The Best Way to Improve Your Salesforce Search

By Stacy O’Leary

Global Search in Salesforce is a feature that many admins take for granted. We often don’t think people need to be trained on how to use it. After all, pretty much everybody who is online knows how to search for something on the internet. Many admins assume that because it’s a standard feature, you can’t modify it – and why would you need to? It doesn’t look complicated. There’s just a search bar and one button to click. What else could you need?

The truth is that while admins can’t change how Global Search functions, we can change a lot about the search results that users receive. This can make all the difference in the world to your users. Customizing your Global Search results means that your users can see everything they need to see when looking at their search results. This allows them to select which record they need without having to click or open a bunch of tabs, which should save precious time (and money!).

Out-of-the-Box Search Results

Let’s take a look at some examples of search results in a Salesforce org where nothing has been customized. In this example, I’m searching for a company name that I know has at least a Renewal and an Upgrade Opportunity next year, but my search results show me four records when I’m expecting two, and they’re difficult to distinguish from each other. 

There’s enough data here to distinguish the two already Closed Won Opportunities from the two that are still open, but not enough information to separate the two Open records.

Now, instead of clicking what I need and proceeding with my work, I have to open up the two possible records with an “open” stage (Id. Decision Makers) to figure out which one I need. In addition, there’s a column here that’s totally blank and just taking up space.

This becomes an even bigger problem if you have Accounts with the same name. Let’s search for “four seasons”.

Yikes! Is that a duplicate, or is that two businesses that have the same name? Once again, we’ve got columns that are blank for fields we aren’t using. 

This has happened at almost every company I’ve seen, and here’s what the users have said to me about this:

  • “My Salesforce is broken” (It’s not)
  • “My search is not working” (Also no).
  • “This is a duplicate” (Looks like it is – but not that either).
  • “My Opportunity was deleted! This is an emergency, why did you delete my opp?” (I did not delete your Opportunity – it’s right there).
  • “Salesforce doesn’t work. We should cancel.” (What!)

The real problem that all of these users are having is that they aren’t getting what they need to see when searching for a record. The out-of-the-box columns that we see here aren’t that helpful and do not give the users enough data to distinguish between multiple records that look the same. Luckily for us, search results columns can be customized!

Search Results Columns Examples

As I’ve said many times before, every company is different. The fields (columns) that your users might need to see on a record might be different than what I’m going to suggest here. The best way to find out what your users need is to ask them!

These are the standard search results columns that I recommend for these standard objects:

TypeAccount NameTypeCompany
OwnerEmailClose DateEmail
Account Custom Fields to indicate Status, current ARR, etcStatus (custom field) and/or Email Opt OutOwnerStatus
Custom field indicating Account Type, like “Current Customer” or “Prospect”Custom field indicating Account Type, like “Current Customer” or “Prospect”

You may also want to consider fields like critical date fields. On a lead, this might be something like “MQL Date” and on an Account, you might want to add “Became Customer Date”.

READ MORE: Global Search Results

How to Customize Search Results

Navigate to the setup for the object you want to modify, and then click “Search Layouts”.

Next to Default Layout (or the Profile of your choice), click the dropdown and select “edit”. From here, you can modify the columns that are visible, and change what order they appear in.

Click “Save” when done.

Now that I’ve changed the Opportunity columns, let’s do another search: 

Now I can immediately see the upgrade Opportunity for next year, even though it has an exact duplicate name as the renewal Opportunity!

Accounts look much better as well; I can immediately tell the difference between the two records.

Search Results Filters

Just like Reports and List Views, users can filter on Search Results as well. The search filter fields will be the same as the visible columns. 

When searching for a record, use the left sidebar. Click on the object name that you are looking for to expand the search filters for that object.

Use the fields under “Refine by” for an even more detailed search.

Train Your Users on How to Search

Setting up these columns and search filters is a great starting point, but the most important part is training your users. This is also a great way for you to find out what they truly need while searching and what their pain points are. So, make sure you don’t forget this important step.


Being a Salesforce Admin can often make a person feel invisible or unappreciated. A lot of the work we do isn’t immediately obvious to users, and we’re frequently having to reject requests due to time or budget constraints (or even create things that slow them down, like validation rules). Customizing search results is one change that is fast and easy, and delivers an instant win for your users. 

This might seem like a simple task for admins, but for users who might search for hundreds of records a day, this is a huge improvement. These changes can demonstrate your value to the team, and help the whole organization be more efficient in their daily work. 

The Author

Stacy O'Leary

Stacy is a 5x Certified Salesforce Consultant & Full Time Mom.

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