How to Use the Salesforce VLOOKUP Function

Last Modified: April 24, 2024 - 4 min read

Julian Alvarado


Salesforce lacks a direct equivalent to Excel’s VLOOKUP, yet it compensates with a distinct VLOOKUP formula function tailored for custom objects and validation rules.

This specialized feature empowers Salesforce admins to maintain data consistency and accuracy throughout the CRM ecosystem, distinguishing it from Excel’s offering.

Our guide offers a concise walkthrough on utilizing Salesforce’s VLOOKUP, detailing its syntax, constraints, and applicable scenarios to bolster data integrity.

Understanding Salesforce VLOOKUP

Salesforce’s VLOOKUP function stands out by enabling field value matching across custom objects for data validation, a critical component in maintaining CRM data integrity.

For Salesforce admins and consultants, mastering this function is key to ensuring consistent and accurate data within the Salesforce platform.

VLOOKUP Function Syntax In Salesforce

The syntax for Salesforce’s VLOOKUP function is: VLOOKUP(field_to_return, field_on_lookup_object_to_compare, object_to_lookup_from)

  • field_to_return: The field from which you want to fetch the value.
  • field_on_lookup_object_to_compare: The field against which the comparison is made.
  • object_to_lookup_from: The API name of the custom object from which the lookup is performed.

Salesforce VLOOKUP Limitations

Unlike Excel’s VLOOKUP, Salesforce’s version is designed specifically for custom objects and is predominantly utilized within validation rules to enforce data integrity.

This specificity necessitates alternative approaches for complex data tasks, such as Apex coding, leveraging SOQL for data queries, or integrating third-party applications.

Step-by-Step Guide to Implement Salesforce VLOOKUP

To illustrate Salesforce’s VLOOKUP in action, consider a use case where we validate a billing postal code against a custom object named ZipCode__c, containing valid postal codes.

This example demonstrates VLOOKUP’s value in verifying data accuracy among related records.

Salesforce Admin Time Saving Tips
Top 8 Techniques Salesforce Admins are Using To Save Time in 2024

Explore 8 cutting-edge techniques that are revolutionizing how Salesforce admins manage their daily tasks. Contribute more significantly to business outcomes and become a key driver of efficiency and innovation.

See the Techniques

Step 1: Create the ZipCode__c Custom Object

Start by creating a ZipCode__c custom object on the Salesforce Lightning platform, serving as your repository for valid postal codes, essential for data validation across accounts.

Creating the ZipCode__c custom object in Salesforce for postal code validation

Step 2: Construct a Validation Rule Using VLOOKUP

Craft a validation rule employing the VLOOKUP formula on the Accounts object. This rule checks the account’s postal code against the ZipCode__c object, leveraging lookup_value and objecttype parameters to ensure accuracy.

Setting up a Salesforce validation rule with VLOOKUP to cross-check postal codes.

Step 3: Test the Validation Rule

Simulate a real-world application by inserting an account record with an incorrect postal code using the Data Loader, triggering the validation rule. This process is crucial for validating the workflow and ensuring the VLOOKUP function operates as expected.

Testing the effectiveness of the VLOOKUP validation rule in Salesforce with a sample account record.

Salesforce VLOOKUP Function: Tips and Best Practices

  • Exploit lookup relationships and SOQL queries to extend VLOOKUP’s utility across related objects, enhancing data model coherence.
  • Create custom report types and dashboards that incorporate VLOOKUP logic for deeper data insights.
  • Maintain field-level permissions and ensure field types align, to prevent common VLOOKUP issues.
  • Favor unique identifiers like record name or API names in your lookup criteria to minimize ambiguity.
  • Verify data type compatibility and employ picklists judiciously to streamline data import processes.
  • Engage in thorough testing with various data sets and CSV exports, refining validation rules to cover diverse scenarios.


While Salesforce’s VLOOKUP may differ from Excel’s in flexibility and application, its strategic use is vital for data validation within custom objects, significantly boosting data integrity across the Salesforce CRM. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced Salesforce admin, understanding and applying Salesforce’s VLOOKUP elevates your data management capabilities.

Enhance your Salesforce experience and ensure top-notch data quality with Coefficient. Explore our advanced data integration solutions and reporting features tailored for the Salesforce platform.

Get started for free today.

Connect Salesforce to Spreadsheets Instantly

Sync Salesforce data or reports into Google Sheets or Excel with Coefficient's bi-directional connector.

Try the 2-Way Salesforce Spreadsheet Sync Trailblazers are Raving About

When did you last hit a blocker with native Salesforce reports? Find yourself manually exporting data to spreadsheets to make reports there? Or manually pushing data updates back to Salesforce?

Say goodbye to repetitive tasks and hello to efficiency with Coefficient, the leading Salesforce spreadsheet automation tool trusted by over 350,000 professionals worldwide. Nix the manual labor and drive more flexible reporting in Google Sheets or Excel on your Salesforce data.

Julian Alvarado Content Marketing
Julian is a dynamic B2B marketer with 8+ years of experience creating full-funnel marketing journeys, leveraging an analytical background in biological sciences to examine customer needs.
350,000+ happy users
Wait, there's more!
Connect any system to Google Sheets in just seconds.
Get Started Free

Trusted By Over 20,000 Companies