5 Tips for Creating Top-Notch Salesforce Reports

So much of the potential of Salesforce is unlocked through reports that deliver good insight to sales reps, managers, and

5 min. read

So much of the potential of Salesforce is unlocked through reports that deliver good insight to sales reps, managers, and executives. I work with a lot of clients excited to meet that end state but uncertain if they’ve nailed it. Requests for rush reports, fancy graphics and cross-object reporting often leave admins and sales ops with that nagging feeling, “Am I doing it right?!

To avoid getting caught in the swirl of requests and drowned in data, we created this simple checklist of elements that every Salesforce report should follow. Not only does it serve as a reference for you, but it’s also a helpful reminder that keeping it simple is the best choice.

So whether you are a new administrator getting into the swing of Salesforce or an experienced administrator doing back-to-basics “house cleaning” on your org, these 5 principles lead to clearer, more useful Salesforce reports.

#1: Know what you want.

  • Requests for reports are often vague like, “Can I see a report of my sales pipeline?” When this happens, drill deeper. A polite and simple, “Walk me through your thinking,” is a fruitful way to getting a more thorough understanding of what the requester is ultimately trying to achieve. When you understand the why behind the request you can help make better decisions about what data points are needed and where that data is housed in Salesforce. If why, what and where can’t be clearly defined, it may not be a useful report. If why, what and where are understood, it’s the first step in making a truly effective report.

#2: Choose wisely.

  • Even when the why, what and where is specified, you aren’t going to get the right data unless you select the right report type. A robust number of standard reports built from standard report types are offered in Salesforce. Before you think about creating a custom report or report type, consider if you can start with a standard report to meet your needs. Minor tweaks on standard reports often deliver the very thing you’re looking for and, when viewed together on a dashboard, give clear answers to sales reps’, managers’ and executives’ pressing questions. Here is a cheat sheet of standard reports and when to select each.
Account and Contact Reports
  • Learn about active, neglected, or new accounts
  • Learn about accounts by account owner or partner
  • Create a mailing list of contacts
  • Track opportunities by contact role
Activity Reports
  • Gather information about open activities, completed activities, multi-person events, or pending approval requests
Administrative Reports
  • Analyze your Salesforce users, documents, and pending approval requests
  • Report on the active Salesforce users and see who has been logging in
Campaign Reports
  • Report on the ROI of marketing campaigns
  • Track who you targeted with your campaigns and who has responded
  • Analyze which opportunities resulted from your campaigns
File and Content Reports
  • Analyze how users are engaging with files and Salesforce CRM Content
Forecast Reports
  • Get information about your customizable forecast data
Lead Reports
  • See information about the source and status of leads
  • View how long it takes to respond to leads, neglected leads, and the history of lead fields
Opportunity Reports
  • See information about your opportunities, including owners, accounts, stages, amounts, and more
  • Set views to most commonly used information from each object or customize a report to view other information, such as primary campaign source, forecast category, and synced quote
Product and Asset Reports
  • View information about the products users currently have installed
  • Find out what assets customers have, list the cases filed for a particular asset, or identify assets that aren’t associated with a product
Self-Service Reports
  • Find out how many cases are being viewed
  • Know how many customers are logging in
  • Determine what customers think of the solutions you’re offering
Reporting on Support Activity
  • Track the number of cases created, case comments, case emails, case owners, case contact roles, cases with solutions, the length of time since the case last changed status or owner, and the history of cases

Source: Salesforce Help

#3: Cut the excess.

The ‘ol saying “less is more” is true when creating Salesforce reports too. I recommend clients strip any excess information from the report view. Focus the columns on the key 7 – 10 fields that you want highlights on for that report. The easiest way to do this is by first focusing on the key grouping and measured metrics – e.g., Opportunity Amount (metric) by Owner (grouping) – then expanding to key supporting fields –  e.g. Opportunity Name, Account, Stage, Close Date, Opportunity Type etc. Your users will always be able to get more information by drilling into specific records, so keeping it minimal on the report allows them to focus on key metrics rather than getting into the weeds.

#4: Time matters.

It seems straightforward, but I’ve seen many unintended reporting errors because the timeframe was too broad, too narrow or not set with specific intention. Be sure each report is time-bound and filtered with very clear timing for better data accuracy. And watch out for common snafus with scheduling report runs. These pop up in hidden ways that you might not realize. For example, if you view and save a scheduled report while in a different timezone than the one in which it was previously scheduled, then the time slot could change. Another common snafu is overlooking the Preferred Start Time when scheduling a report. The report runs within 30 minutes of the time you select, so if you select 5:00 PM as your preferred start time, then report runs any time between 5:00 PM and 5:29 PM.

#5: Focus, focus, focus.

While Salesforce allows you to run up to three key pieces of data at once, I always suggest each report focus on 1 or 2 metrics maximum. Stuffing a single report with a multitude of metrics muddles the picture, gets confusing and prevents sales reps, managers, and executives from accurately interpreting it. Instead, consider the why, what, where we discussed earlier, and narrow your results down to the most meaningful point. Based off these specific groupings, you can run graphs and summaries that deliver clear insight.

Keep Calm and Report On.

These principles provide a good foundation for maintaining integrity and utility in your Salesforce reports and they won’t hold you back either. Salesforce Report Builder allows you to create custom reports. So with the above principles in mind, play around with report builder to see the possibilities – if it’s worth contemplating, it’s worth testing!


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Margaret McKinney

Margaret McKinney is the Manufacturing Practice Lead at Torrent Consulting. She is 9x Salesforce certified, is a member of the Salesforce Manufacturing Partner Advisory Board, is a certified Accredited Professional, and has worked in the Manufacturing space for 8 years.

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