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CRM Software Glossary: What Jargon You Need to Know

Jennifer Post
Jennifer Post

If you're considering CRM software for your business, these key terms are important to know.

If you find yourself needing help understanding customer relationship management (CRM) software, you’re not alone. CRM software is an invaluable tool that helps benefit small businesses acquire and retain customers. But if you’re unfamiliar with the software, or CRM in general, it can also be one of the most difficult tools. 

The first step to getting the hang of CRM software is understanding the jargon. Here are some of the most common buzzwords used in CRM software.

360-degree customer view

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


This is an individual or group record for each customer, company, organization and other contacts. In some cases, the term “account” will replace the name of the company in correspondences.


This is a history of phone calls, emails, meetings and other tasks taken on a lead, contact or account. The software can log it automatically or manually by your sales representatives.


This is data that gives your business deeper insights to help you make faster and more informed decisions. Customer analytics include trends and behavioral data to help you acquire and retain profitable customers, while sales analytics comprises pipeline, win-loss, financial and other analyses of sales data. Analytics can also be used for segmentation, marketing campaigns, plans for 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.


This is a Salesforce app marketplace of third-party services that you can add on to your CRM software, such as Mailchimp email marketing, DocuSign electronic signatures and QuickBooks accounting software.


This is a form of sales automation in the CRM workflow. Sales representatives can set up auto-responders to take action during specific events, such as automatically sending emails to leads and prospects when entered in the CRM.

Business intelligence (BI)

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.


A campaign is a series of marketing efforts, such as email marketing, social media marketing, print and online ads, direct mail, events, and product launches.

Campaign management

This is a general term for planning, launching, monitoring and analyzing campaigns. It’s important that customers are sent the right information based on their needs. Campaign management is a three-step process: planning, management and analysis.

Cloud- or web-based

Cloud- or web-based CRM software is accessible via web browser (or mobile app) from any device with an internet connection.


This is an individual record storing a customer’s name, phone number, email, mailing address and other information. A contact can also be a prospect, company, associate or other party your sales representatives interact with.

Contact database

A core function of CRM software is a digital rolodex of your contacts.

Contact management

You should keep your contacts organized and the customer information and activities up to date in your CRM software. This allows businesses to improve their sales as well as service quality.

Contact role

A contact’s role in an account or opportunity lets your sales reps know who to talk to and the best time to reach out. Contact role designations include decision-maker, buyer, influencer, and job titles such as owner, president and CEO.

CSV file

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.

Custom code

This allows developers to add code and customize the CRM software. Custom code tailors CRM software to a business’s needs by changing its interface, tweaking functions, and adding more objects and fields.

Custom fields

This feature lets users add their own data fields in addition to basics like names, contact information and roles.

Customer data

This is any information that has been shared with your company and is stored in your software. It could be ideas, names and contact information, but it could also be information that is used to determine a customer’s habits, preferences and profitability.

Customer service management

You can include communication records, customers’ purchase histories, incidents and other information in the CRM to help your customer service team improve and personalize support.

Customer valuation

CRMs use analytics, artificial intelligence, behavioral data and other information to qualify leads, prospects and customers. This helps you and your sales reps identify the best contacts for campaigns.


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

Data protection

CRM software should protect customer data and other user content that it stores. This can include any sideline information deemed personal about the customer, including contact information.

Email response management

This feature lets you set up and send automatic email responses based on your predefined rules.


This means to convert data into a certain file format for use in another software program.


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


This report contains sales projections, such as estimated profits and revenue. It helps you monitor sales pipelines and predict sales targets for the month, quarter and other specified time periods.


This means loading data into the CRM software. The most common use is to import contacts from your email address books and spreadsheets.

Indemnify and hold

This is a legal term in a contract between CRM providers and end users. It basically protects the CRM provider from liability in the event of any error, loss, damage or technical mishap.

Intellectual property rights

This can refer to almost anything that is proprietary to the CRM software itself, such as HTML codes, software design, logos, user IDs, passwords, and anything relating to the overall sharing, visualizing or use of the CRM.


This is a potential customer in the first stage of the sales pipeline. Leads can come from inbound marketing, a list of names, responses to an ad or other campaign, referrals, and other sources.

Lead conversion

This is the process of turning 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 this is successful, customers.

Lead management/nurturing

You need to nurture leads through the sales pipeline’s next stages to ensure they don’t fall through the cracks. This involves monitoring inquiries, assigning leads to sales reps, logging their activities, setting auto-responders and tracking communications.


This is an umbrella term for data types, such as accounts, contacts, leads, prospects, opportunities, activities and tasks.


On-premises CRM software is installed locally on your company’s server, rather than being based in the cloud.


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

Opportunity stage

This is when you assign values to identify where an opportunity is. These are the typical opportunity stages: 

  • Prospecting
  • Qualification
  • Analysis
  • Value proposition
  • Identification of decision-makers
  • Price quote/proposal
  • Negotiation/review
  • Closed won or closed lost


This overview shows where prospects are in the sales process. The sales pipeline generally has four stages: lead, prospect, opportunity and customer. Each stage may be broken down into substages, depending on your business’s sales process.

Relationship management

The core purpose of CRM software is to build and maintain relationships with your company’s current and potential customers. Using data collection, your company can stay up to date on what your customers want and need as well as their shopping habits, and you can offer specialized ads and promotions to them based on these insights.


This workflow automation feature triggers an action when a certain 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 who specializes in that area. As another example, if an opportunity doesn’t respond to a proposal, you can set the CRM software to automatically send a follow-up after 48 hours.

Sales force automation

CRM software can automate sales tasks such as contact management, tracking, customer interactions, order processing, order tracking, inventory control, information sharing and performance evaluation.

Sales force management

This core function of CRM software helps teams close sales, with tactics such as lead nurturing, lead rating, analytics, goal setting, results from analysis and performance evaluations.

Sales optimization

This refers to techniques for maximizing profits throughout the life cycle of a contract. CRM uses analytics to provide sales reps with key information to help them close sales and retain customer loyalty.

Sales team

CRM software is a vital asset to sales teams. They can use the collected information to improve their sales pitches, targeting each pitch to a specific person or group.


This method tests different versions of existing CRM software without interfering with the current setup and databases. It allows you to test updates, new features and coding changes before deploying them as companywide software updates.


This means categorizing contacts into target markets based on criteria such as their demographics. For instance, CRM software can automatically group contact businesses with fewer than 20 employees so you can market products designed for small businesses to them, or send email marketing campaigns to customers in certain age groups or with specific shopping habits.

Social integration

This means the CRM software connects to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and other social networks. It gives your sales reps additional engagement channels via social media marketing.

Software as a service (SaaS)

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


These are your sales team’s day-to-day activities, such as phone calls, emails and meetings. You and your sales reps can create tasks as to-do lists and record them for individual leads, prospects, opportunities and contacts, and you and your sales managers can track them to measure results and monitor employee performance.

Third-party integration

This is the ability to connect other business solutions to the CRM software to expand its features and streamline your business processes. For example, by integrating QuickBooks, you can automatically sync purchase orders, invoices and other financial data to simplify your accounting. You could also integrate your email marketing software to use its templates, sync your email contacts and add on more campaign management features within the CRM.

User content

This is any type of content (audio, text, pictures, etc.) that a user has generated within the CRM. Reviews and other types of feedback count as user content, but it can also be content that the CRM uses to incentivize its users, like coupons or other promotions.

User interface (UI)

This is the CRM software’s overall design for the end user, including its layout and navigation system.

User role

You can specify permissions for each user. For instance, the Admin role gives the user access to the entire CRM, while the Sales and Support roles limit the user to features related to their specific job functions.

vCards/VCF file

vCards, which carry the VCF (Virtual Contact File) format, are 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.


This is a general term for automating CRM tasks through trigger-based rules. 

Sara Angeles contributed to the writing in this article.

Image Credit: bernardbodo / Shutterstock
Jennifer Post
Jennifer Post
Contributing Writer
Jennifer Post is a professional writer with published works focusing on small business topics including marketing, financing, and how-to guides. She has also published articles on business formation, business software, public relations and human resources. Her work has also appeared in Fundera and The Motley Fool.