CRM Software Glossary: What Jargon You Need to Know

By:  Sarah Angeles

Need help understanding customer relationship management (CRM) software? CRM software is  an invaluable tool that helps small businesses acquire and retain customers. But if you’re not familiar with the software — or CRM in general — it can also be one of the most difficult tools to use.

The first step to getting the hang of CRM software is understanding the jargon. To help you demystify CRM and get the most out of your investment, here are some of the most common buzzwords used in CRM software.

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A comprehensive view of the customer that includes all contact points, communication, marketing campaigns, opportunities, incidents, acquisition history and all other aspects of the customer relationship.

An individual or group record for each customer, company, organization and other contacts.

A history of phone calls, emails, meetings and other tasks taken on a lead, contact or account. May be logged automatically by the software or manually by sales reps.

Data that gives businesses deeper insights to help them make faster and more informed decisions. Customer analytics includes trends and behavioral data to help businesses acquire and retain profitable customers, while sales analytics is comprised of pipeline, win-loss, financial and other analysis of sales data. Analytics can also be used for segmentation, marketing campaigns, planning future products and much more.


An Application Program Interface (API) contains instructions, technical specifications and other information developers need to customize software or integrate it into their own solutions.

A Salesforce app marketplace of third-party services that users can add onto their software, such as MailChimp email marketing, DocuSign electronic signatures and QuickBooks accounting software.

A form of sales automation in the CRM workflow. Sales reps can set up auto-responders so that an action is taken during specific events, such as automatically sending emails to leads and prospects when entered in the CRM.

Part of analytics, BI consists of reports, pivot tables, dashboards and other tools that are given to executives, managers and analysts to help them make better business decisions.

Marketing efforts, such as email marketing, social media marketing, online ads, direct mail, print advertising, events, product launches and more.

General term for planning, launching, monitoring and analyzing campaigns.

CRM software that can be accessed via web browser (or mobile app) from any device with an internet connection.

An individual record storing a customer’s name, phone number, email, mailing address and other information. A contact can also be a prospect, company, associates and other parties sales reps interact with.

A digital rolodex of contacts and a core function of CRM software.

Keeps contacts organized and current in CRM software, such as keeping customer information and activities up-to-date.

Specifies a contact’s role in an account or opportunity, which helps sales reps by letting them know who to talk to and the best time to reach out. Contact roles include decision maker, buyer, influencer and other designations, as well as job titles, such as Owner, President and CEO.

Shorthand for Comma Separated Values, CSV is the standard file format for exporting and importing databases and spreadsheets. Most CRMs use CSV files to import contacts and other data.

Allows developers to add code and customize CRM software. Custom code tailors CRM software to a business’s needs, such as by changing its interface, tweaking functions and adding additional objects and fields.

Custom fields let users add their own field of data, in addition to basics like names, contact information and roles.

CRM for customer service, which includes communication records, purchase histories, incidents and other information to help customer service teams improve support.

Uses analytics, BI, behavioral data and other information to qualify leads, prospects and customers. Helps businesses and sales reps identify the best contacts for campaigns.

Refers to the landing page or home section of CRM software, which typically displays key information and navigation menus. This also refers to an area of CRM software where C-level executives, managers and analysts can view analytics metrics, sales performance and other important data in one place.

Lets users set up and send automatic email responses based on pre-defined rules.

Convert data into a file format for use in another software.

Where users enter information. Standard fields include first name, last name, phone number, email address, company and job title.

A report containing sales projections, such as estimated profits and revenue. Helps managers monitor sales pipeline and predict sales targets for the month, quarter and specified time periods.

Load data into the CRM software. Most common use is importing contacts from email address books and spreadsheets.

A potential customer at the first stage of the sales pipeline. Leads can come from inbound marketing, a list of names, people who respond to an ad or other campaigns, referrals and other sources.

Turns leads into contacts. Leads are assigned to sales reps, who perform customer valuation and qualify them for opportunities. Once qualified, leads are converted into prospects and, if successful, customers.

Nurtures leads through the next stages of the sales pipeline to make sure they don’t fall through the cracks and are properly qualified. Involves monitoring inquiries, assigning leads to the sales reps, logging activities, auto-responders and tracking communications.

Umbrella term for types of data, such as accounts, contacts, leads, prospects, opportunities, activities and tasks.

CRM software that is installed locally on a company’s server (versus cloud).

Follows the prospect stage of the sales pipeline. A contact that has gone through customer valuation, qualified and offers an opportunity to close a sale. At this stage, most deal details are already known and have been discussed.

Assigns values to identify where an opportunity is. Typical opportunity stages are as follows:

  • Prospecting
  • Qualification
  • Analysis
  • Value Proposition
  • Identify decision makers
  • Price quote/proposal
  • Negotiation/Review
  • Closed Won or Closed Lost

An overview that shows where prospects are in the sales process. The sales pipeline generally has four stages — lead, prospect, opportunity and customer. Each stage may be expanded into sub-stages, depending on a business’s sales process.

Workflow automation feature that triggers an action when an event occurs. For instance, if a lead requests information for a certain product or service, the CRM will automatically redirect the inquiry to the sales rep that specializes in that area. Or if an opportunity doesn’t respond to a proposal, then the CRM software will automatically send a follow up after 48 hours.

Refers to the automation of sales tasks, such as contact management, tracking customer interactions, order processing, order tracking, inventory control, information sharing, performance evaluation and other core functions of CRM software.

Overall core function of CRM software that helps sales teams close sales, such as lead nurturing, lead rating, analytics, goal setting, results analyses and performance evaluations.

Techniques for maximizing profits throughout the life of a contact. Uses analytics to provide sales reps with key information to help them close sales and retain customer loyalty.

Method of testing different versions of existing CRM software without interfering with current setup and databases. Allows users to test updates, new features and coding changes before deploying as a company-wide software update.

Categorizes contacts into target markets based on specific criteria, such as demographics. For instance, CRM software can automatically group contacts that have fewer than 20 employees to market products designed for small businesses, or send email marketing campaigns to customers in certain age groups or who have specific shopping habits.

Connects CRM software to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and other social networks. Provides sales reps with additional engagement channels via social media marketing.

Platform for cloud-based CRM software that is sold as a service, not as a traditional software that needs to be installed on local servers and devices.

Day-to-day activities, for instance, phone calls, emails and meetings. Tasks can be created as to-do lists and recorded for individual leads, prospects, opportunities and contacts, as well as tracked by sales managers to measure results and monitor performance.

The ability to connect other business solutions to CRM software to expand features and streamline business processes. For example, by integrating QuickBooks, users can automatically sync purchase orders, invoices and other financial data to simplify their accounting; users can also integrate email marketing software to utilize templates, sync contacts and add on additional campaign management features.

A CRM software’s overall design, such as its layout and navigation system.

Specifies permissions for each user. For instance, the Admin role gives the user access to the entire software, while the Sales and Support roles are limited to features related to the functions of their jobs.

vCards — which carry the .vcf file format — is the standard for electronic business cards. Most CRM software can import vCards, making it easy to add contacts from Outlook, Office 365, Apple Mail, Gmail and other email clients.

General term referring to the automation of CRM tasks through trigger-based rules.

Editor’s Note: Looking for CRM software for your business? If you’re looking for information to help you choose the one that’s right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

How many employees will need access to this system?
1 to 10
11 to 49
50 to 99
100 to 200

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