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Using Person Accounts in Salesforce


Person accounts in Salesforce are a business to consumer solution for customers who sell to large numbers of individuals. Standard Salesforce functionality has an object for “Account” which is a business entity or organisation then “Contact” as an individual linked to one or many Accounts. When creating a Contact Salesforce mandates that you must have an Account to relate it to as a parent / child relationship. This can be frustrating for organisations who sell to individuals as they need a dummy Account to enter against each individual. That probably falls into the category of first world problems but it can be annoying, with a negative user experience of Salesforce. There can be other issues with very large numbers of contacts all with the same account such as system response and speed. And, at the end of the day, it’s not the right solution for business to consumer customers.

In 2010 Person accounts were introduced. It’s important to note that a Person Account is technically an Account, not a contact in Salesforce terms. Therefore a Person Account does not have an Account as such, it is the Account. When using Person Accounts it’s important to differentiate with Business Accounts which is the company. Accounts now have two options.

Person Accounts don’t appear in the Salesforce setup menu and need to be enabled by Salesforce as a service request. Salesforce will ask you several times if you’re sure you want it enabled as it can’t be switched off from your production environment after the event. Recommendation is to test thoroughly in a development org first before you make a decision you may regret.

Before it’s enabled Salesforce will ask you to enter a record type against the Account object that will become the record type for Business Accounts. When Person Accounts are enabled a record type is created for that purpose. You’ll also need to check that all profiles have read permissions against the Account and Contact objects and the org-wide defaults for contacts are “Controlled by Parent”. This is because Salesforce also creates a Contact against each Person Account. You can’t see or use those Contacts but be aware for storage considerations against your instance. Once that’s complete the Salesforce service team will enable Person Accounts and you’ll see additional options within the Accounts configuration.

To differentiate between the new World of Business and Person Accounts you’ll need to use record types to either assign account creation to sets of users or give users the choice. If you only sell business to consumer then an easy solution is to only allow users to user the Person Accounts record type and change tabs to remove “Contacts” and possibly change the name of “Accounts” depending on your business requirements.

Organisations that have a mix of business and consumer accounts may be complicated as you can’t assign separate tabs to Business Accounts and Person Accounts. Here are a few suggestions;

  • Add the “Is Person Account” field to the default view for the Accounts tab. Person Accounts will be visually differentiated as they have the Person Account icon (which is, bizarrely enough, a person…)
  • Create views for Person Accounts and Business Accounts so users have a quick method of differentiation.
  • If you have groups of users that use one or the other use record types and page layouts to clearly differentiate. The default page layout for a Person Account is a mix of standard Account and Contact so you’ll need to make changes anyway.
  • Think about how to use “Partners” and change relationships accordingly. For example you may want to use terms like “Spouse” or “Child” in the dropdown. Another use case is “Employer” to link a Business Account to a Person Account.
  • Make sure any activity rules (workflow, assignment, etc) use “Is Person Account” otherwise they won’t trigger.
  • Customise reports and dashboards.


For customers that want to implement Person Accounts after go-live and production data there is no easy solution to simply convert Contacts into Person Accounts. You’ll need to extract the data, clean it up and import back into the post Person Accounts configuration. This is defiantly recommended in a developer org or sandbox (if you’re using a sandbox you’ve committed).

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