Salesforce Activities: Tips & Best Practices

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Salesforce Activities track the interactions your users have with prospects and customers through various communication channels. These are either Salesforce Tasks or Salesforce Events records.

“Activity” appears in the Object Manager in every Salesforce org, which means that every Salesforce customer can leverage them. In my experience, I found it hard to wrap my head around this functionality. However, it’s full of potential to tailor it to how your organization operates, and more importantly, to get better quality reporting on the other side.

While it’s under-appreciated, it’s also sometimes misused; either teams don’t populate records properly, or the whole setup is over-engineered.

That’s why we have put together this guide on Salesforce Activities best practices, which will cover the differences between Salesforce Tasks and Events, Quick Actions, the “Type” field, and more.

What Are Activities in Salesforce?

As mentioned above, Salesforce Activities track the interactions your users have with prospects and customers, which are split into two objects: Salesforce Tasks and Events. Tasks and Events act like record types, each with their own set of fields and serving different purposes.

Fact: Salesforce Activities are not an object.

You may question the fact above – and you’d be right to! Go into Salesforce Object Manager, and you will see all three in the list: Activity, Tasks, Events. However, when looking at the Salesforce Activities data model, you will only see two featured: Tasks and Events.

Source: Salesforce Architects

Here’s a table that outlines where you need to go to create/edit the following configuration:

 Configure standard fieldsCustom fieldsPage layoutsButtons, links, and actionsRecord typesRestriction rules, triggers, validation rules
ActivityXXXXX
TasksX
EventsX

In the Salesforce Setup interface, you will notice some clues:

  • There are very few options for the Activity object (comparison below).
  • There is no “New” button on the “Fields & Relationships” section for Tasks and Events.

Why are Salesforce Activities important?

Every day, team members around your organization use Salesforce to record activities. These are the activities happening in real life (and being recorded in the cloud) that ultimately power the lead lifecycle, opportunity pipeline, and customer success engagement.

Activities could be considered the fuel that ignites the engine. Companies often establish “cadences” – sequences of activities that have been proven to work in achieving a goal (e.g. to qualify a lead).

Reporting on Activities will give sales managers and sales operations a huge amount of value and insight – especially in terms of what isn’t working or the gaps in cadences.

What are the differences between Salesforce Tasks and Events?

  • Tasks: A user’s “to do” list or “have done” list including a due date and comments.
  • Events: These track meetings, which are usually synced from off-platform calendars such as Outlook or Google Calendar.

Both Tasks and Events have fields that can relate the activity to other records in Salesforce:

  • WhoID: Appears as “Name”, and references another human, e.g. a Lead or Contact record.
  • WhatID: Appears as “Related To”, and can contain Account, Opportunity, Campaign, Case, or custom object records.
READ MORE: What is the difference between WhoId and WhatId?

Salesforce Tasks

Salesforce Tasks make up a user’s “to do” list or “have done” list with a due date. Comments can be added as instructions or a summary of what happened when the task was actioned.

Tasks can be standalone records, or they can be part of a recurring task series. Admins must first enable “Creation of Recurring Tasks” in Salesforce Setup, then add the checkbox field “Create Recurring Series of Tasks” to the page layout. If users want to make a task “recurring”, they can check this field and define the frequency, as well as an expiry date if applicable. Once a recurring task is completed, a new task will be created automatically.

Salesforce Events

The Salesforce Events object tracks meetings, and are usually synced from off-platform calendars (e.g. Outlook or Google Calendar).

Fields on an Event record include the subject, start date, end date, “All-day Event” checkbox, assigned user, who/what related records, and location.

New Events can be created from records (Lead, Contact, Account) and also from the Calendar view.

Tips & Best Practices for Salesforce Activities

  1. Salesforce Activities Components
  2. Task Quick Actions
  3. Subject Line Field
  4. Salesforce Activity Type
  5. Salesforce Shared Activities
  6. Task Queues
  7. My Unresolved Items
  8. Salesforce Activities Reports

1. Salesforce Activities Components

As they are related to multiple records around your Salesforce org, Tasks and Events show up in multiple places for users to access.

The Activity Composer is a component that’s designed to quickly log calls, Tasks, and Events. Embedded into the record the user is working on, it avoids the need for them to leave the record, displaying the most important fields for the user to fill in faster.

The default homepage features the components: “Today’s Tasks” and “Today’s Events”.

The “Assistant” component pulls in ten records that the user should be working on that either have incomplete activities or a lack of activities associated.

There are many other places Tasks and Events can be viewed (listed here). Users will have different preferences on how they view and work through their task load. Consider this an important part of user training, to help users find a good fit without overwhelming them with numerous options.

With restricted views that show only urgent Tasks/Events, Salesforce are on a mission to help users focus (plus, fewer records displayed at once improves page load times).

2. Task Quick Actions

Actions created for the Task or Event object will automatically be added to the activity composer. In other words, there’s no way to make them appear in the record highlights panel (like the quick actions for every other object do).

READ MORE: Salesforce Quick Actions [Interactive Tutorial]

3. Subject Line Field

The subject line is a field with unique behaviors – it’s a picklist field that can also accept free text. This has been designed to provide flexibility for users who can either type a few characters and select a set value, or type in their own subject line entirely.

So this gives flexibility for users, but a headache for admins and ops teams when it comes to reporting. Of course, there are other fields that make better report filters, but maintaining consistency around the subject line format is advisable.

There is a way to restrict which values users can input with a simple validation rule, such as the one below that’s suggested on the Trailblazer Community. Remember, you can also amend the validation rule either to apply to or bypass specific users (individually or by profile).

NOT(Subject = "Left Voicemail"
||Subject = "Left Message with Secretary"
||Subject = "Talked to Contact"
||Subject = "No Answer")

Source: Trailblazer Community

READ MORE: How to Use Validation Rules in Salesforce (+ Examples)

4. Salesforce Activity Type

I mentioned other fields that make better report filters than “subject line”. “Type” is an essential field for activity reports to answer questions such as:

  • Are team members making enough contact with customers and prospects?
  • Which activities, in which order, are helping the business work towards its goals?
  • What doesn’t work, and where are the gaps in cadences?

Admins find themselves up against a challenge – users don’t always populate the “type” field, especially salespeople doing a high volume of contact. Why? The Salesforce UI can be considered clunky with too many screens and clicks required. Empty fields leave gaps in your insight into activities.

Do you have this problem? You can quickly create a Salesforce report that shows “Tasks and Events” where the “type” field is blank.

20 STEPS

1. Go to Reports and click the New Report button.

Step 1 image

2. Scroll down and type Tasks…

Step 2 image

3. Click Tasks and Events

Step 3 image

4. Click Continue

Step 4 image

5. Click the Filters tab

Step 5 image

6. Click Show Me

Step 6 image

7. Click All activities

Step 7 image

8. Click Date

Step 8 image

9. Click Custom

Step 9 image

10. Click All Time

Step 10 image

11. With your mouse, hover highlight

Step 11 image

12. Click Show

Step 12 image

13. Click Open & Completed Activities

Step 13 image

14. Click Apply

Step 14 image

15. Click Add filter…

Step 15 image

16. Type Activity Type

Step 16 image

17. Scroll and click equals

Step 17 image

18. Click not equal to

Step 18 image

19. Click Apply

Step 19 image

20. That’s it. The report will return all Task and Event records that don’t have a “type” value. Now you can see where the gaps are!

Step 20 image

Here’s an interactive tutorial

** Best experienced in Full Screen (click the icon in the top right corner before you begin) **

https://www.iorad.com/player/1963932/Salesforce-Activity-Types

Note: You must use a standard Salesforce report type. The “Type” field can’t be added to custom report types (another quirk!). We’ll circle back to reporting later.

Extra tip – “Sub type”: Have you ended up with a huge list of types? Sure, sorting them in alphabetical order is one thing, but it’s taxing for users to find what they need. You can make the process of manually creating activities more guided by adding a “subtype” picklist, with a field dependency between the two picklists. For example, selecting “Type” = “Meeting” will narrow down the “Sub type” list to “Discovery Meeting”, “Client Dinner”, etc. Yes, it’s another click, but is an extra click better than tons of scrolling? It’s not for everyone, but I’ve seen it used effectively.

5. Salesforce Shared Activities

Shared Activities in Salesforce allow you to relate multiple contacts to Events and Tasks (up to 50 contacts but only one lead). Shared Activities are a setting that can be enabled or disabled.

Once enabled, an activity record will also be related to each contact’s primary account. Note that you can’t relate multiple contacts to recurring tasks (find the full list of considerations here).

7. Task Queues

Salesforce Task Queues allows your organization to prioritize, distribute, and assign records used by teams that share workloads. Tasks are an ideal way to use Queues because they act like holding areas in your CRM – records wait for someone to pick them up, and assign the record owner either as themselves or another user.

READ MORE: Everything You Need to Know About Salesforce Queues

8. My Unresolved Items

My Unresolved Items is one of your Salesforce org’s “best kept secrets”! This is the page where activity records end up when email and calendar connectors can’t associate them to Leads/Contacts (i.e. the Lead/Contact doesn’t exist in your CRM database, or they are using a different email address).

Each user should use the My Unresolved Items page to assign any unassociated emails. To find this page, click on your profile image and search “unresolved”. Synced items that couldn’t be matched can be edited individually or in bulk:

9. Salesforce Activities Reports

There are multiple angles you may wish to see activity data from; you may wish to see activities over a specific time period, by user, by status, or by Lead/Account.

While these are simple reports to create using groupings (on the “Fields” tab in the report builder), you may find that activity data quality isn’t making usable groupings. Report buckets are a solution to group different values into one, resulting in cleaner groupings without having to change the underlying record data.

To report on activity type (i.e. add the standard “Type” field to a report), you must use standard report types “Tasks and Events” or “Activities with …”. One quirk of Salesforce is that the “Type” field can’t be added to custom report types. You can learn how to identify standard versus custom report types in your own org.

Once you’ve created reports, you can place them on a Salesforce dashboard.

READ MORE: 4 Features of Custom Salesforce Report Types

Summary

It’s ‘best practice’ to track the interactions between your users and prospects/customers – the two branches of Salesforce Activities (“Tasks” and “Events”) make this possible, but it’s equally important to understand the differences between these object types.

Think of them as a “to do” list of tasks and a diary/calendar of events – jobs to complete versus meetings to attend (including past interactions). Although the two go hand-in-hand, they represent different parts of the puzzle when it comes to keeping track of users’ ‘activities’.

4 thoughts on “Salesforce Activities: Tips & Best Practices

  1. This article is fantastic. I have a database background and struggled to get my head around Activities, Tasks, Events, Calls, Emails. Thank you!

  2. i have doubt here – when adding a component to any home page, task and event show up separate lightning components, so can task and event together be addresed as activity component or is it incorrect. if yes is it a standard lightning component ?

    thank you

    1. Hello Chrisleen!

      Since I believe you are referring to Today’s Events and Today’s Tasks, sadly there isn’t a combined out of the box component to add to the Homepage to include both of them. Perhaps you could leverage however a My Tasks and Events Report, added to the homepage as a Report Chart component users can click on to drill down into the details. Of course the other option would be some kind of a custom component which could be created.

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