Relationship Queries in Salesforce (SOQL): A Comprehensive Guide

Orina Mark • Last Modified: December 29th, 2022

Relationship Queries in SOQL

Salesforce is quickly becoming a giant in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) niche. From fortune 500 companies to tech moguls, everyone seems to be jumping on the Salesforce train. Why? Well, we have to dive into the specifics before sufficiently answering this question.

Simply put, Salesforce is a cloud computing company that specializes in CRM. Given the recent proliferation of internet marketing, companies have turned to online platforms to reach their client base better. This is exactly what Salesforce offers: specialized cloud services designed to help companies better get their customers. Salesforce Object Query Language (SOQL) is used to search your organization’s Salesforce data. At this juncture, knowing how SOQL Relationship Query automatically retrieves related parent and child data is important.

Now that you have a brief idea of precisely what Salesforce is, this blog will give you an in-depth introduction to relationship queries in Salesforce using Salesforce Object Query Language (SOQL). Before we get the topic at hand, let’s first dive into the nuts and bolts of SOQL. Read on below.

Table of Contents

Introduction to SOQL

Salesforce Object Query Language (SOQL) is a programming language that closely resembles SQL with minor differences. Upon comparing the two languages, you will realize that the significant difference is that SQL has more features than SOQL. How? While SQL supports several operations such as INSERT, ALTER, and DELETE, SOQL is designed only to retrieve data using SELECT statements. Furthermore, SQL can retrieve unrelated data while SOQL can only be used to query related information.

SOQL nature gives off an impression that it is pretty confined in terms of functionality. This is not the case as the language has several qualities that make it ideal when dealing with Salesforce objects. One of the most significant benefits is that you can use it to query data in parent-child relationships.

Key Features of SOQL

Below are some of the key features of SOQL that make it ideal for working with Salesforce objects: 

  • It is useful when retrieving data from single or multiple objects related to each other. 
  • You can use it to sort query output. 
  • You can count the records that meet the specified criteria. 
  • You can fetch data from the number, data, or checkbox fields.

Now that we have an idea of SOQL and its importance when working with Salesforce data let’s get down to this blog’s main agenda: SOQL Relationship Query. This blog will equip you with the basics of working with SOQL Relationship Query in Salesforce. Read along!

SOQL Relationship Query

By the end of this section, you should have sufficient knowledge to handle the two common types of SOQL Relationship Query in Salesforce: parent object and child object data.

Before diving into SOQL Relationship Query, you need to understand how these relationships work in Salesforce.

Parent to Child Relationships

The best way to understand this relationship is by interpreting it literally. A parent may have several children, right? The same applies to Salesforce data. A parent-to-child relationship is primarily one-to-many, where one set of data relates to several pieces of information.

Child to Parent Relationships

As in parent-to-child relationships, we take the name literally where a child can only have one set of parents, right? In the same accord, child-parent relationships are often many to one.

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SOQL Relationship Query: Querying Parent-Child Data

We need to use a practical example to illustrate this type of SOQL Relationship Query. For instance, you have a Contacts object that has several tables, including names and account IDs. This is a parent-type child relationship where the contacts object is related to several data.

Now that we know the type of relationship we are dealing with, let’s see how we can query this type of data using SOQL.

We are going to create a query to request the account name from the contacts object. The basic query would be as follows:

SELECT Name FROM Contact

Contact has a lookup relationship with accounts. We can quickly request it by including it in the list with the account prefix. Below is an illustration of the same SOQL Relationship Query:

SELECT Name, Account.Id FROM Contact
SOQL Relationship Query: The output of querying Parent-Child Data
Image Source: Medium

SOQL Relationship Query: Querying Child Object Data

In this scenario, we will be following a different direction as compared to the previous example. We will be querying data from the accounts object and include child data from contacts.

The technique is pretty straightforward. All you have to do is include the child fields in the list as a subquery in parenthesis as shown in the SOQL Relationship Query below:

SELECT Id, (SELECT Name FROM Contacts) FROM Account

Below are key points you need to check when performing this type of SOQL Relationship Query: 

  • The subquery output is a nested list of objects 
  • An empty subquery is NULL and not empty.
  • Ensure your key is in the plural of contact in the subquery. 
SOQL Relationship Query: The output of querying Child Object Data
Image Source: Medium


From the information laid out above, it’s pretty clear that you should follow a varied set of formats when dealing with SOQL Relationship Query. For Child to Parent relationships, the structure is as follows:

SELECT Id, Name, Account. Name FROM Contact

You use the SELECT, FROM, and WHERE clauses using the dot operator.

On the other hand, you should use a subquery enclosed in parentheses for Parent-Child Relationships. The initial member of the FROM clause in the subquery is related to the initial member of the outer query FROM clause. Remember to specify the object in plural form.

SELECT Name, (SELECT LastName  FROM Contacts ) FROM Account

That’s it, by carefully following the tips laid out above, you should have no trouble retrieving data using SOQL Relationship Query in Salesforce.


Data is fast becoming the economic driving force in the commerce sector. Given the shift to online platforms, you should find ways of manipulating online data to gain a financial advantage or risk losing to your competitors. With this in mind, Salesforce has stood above the pack as a formidable tool for customer relationship management. You stand at a more significant advantage of reaping more and more benefits from the platform if you know how to manipulate data using techniques like querying.

Luckily, by understanding the information on SOQL Relationship Query described in this blog, you can better deal with child-to-parent and parent-child relationships in Salesforce. Get querying today and discover the full potential of customer data in commerce! Good luck.

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