Leads, accounts, contacts, and opportunities

The relationship between leads, accounts, contacts, and opportunities can be a bit complicated.

In Microsoft Dynamics CRM, opportunities represent potential sales to people who are already tracked in your database as either accounts or contacts. Therefore, opportunities cannot be converted to accounts or contacts. You may be trying to use opportunities in the way that leads were designed to be used.

In Microsoft Dynamics CRM, lead records represent a potential customer who still needs to be qualified or disqualified through your sales process. In other words, they are intended to represent a particular person who does not yet have a contact or account record in your Microsoft Dynamics CRM database. Opportunity records represent a potential sale for someone who does already have a record. Although both leads and opportunities represent a potential sale, leads also represent a person, whereas opportunities do not (they are only linked to an account or contact record).

In the sales process that Microsoft Dynamics CRM assumes, leads were designed to be converted to new accounts, to new contacts, or to opportunities associated with existing accounts or contacts. Because opportunities are linked or associated with accounts or contacts, they do not include the detailed contact information necessary in an account or contact. Therefore, it is not possible to convert an opportunity to an account or contact.

To understand the relationship between leads, accounts, contacts, and opportunities in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, you may find helpful information in the following article:


In your organization, you may be using the terms “lead” and “opportunity” differently. If so, we are very interested in learning more about what you think when you see these terms, how your sales process works, and whether there’s anything we can do to further clarify Microsoft Dynamics CRM Help for people whose processes are not a 100% match with what we assumed when we designed the software. If you would like to let us know about some additional details regarding your unique sales process, please leave a comment on this post.

Andrew Becraft

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Comments (11)

  1. Peter Hale says:

    Hi Andrew

    i understand how the current system works but I’m currently speaking to a potential customer where it would be great to be able to connect an Opportunity to a Lead.  –  BTW –  The Opportunity entity would be heavily modified and also have sub-entities.  At the moment I have to attach an entity to the Lead and then sub-entites.  The main issue in having to do it this way is that the "Opportunity" or what I would use it for does not beomes a "Customer" until the Opportunity is closed.  In any case, the Customer is created in the Accounting System first and then migrated to CRM.

    If we could assoicate an Opportunity with a Lead I could have used  Opportunity and the associated benfits



  2. Dustin says:

    I have run into the need of a sales process capability, similar to what is currently available for the Opportunity entity, on the lead entity.  The company i currently work for has a specific process for signing a dealership.  Once the dealership is landed as a customer, the Opportunity is used to manage product sales.  So they really have two sales processes.  One to get the dealer and one to sell the product to the dealer.  The regular work flow works OK for the lead but the sales process capability on lead would be a definate plus.

  3. Neil Benson says:

    The relationship between Leads and Opportunities is pretty clear to me, and I can manage to explain it to users most of the time. But there are a few requests we keep hearing:

    1. When purchasing a list and importing it as leads there is no relationship between leads where the company name is the same. If I qualify one of leads and convert it to an account, contact and opportunity, all of the other leads at that account cannot easily be seen unless each lead is manually converted into a contact at the same account. This is a pain.

    2. Opportunities can be linked to an account or a contact. What a complete pain for business-to-business sales users. Most of us manage an opportunity regarding to one or more contacts at an account, but the only way to handle this is using the opportunity relationships section which is far from ideal.

    Hopefully the new CRM 4.0 functionality that allows us to create new relationships between system entities will help resolve these issues.

  4. cbbond says:

    When I use the Microsoft CRM Client for Outlook – I can only synchronize Contacts from Outlook to MS CRM (3.0). I primarily want to manage Accounts in MS CRM. Do I need to manually assign all the Contact records (child) to Accounts (parent) from within MS CRM? Manually assigning Contacts to Accounts from within CRM will take a very long time. In fact, I don’t have any Accounts created in CRM.

    Perhaps, I can update a field in Outlook Contacts and Outlook will push the records into MS CRM accounts.

    Please help.



  5. Sebastian R. Gardan says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for this Blog because the is an issue in our organization. Furthermore it is an issue that we currently don’t have a solution for.

    So let me describe why:

    From a lead point of view do we operate on existing customers (Accounts/Contact that are known in our CRM system), new customers and markets related leads.

    All leads on new customers fits well in the described sales process, but it does not support our exciting customer nor markets.

    Our current solution is as following:

    We have added a Customer/Market radio button selection field which together with to Lead Topic (subject) are mandatory fields.

    The market leads are then easy to handle because we only uses Topic and Description and they are often not converted to Opportunities.

    The leads on new customers are as mentioned used as you described it.

    But the leads on existing customers is an issue. We have added the Customer-field (customerid) where we can select an existing Account or Contact.  Using this means that we now uses Topic, Description and Customer fieds.

    When doing this there are no need for filling out the name of the contact nor the company manually but then our leads are stored as Unknown (because the fullname attribute is empty.)

    This can be handled in views by chancing the columns but when making for example Phone Calls regarding a lead the Regarding-field is blank.

    As it is right now haven’t we found a solution because we cannot change the primary attribute to the Topic. Can this be done?

    By changing the primary attribute to Topic (as it is with Opportunities) Microsoft CRM could support both sales process. And when the lead is on an exciting customer the Convert to Account & Contact should be disabled.

    Finally, I have to say that I disagree with you on the fact that a company cannot have leads on exciting customers. We have the biggest amount of leads on exciting customer because we know them and they know us.

    Please let me know what you think!

    Regards Sebastian

  6. Dating says:

    The relationship between leads, accounts, contacts, and opportunities can be a bit complicated. In Microsoft Dynamics CRM, opportunities represent potential sales to people who are already tracked in your database as either accounts or contacts. Therefore

  7. Weddings says:

    The relationship between leads, accounts, contacts, and opportunities can be a bit complicated. In Microsoft Dynamics CRM, opportunities represent potential sales to people who are already tracked in your database as either accounts or contacts. Therefore

  8. css says:

    I’m wondering if there is any downside to importing leads into the accounts table and setting the relationship type to "Lead-Unqualified" or "Lead-Disqualified"? I have a list of 800+ names with multiple people from one company — I would like to use an account/contact type relationship to track these records.  Any thoughts?

  9. Voni Garrett says:

    We are facing the same issues with Leads vs Accounts and Contacts, and have asked what the downside would be to putting Leads into Account and Contact records and identifying them via the relationship type.  

    Permissions is the only area I have found to be problematic…since…in our organization, all leads are accessible to all salespeople, but, not all customers are accessible to all salespeople.  

    At this point, planning to do a couple plug-ins to share and unshare records.

    I am also interested in anyone elses thoughts on the topic!

    Thank you!

  10. Our sales process requires us to convert leads to opportunities.  We track construction projects first as a lead and then once it  qualifies we convert to an opportunity.  CRM 4.0 uses the Lead First and Last Name as the information displayed in the Regarding column for associated views. For example and activity related to a lead.

    We would like the Lead Topic to be the displayed in the regarding column. Is this possible

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