Creating Reports in Salesforce: A Beginners Guide for 2019

Do you ever wonder how to create a report in Salesforce? Creating reports in Salesforce can often look something like this:

creating reports in salesforce

But Salesforce isn’t worth the (sometimes) high price unless you’re gleaning insight (instead of just raw data). So whether we like it or not, rolling up our sleeves to master creating reports in Salesforce is a must.

There’s good news though.

The process of creating reports in Salesforce isn’t as difficult as it looks (or sometimes sounds when you read the support docs).

So, here’s how to get the actionable insights your business needs to grow.

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Creating Reports in Salesforce – Identify What You Need to Know

“If you don’t know what you want, you end up with a lot you don’t.”

Just one of the many zen-like proverbs from Fight Club that apply to using Salesforce. (OK. Fine. It’s probably the only one.)

How to create a report in Salesforce?

Think of creating reports in Salesforce as something like using Google Translate.

They turn your numbers, lists, and other incomprehensible data into something you can actually understand. (+1 for beautiful charts and fancy graphs.)

Once the data makes sense in context, you can better understand how your business is operating, and use this new insight to make better-informed decisions for the future.

That all starts with identifying which KPI’s (or Key Performance Indicators) are most important to the success your business.

Unfortunately, we can’t give you a simple copy/paste answer here. It’s entirely dependent on your own unique scenario.

However, we can give you some suggestions with these three examples from Salesforce’s Best Practices:

  1. A sales organization wants to know which deals were lost, which competitors are gaining ground, and whether the average time to close is increasing or decreasing.
  2. For a customer service organization, it’s important to track the average time to close cases and leave customers satisfied.
  3. And marketing organizations want to track campaign effectiveness and ROI.

Salesforce goes on to suggest:

“Ask questions and start at the top. When designing reports and dashboards, first define what your executives, your CEO; the VPs of Sales, Marketing, Support; and your channels need to know to run their business. What are their key metrics? What behaviors do they want to encourage?”

Then, decide what data you need to capture, to create reports in Salesforce that show these KPI’s in action.

Here’s how to create a new report inside Salesforce.

How to Create a New Report in Salesforce

Let’s dive in.

First thing’s first: Salesforce provides two window styles—Classic and Lightning.

The screenshots below are taken using Salesforce Classic. So, if your window looks different, just click on your profile icon on the top right, and click “Switch to Salesforce Classic”.

Now, click on “Reports” in the top tabs and you’ll see something like this:


Let’s create a new report. Go ahead and click “New Report” as highlighted in the picture above, and you’ll see this window:

creating reports in salesforce

Salesforce automatically creates many standard reports for you. It’s often easier to start with one of these and customize it for your needs.

Why re-invent the wheel?

As an example, I’m going to create an Opportunities Pipeline Report to show the state of my businesses opportunities—starting with the pre-made opportunities report.

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Get Your Bearings in The Report Builder

Once you’ve created a new report, you’ll be taken to the Report Builder.

But don’t be alarmed: This looks far more complicated than it actually is in reality.

Caution: Salesforce reports don’t autosave. So make sure to save your changes before you leave the page. And, if you’re customizing an existing report, use the “Save As” function to save it as a separate report so you don’t save over the original.

creating reports in salesforce

The Report Builder window has three panes:

  1. The Fields Pane shows all the fields of data that you can add to your report. You can browse the folders, or use the search bar at the top to find what you need.
  2. The Preview Pane shows a preview of your data to help you build your report. (It only shows a maximum of 50 rows for preview purposes, but all of your data will be included in your final report).
  3. The Filter Pane allows you to filter the data included in your report—for example, by date, or status.

As you get better at creating reports in salesforce, you’ll start to realize your report is only as good as the data you include in it.

Garbage in. Garbage out.

So here’s how to select the right data you need to paint the right picture.

How to Drag and Drop The Data Fields You Need

You can drag and drop most things in Report Builder.

Seriously, this thing is like Tetris. (But sadly, nowhere near as addictive…)

Start by getting rid of the fields you don’t want. Just click the column’s field name in the preview window, then drag and drop it back into the fields pane.

Next, search for the fields you do want, and drag and drop them into the Preview pane.

creating reports in salesforce

In the Preview pane, there’s also an option to “Remove All Columns” (highlighted in yellow), if you want to start from scratch.

For this example, I’ll use this drag and drop function to leave me with the four fields I need for my Opportunities Pipeline Report.

Then in the next section, we’ll filter these selected data fields to show only the data you want.

Now Filter Your Salesforce Report Data

Each of the pre-made Salesforce reports come with a set of shortcut, standard filters. (And, if you don’t see the filters you need, you can create custom ones.)

In my example, I need to limit the data to only open opportunities (filtering out the closed opportunities).

In this instance, I could simply use the provided filter shortcut, “Opportunity Status”, to select “Open”. But, let’s do it manually to understand how to create a custom filter.

creating reports in salesforce

First, click “Add”. This will bring up the row of options highlighted in green.

Because I only want to see open opportunities, I’ve selected “Stage”, “not equal to”, “Closed Won, Closed Lost”. (In the picture, I still need to click “Ok” to apply the filter.)

There’s tons of options here, so it’s best to think about what you need to filter and simply type it into the first drop down menu.

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Understand These 4 Report Types

Now you’ve got your data captured and filtered, it’s time to display it in the most accessible way.

Salesforce can create reports in four formats (for a more in-depth look, read The Ultimate Guide to Report Types):

  1. The Tabular Format is just like an Excel spreadsheet. It’s the simplest way to list your data, showing you columns and rows. (This is what we’ve been using so far).
  1. The Summary Format is like the Tabular Format, but it allows you to summarize your report in any way you’d like—such as subtotals and totals.
  1. The Matrix Format isn’t as confusing as the movies. It lists summaries of your data in a grid, with vertical and horizontal criteria. This allows you to see how different summaries compare against each other.
  1. The Joined Format is exactly that—joined. It lets you compile multiple reports into one. (Side note: Joined reports aren’t available in the Starter Package.)

Today, we’re going to focus on the Tabular and Summary reports. These two are the foundation of creating reports in Salesforce —the head of the snake if you will.

So far, we’ve been using the Tabular Format:

creating reports in salesforce

Click the drop down menu to change it to the Summary Format:

creating reports in salesforce

Now, you need to use a field to summarize your data.

To do this, you can pull in a new field from the Field Pane. Or, if you already have the summarizing field in your Preview Pane like me, simply drag and drop it into the space to create a grouping.

Below you can see my report in Summary Format, summarized by stage:

creating reports in salesforce

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Now Let’s Finish Your Salesforce Report

Charts possess the magic to make your data easily comprehensible.

Also, you need to add a chart before you run your report, for it to show up on the dashboard.

In my example, I need a basic funnel chart for this Opportunity Pipeline:

creating reports in salesforce

In the Chart Editor, you can choose the most relevant chart type for your report. Salesforce also provides a bunch of ways to configure your chart.

Once you’ve made your chart and clicked “OK”, Salesforce will add the chart to your report.

How to Run Your Sales Report

As you can see from the yellow highlight in the image above, the report builder is still only showing us a preview of our report.

So we need to run the report to see the full one with all of our data included. Simply click “Run Report” to do this:

creating reports in salesforce

Salesforce will then exit the Report Builder, and you’ll see the final report:

creating reports in salesforce

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to save your report. Be sure to give it a unique name, and fill in all the fields for future reference:

creating reports in salesforce

Ta-da! You just created a kickass Salesforce report.

Even Leo’s impressed.

creating reports in salesforce


Every business needs clear, easily digestible reports to discover the insights needed to progress efficiently and effectively.

And now that you know how to utilize your data with Salesforce reports, you don’t have to be like the frustrated Lego man from the beginning anymore.

Creating the Salesforce report shouldn’t be difficult. Because the real work begins only afterward.

You’ve got to use the insights you’ve gleaned from the report to move forward—otherwise, what’s the point?

Related Resources: 

Send and Add Email to Salesforce from Outlook

Creating a Custom Report Type

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