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Updated Jan 30, 2024

CRM Software Glossary: What Jargon You Need to Know

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Jennifer Post, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer

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If you find yourself needing help understanding customer relationship management (CRM) software, you’re not alone. CRM software is an invaluable tool that helps small businesses acquire and retain customers. But if you’re unfamiliar with the software or CRM in general, fully utilizing a CRM platform can be challenging. 

Did You Know?Did you know

According to Grand View Research, the CRM software market was valued at $58 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow at a rate of 13.9 percent between 2023 and 2030, driven by demand for better customer service.

CRM software key terms glossary

CRM software benefits are numerous. However, to get the most from a CRM platform, you must understand the terminology and jargon involved. Here are some of the most common buzzwords used in CRM software and what they mean.

360-degree customer view

A 360-degree customer view is a comprehensive customer view that includes contact points, communications, marketing campaigns, opportunities, incidents, acquisition history and all other aspects of the customer relationship.

Account

An account is an individual or group record for each customer, company, organization or another contact. Sometimes, the term “account” will replace the company’s name in correspondence.

Activities

The term “activities” refers to a history of phone calls, emails, meetings and other tasks related to a lead, contact or account. CRM software can log all activities automatically, or your sales representatives can enter them manually.

Analytics

The term “analytics” refers to data that gives your business deeper insights for faster and more informed decisions. Customer analytics data includes trends and behavioral data to help you acquire and retain profitable customers. Sales analytics includes pipeline, win-loss, financial and other sales data analyses. CRM analytics can also be used for customer segmentation, marketing campaigns, plans for future products and much more.

API

An application program interface (API) contains instructions, technical specifications and other information developers need to customize or integrate software into their solutions.

AppExchange

The AppExchange is Salesforce’s app marketplace. It offers various third-party services you can add to your CRM software, such as Mailchimp for email marketing, DocuSign for electronic signatures and QuickBooks for accounting.

Auto-responder

An auto-responder is a sales automation tool in the CRM workflow. Sales representatives can set up auto-responders to act during specific events, such as automatically sending emails to leads and prospects after entering them in the CRM software.

Business intelligence (BI)

BI is part of analytics; it consists of reports, pivot tables, dashboards and other tools given to executives, managers and analysts to help them make better business decisions.

Campaign

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

Campaign management is a general term for planning, launching, monitoring and analyzing campaigns. It’s crucial to send customers 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 a web browser (or mobile app) from any device with an internet connection.

Contact

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

Contact database

A contact database is a digital Rolodex of your contacts. This is a core function of CRM software.

Contact management

Contact management refers to a process that keeps your contacts organized and all customer information and activities updated in your CRM software. Excellent contact management allows businesses to improve their sales and 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 and influencer, as well as job titles like owner, president and CEO.

CSV file

CSV stands for “comma-separated values.” It’s the standard file format for exporting and importing databases and spreadsheets. Most CRMs use CSV files to import contacts and other data.

Custom code

A custom code 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

When CRM software has custom fields, users can add their own data fields in addition to essential fields like names, contact information and roles.

Customer data

Customer data is stored in your CRM software. It includes all the information your company has discovered or learned about specific customers. This data can include names, contact information, ideas, and a customer’s habits, preferences and profitability.

Customer service management

Customer service management is the process of dealing with all customer communications, purchase histories, incidents, inquiries and other information. This data is stored in the CRM to help your customer service team improve and personalize support.

Customer valuation

Customer valuation is the process by which CRMs use analytics, artificial intelligence, behavioral data and other information to qualify leads, prospects and customers. Qualifying leads helps you and your sales reps identify the best contacts for campaigns.

Dashboards

A CRM dashboard is the software’s landing page or home section. It typically displays vital information and navigation menus. A CRM dashboard can also refer to an area of the CRM software where C-suite executives, managers and analysts can view valuable CRM metrics and sales performance data.

Data protection

CRM software must have data protection features. CRM software stores sensitive data and must protect it via features like encryption, built-in malware protection and two-step authentication. 

Email response management

Email response management is a CRM feature that helps streamline email marketing and improve customer service. It lets you set up and send automatic email responses and triggered emails based on predefined rules.

Export

Exporting data means you’re converting it into a specific file format for use in another software program. You may want to export CRM data to share with collaborators, create reports, archive it and more.

Field

A field is where users enter information in the CRM database. Standard fields include first name, last name, phone number, email address, company and job title.

Forecast

A forecast is a report containing sales projections, such as estimated profits and revenue. Forecasting can help you monitor sales pipelines and predict sales targets for the month, quarter and other specified periods.

TipTip

To create an effective sales forecast, choose a forecasting method, such as historical forecasting; identify every item you’re selling (and their prices and quantities); and factor in your costs.

Import

Importing data means you’re loading data into the CRM software. Users frequently import contact data from email address books and spreadsheets into their CRM platform.

Indemnify and hold

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

Intellectual property rights

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

Lead

A lead is a potential customer in the first stage of the sales pipeline. Lead sources include inbound marketing efforts, a list of names, responses to an ad or other campaign, and referrals. Generating leads is a crucial function of marketing departments.

Lead conversion

Lead conversion is the process of turning leads into contacts. Leads are assigned to sales reps, who perform customer valuations and qualify them for opportunities. Once qualified, leads are converted into prospects – and ultimately customers if everything goes well.

Lead management/nurturing

Lead management and lead nurturing are part of the sales cycle. Lead management is the process of moving a prospect through the stages of the sales funnel. Lead nurturing refers to prospect relationship-building, which also helps move leads through the sales pipeline. 

Lead management and nurturing ensure prospects don’t fall through the cracks. Active lead management and nurturing involve:

  • Monitoring inquiries
  • Assigning leads to sales reps
  • Logging prospect activities
  • Setting auto-responders and tracking communications

Object

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

On-premises

On-premises CRM software is installed locally on your company’s server; it’s not hosted in the cloud.

Opportunity

An opportunity is a prospect who is near the point of becoming a customer. This contact has gone through the customer valuation and qualifying process, and the sales team may be ready to close the deal. At this stage, most deal details are already known and have been discussed.

Opportunity stage

An opportunity stage is an opportunity’s status. You can customize opportunity stages for your business. However, typical opportunity stages include the following: 

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

Pipeline

A sales pipeline is an overview showing 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

Relationship management is the core purpose of CRM software. It involves building, organizing and maintaining relationships with your company’s current and potential customers. Effective relationship management relies on data collection to help you stay updated on what your customers want and need, and understand their shopping habits; you can offer specialized ads and promotions based on these insights.

Rule

A rule is a workflow automation feature that triggers an action when a specific event occurs. For example, if a lead requests information for a particular product or service, the CRM automatically redirects the inquiry to the sales rep specializing in that area. 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

Sales force automation is a CRM feature that automates sales tasks. Automated processes can include contact management, tracking, customer interactions, order processing, order tracking, inventory control, information sharing and performance evaluation.

Did You Know?Did you know

Sales force automation is a crucial CRM feature that can save your team valuable time and money, improve accuracy, and enhance collaboration.

Sales force management

Sales force management is a core CRM function that helps teams coordinate operations to close more sales. Its tactics include lead nurturing, lead rating, analytics, goal setting and performance evaluations.

Sales optimization

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

Sales team

A sales team is a group of reps, executives and support staff responsible for selling a company’s products and services to leads and customers. CRM software is a crucial asset for sales teams. They can use CRM data and functions to improve and target their sales scripts and pitches and better manage the entire sales process.

Sandbox

A sandbox – also called a developer sandbox – is a testing environment where developers can try out different versions of existing CRM software without interfering with its current setup and databases. A sandbox allows you to test updates, new features and coding changes before deploying them as companywide software updates.

Segmentation

Customer segmentation refers to categorizing contacts into target customers based on specific criteria, such as their demographics. For example, CRM software can automatically group businesses with fewer than 20 employees, so you can market products designed for small businesses to them. You could also send email marketing campaigns to customers in specific age groups or with particular shopping habits.

Social integration

If a CRM platform has social integration features, it means the software can connect to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and other social networks. Social integration gives your sales reps additional engagement channels via social media marketing.

Software as a service (SaaS)

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

Tasks

Tasks 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. You and your sales managers can track tasks to measure results and help evaluate and track employee performance.

Third-party integration

Third-party integrations allow your CRM to connect with other business solutions to expand its features and streamline business processes. Must-have CRM integrations include accounting software. For example, by integrating QuickBooks into your CRM, you can automatically sync purchase orders, invoices and other financial data to simplify your accounting. 

TipTip

You can integrate your CRM platform with one of the best email marketing software solutions to use and customize templates, sync contacts, and add additional campaign management features.

User content

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

User interface (UI)

A user interface refers to the CRM software’s overall design for the end user, including its layout and navigation system. An intuitive user interface is ideal because it helps employees learn the CRM system more quickly.

User role

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

vCard/VCF

A vCard, which carries the VCF (Virtual Contact 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.

Workflow

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

Did You Know?Did you know

A successful CRM implementation requires cleaning and migrating your current data into the new CRM platform. Many top CRMs include implementation assistance to help you get off to a great start.

The best CRM software

Many CRM solutions exist with various features, pricing models and functionality. Choosing the right CRM for your business can be challenging. However, the best CRM software for your organization will fit your needs and budget. Here’s an overview of four top solutions to consider: 

  • Pipedrive: Pipedrive is a powerful CRM with specific sales features that can help your organization speed up and deliver on potential business growth. Read our Pipedrive CRM review to learn about its visually focused sales pipeline dashboard and unique features to help identify idle deals in the pipeline. 
  • Salesforce: Salesforce CRM is a powerhouse platform with multiple customization options. Its AppExchange app marketplace houses the industry’s largest selection of third-party integrations, allowing businesses to collect insights and analytics from almost any tool they use. Read our Salesforce CRM review to learn about its industry-leading AI-powered features and automations. 
  • HubSpot: HubSpot CRM is also a leader in integrations, with over 1,000 connections to various productivity and communication tools, like Gmail, Outlook and social media platforms. Our HubSpot CRM review details the CRM’s unique Free Tools tier, which is a great option for new and small businesses.  
  • monday Sales CRM: monday boasts easy-to-build custom automations that don’t require coding knowledge. Its open API allows organizations to integrate with almost any tool to create a fully personalized solution. Our monday Sales CRM review details the platform’s automation recipes, handy template center and more.  

Working smarter, not harder

Understanding CRM software can be daunting at first. However, once you understand the basic terminology, you’ll realize that CRMs allow you to do what you’ve already been doing with your business – just significantly faster and more efficiently. Between learning the jargon and using one of the CRM solutions we found most helpful, you’ll become a CRM expert in no time. And your business will feel the difference.

Jeremy Bender and Sara Angeles contributed to this article.

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Jennifer Post, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
Jennifer Post has spent nearly 10 years advising small business owners on best practices for human resources, marketing, funding and more. She devotes her time to ensuring entrepreneurs are equipped with not only the knowledge necessary to launch and grow a successful business but also the software products and tools that are essential for everyday operations. These range from CRM and credit card processing solutions to legal services and email marketing platforms. Post, who has a bachelor's degree in journalism, has shared her expertise through Fundera, The Motley Fool, HowStuffWorks and more. Most recently, she has focused on risk management and insurance, two key areas business owners must understand to sustain their enterprises.
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