Customer relationship management software has many specialized terms and abbreviations. Knowing what these mean can help you understand software features and compare solutions to help you make the right selection. Here are some of the common CRM terms:


Account: The client or company a firm sells products or services to, there may be other records associated with that client or company.

Activities: An action or interaction an employee has with a customer for instance, a sales representative's activities may be tracked in a CRM system, such as prospecting calls or attending sales meetings.

Analytics: Statistical interpretation of CRM data performed in order to identify relationships between variables, model trends, make predictions and optimize performance.

Application programming interface (API): A computer program that allows software integration between a CRM tool and another app in order to share data and functionality.

API: See “application programming interface.”

Autoresponder: An email software service that allows you to import CRM data in order to send emails to multiple recipients simultaneously or on a predetermined schedule.


BANT: An acronym standing for “Budget Authority Need Timeline”, referring to the criteria traditionally used to qualify leads. (Also see “CHAMP.”)

Business intelligence: Application of statistics to analyze CRM data for identification of past trends, prediction of future trends and improvement of current performance. (See “analytics.”)


Case: An area of the CRM set up for a specific activity or interaction. For example, a customer service case relating to a particular question

Case management: A systematic method for tracking and managing customer service interactions. (See “case.”)

Case management CRM: A specialized CRM tool or application for managing customer service interactions. (See “case,” “case management.”)

CHAMP: An acronym standing for “Challenges Authority Money Prioritization,” that refers to four contemporary criteria used to qualify leads. A more recent variation of BANT. (See “BANT.”)

Cloud-based CRM: CRM software remotely hosted by your CRM provider and accessed via the web or a mobile app.

Comma-separated values (CSV): A file format commonly used in spreadsheet programs such as Excel, characterized by the use of commas to separate data fields. Often used to store contact information. CSV files frequently get imported into CRM software or are exported from CRM programs to other applications.

Contact management: Standard operating procedures for storing, retrieving and using your customer contact information. (See “contacts.”)

Contacts: In general, any person or organization that interacts with your business such as a lead, customer, supplier who you store in your CRM database alongside contact information.

Conversion: The process of a prospective customer becoming a paying customer.

Conversion rate: The percentage of prospects that convert into paying customers, calculated by the ratio of the number of prospects who become customers to the total number of prospects who interact with your sales representatives, expressed as a percentage.

CSV: See “comma-separated values.”


Dashboard: Visual reports of all the data that's important to you, designed to make it easy for people to absorb information at a glance

Database: An organized collection of customer records. Normally refers to records stored in a digital format such as a spreadsheet or CRM system, but can also refer to physical records.


Email template: A pre designed or pre written email that can be modified and sent to contacts, especially useful for mass email campaigns.


Field: The area in a CRM database where you input data. For example, a numerical field could be a phone number, text field could be an email.


Hot lead: A new contact who has displayed specific behaviors that indicate they are highly likely to purchase.


Integration: The process of sharing data between a CRM program and another software program in order to streamline business processes. For instance, integrating a CRM data to an autoresponder program automates the process of sending mass mailings.


Junk lead: A lead who has expressed an interest in a product but is showing key signals that they're not in a position to buy such as not having enough budget. It's therefore unprofitable to invest the time in pursuing them.


Key performance indicators (KPIs): Variables selected to measure and track individual's impact on business performance.

Knowledge base: A digital tool storing key business documentation such as support to assist customer service representatives or customer self-service.

KPI: See “key performance indicators.”


Last touch: The last interaction with a lead before they converted to a paying customer. (See “touch.”)

Lead: An unqualified sales contact who has shown an interest in your business but has not been qualified by any BANT or CHAMP criteria. (See “BANT” and “CHAMP.”)

Lead conversion: The process of a lead becoming a prospect or customer. (See “lead.”)

Lead conversion rate: The percentage of leads who convert to prospects or customers. (See “lead,” “lead conversion.”)

Lead scoring: The process of giving a lead a series of scores to demonstrate how likely they are to buy from you. The scores can be based on specific criteria such as company revenue, industry type and also buying signals such as downloading content or attending an event. (See “qualified lead.”)


Marketing-accepted lead (MAL): A lead who has been identified as a valid opportunity to become a paying customer based on how well they match certain criteria. (See “lead.”)

Marketing-qualified lead (MQL): A lead who has been deemed worth the time and resource of pursuing based on them meeting specific criteria. (See “lead,” “qualified lead.”)


On-demand CRM: See “cloud-based CRM”.

On-premise CRM: CRM software stored locally on your own servers.

Opportunity: A potential revenue-generating deal with a person or organization who has expressed an interest in your product or service.


Pipeline management: The process of proactively moving leads along the steps towards becoming paying customers. Can refer both managing the leads of individual sales representatives or sales teams. (See “sales pipeline.”)

Prospect: A qualified lead whose profile matches your target market and is showing specific buying signals.


Qualified lead: A lead who meets set criteria and is confirmed to be a real opportunity worth your sales representative's time and effort to convert to a buy. Also known as a prospect. (See “prospect.”)


Record: The profile of an individual contact, organization or opportunity. It can also be used to describe a row of data associated with an individual contact.

Report: A summary of data in a CRM system, organized in a format suitable for easy interpretation and practical use.

Roles: The different permission levels a CRM user can have to perform specific actions in the software. Used to control activity and data across different teams and individuals.


Sales funnel: A visual image symbolizing the quantity of leads, prospects, sales appointments and closed sales currently being handled by a sales representative or team. The conversion rate at which contacts in one step of the sales process move to the next step may also be included. Since each step in the sales process involves a larger quantity than the one before, (for instance, leads outnumber prospects), the visual representation is wider at the top than the bottom, hence the image of a “funnel.

Sales pipeline: A visual display of each stage of your sales process. You use it to track all your sales opportunities through to the deal being won. It can also refer to the quantity and potential dollar value of current sales activity by an individual sales representative or sales team.

Segmentation: Organizing your contact list into groups classified by select criteria. You may classify leads who have not purchased from you in a separate group from customers who have. Useful for more focused target marketing and personalized sales.


Task: An action required to move along a business activity. Arranging a sales appointment would be a task performed by a sales team to nurture a lead. CRM programs allow you to define tasks and track their progress.

Task management: The process of organizing your tasks and those of others. (See “task.”)

Touch: A marketing or sales interaction with a lead.


Workflow: A series of steps required to complete a business task.

Workflow automation: When activities are automatically triggered without any manual input such as one task starting as soon as another closes.

Knowing these CRM terms will make it easier for you to compare the features of CRM software products. Continue reading to learn how CRM software can benefit your business.