders and opportunities. Here’s what we learned from a few members of our client services team.

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Opportunities are great for tracking sales processes.

A “sale” can mean a lot of different things. It could be a weed whacker sold online to an individual in Des Moines, or it could be a bundle of two thousand software licenses sold to an enterprise company in San Francisco. Obviously, both the product and scale are very different in these two instances, so it probably makes sense that the mechanisms behind them are also very different. While the former is an example of a simple ecommerce transaction, the latter represents a closed deal that was worked by a sales rep.

In other words, this sales rep had to turn a potential sale into a signed agreement, and that takes time. The process likely involved a number of stages, including discovery and negotiation. Opportunities are designed to make it easier for sales teams to track this process, allowing reps to log calls, store notes, create meetings and send emails all in one place. Salesforce uses this information to calculate how likely it is the deal will close, which in turn provides greater visibility into a company’s sales pipeline.

Now, that weed whacker? In this example, that didn’t involve a sales process. A consumer simply decided he wanted to purchase a particular item and clicked a few buttons.

Orders are best used after a deal has been closed.

Let’s keep going with the software license example. At the end of the sales process, the customer accepts the latest quote — 2,000 licenses for $50K, say — and the sales rep then syncs this quote with its corresponding opportunity, effectively closing the deal.

Ideally, what happens next is that this quote will automatically generate an order, which is an “agreement between a company and a customer to provision services or deliver products with a known quantity, price, and date.” This order should sync with an integrated ERP system so that those responsible for fulfilling the order will have the information they need, while Salesforce users can still track things like invoice numbers on their end.

Worth noting: If the Salesforce users in your company wouldn’t benefit from having access to that kind of information, you can skip generating an order in Salesforce and have it appear only your ERP.

To sum it up, then, an opportunity represents a potential sale, while an order is used to record a finalized deal, and they can be used separately or in tandem, depending on your business needs.

Okay, now you know a thing or two about orders and opportunities. If you’d like to better understand how harnessing these standard Salesforce objects could help transform your business, it could be a good idea to contact a Salesforce consulting firm. Check out our eBook for 9 other signs that it’s time to start looking for one:

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Tech, Salesforce Strategy

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