This practical sales glossary is meant for anyone in sales who needs to refresh their memory on the most commonly used sales terms – especially new reps who are still learning the playing field.
There are countless terms used in the sales realm, and even the experts use certain words incorrectly. Mastering every sales term is no easy feat, however, it’s necessary for communicating effectively in your sales department.
Here are 77 sales terms you must familiarize yourself with;
1. Sales methodology
A sales methodology is a framework that outlines how your sellers approach each phase of the sales process. While a sales process maps out a sequence of stages required for success, a sales methodology introduces discipline through a system of principles and best practices that translate into seller actions.
Sales methodology explains the “how” and the “what” behind the process, whether it’s preparing for a sales call, analyzing an opportunity or upselling a large account. It connects the process to your customers’ needs and provides a roadmap for how to navigate each stage.
2. Sales Cadence
A sales cadence is the sequence of actions you take in the hopes of closing a sale with a prospect. It includes every contact attempt a salesperson makes with a prospect, including emails, phone calls, voicemails, and social media interactions.
Sales cadences are super helpful because they give sales reps a systematic framework to follow when they’re on the job.
But if they’re not well-built, they can also annoy the hell out of your prospects.
3. Sales Enablement
Sales enablement is the process of providing the sales organization with the information, content, and tools that help salespeople sell more effectively. The foundation of sales enablement is to provide salespeople with what they need to successfully engage the buyer throughout the buying process. A big part of sales enablement involves equipping sales people with information they can use in sales cycles. This information might take the form of customer-facing content, sales best practices, and tools to name just a few examples. Regardless of the form the information takes, it needs to be easy to consume and reusable across the sales organization.
4. Sales Funnel
The sales funnel (also known as a revenue funnel or sales process) refers to the buying process that companies lead customers through when purchasing products. The definition also refers to the process through which a company finds, qualifies, and sells its products to buyers.
The typical sales funnel is divided into multiple steps, which differ depending on the particular sales model.
5. Marketing Qualification Representative (MQR)
The definition of marketing qualification reps (MQRs) are inside sales reps that focus solely on following up with leads that have engaged with specific marketing content. For example, a B2B marketing team might create a series of educational eBooks. Then, when a lead downloads an eBook, an MQR might follow up with the prospect and try to create an opportunity. Marketing qualification reps also routinely handle inbound calls from marketing promotions. These can include handling calls from prospects who clicked on a paid search ad or received a direct mailing. MQRs don’t commonly close deals. Instead, if an opportunity is ready to have a series sales discussion, they are handed off to a quota-carrying sales rep.
6. Month-to-date (MTD)
A period starting at the beginning of the current month, and ending at the current date.
7. Reply Rate
A measurement of a number of people who respond to an email. You can improve this by personalizing your emails.
8. Request for Proposal
An invitation issued by a company to solicit vendor bids for products, solutions, or services.
9. Return on investment
Return on Investment (ROI) is a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or compare the efficiency of a number of different investments. ROI tries to directly measure the amount of return on a particular investment, relative to the investment’s cost. To calculate ROI, the benefit (or return) of an investment is divided by the cost of the investment. The result is expressed as a percentage or a ratio.
10. Software as a Service (SaaS)
Businesses that offer services via software available online or downloaded to your computer.
11. Sales Triggers
Sales triggers (buying triggers, marketing triggers, or conversion triggers) can be defined as any event that could create an opening for contact with a prospect.
In some cases, this will be an entirely new interaction. In others, the trigger could mean reviving a prospect that has gone cold.
Holding off on closing active deals once you’ve already hit your quota/commission for the month, so that you can more easily hit your numbers the following month.
13. Side selling
Selling a complementary product or service to a prospect who is using a competitor for your main product.
14. Smile and Dial
Cold-calling with a cheerful, positive tone of voice— a smile. Smiling communicates warmth and trustworthiness over the phone, which makes the prospect less likely to hang up on you. Even if people can’t see your smile, they can hear it.
15. Sales qualified lead (SQL)
An SQL is the sales team affirming that it’s a good lead with a potential opportunity.
16. Top of the Funnel (TOFU)
The start of the buying process. Often attracted by awareness-stage website content, top of the funnel leads have shown a general interest in your product, or are looking for more information on the solutions you provide. TOFU leads need to be qualified and nurtured so they can start moving down the funnel.
Making a sale more profitable by convincing a customer to purchase a more expensive product than the one they intended to buy, or selling additional services or complementary products to go along with the initial item. Sales reps can turn an average sale into an outstanding one by upselling.
Though every company has different processes for defining what criteria make someone an opportunity, it’s basically when a qualified lead is being worked by Sales. See Qualified Lead for more information.
19. Pain Point
A prospect’s pain point, or need, is the most important thing for a sales rep to identify in the selling process. Without knowing a prospect’s pain points, they can’t possibly offer benefits to help resolve those pain points.
20. Performance Plan
Also “Performance Improvement Plan” or “PIP.” A sales rep is put on a performance plan if s/he doesn’t make a certain percentage of quota over a certain period of time. Performance plans vary from company to company, but it usually starts with a written warning and further disciplinary action, including termination if necessary. The purpose of performance plans is to set clear and specific performance goals, provide a means for feedback, and develop sales skills.
The step-by-step process sales reps go through to convert a prospect into a customer. The sales pipeline is often divided into stages for each step in the sales process, and the sales rep is responsible for moving opportunities through the stages. It can also refer to a visual representation of the sales process, where every open opportunity is arranged based on the sales stage they’re in.
22. Positioning Statement
Statements and questions that sales reps use when opening a sales call to engage the prospect in conversation around their pain points. Many sales reps are trained to start off every sales call with these statements. Here’s an example of positioning statements on a sales call from Advanced Marketing Concepts:
23. Profit Margin
A ratio of profitability that measures how much money a company actually keeps in earnings. It’s calculated either as a) net income divided by revenues, or b) net profits divided by sales
24. Qualified Lead
A contact that opted in to receive communication from your company, became educated about your product or service, and is interested in learning more. Marketing and Sales often have two different versions of qualified leads (MQLs for Marketing, and SQLs for Sales), so be sure to have conversations with your sales team to set expectations for the types of leads you plan to hand over.
A sales goal; a set amount of sales a sales rep is expected to meet over a given time frame, usually a month and/or quarter. It’s very, very common for sales reps to have quotas, also the form they take can vary from company to company and from role to role.
Prospecting is the process of looking for potential buyers. This is the first step in the sales process, and the goal is to move these prospects down the sales funnel and convert them into loyal customers.
27. Sales development representative
A sales development representative is an inside rep that focuses on inbound leads, which are leads that approach your business and express interest in your solution.
28. Sales process
A sales process refers to the concrete steps and actions a sales rep goes through to make a sale. These are repeatable steps to convert a prospect into a loyal customer.
29. Sales pipeline
The sales pipeline represents a step-by-step process that a sales rep takes to move someone from being a prospect to a loyal customer. The pipeline is divided into stages based on the customer’s readiness to buy.
30. Sales pipeline coverage
Sales pipeline coverage is a ratio that compares how full your sales pipeline is against your quota in a given period. It acts as a good indicator of sales team performance and helps forecast your company’s ability to grow.
31. Service level agreement
A service level agreement is an agreement between the sales and marketing departments of a business that defines their expectations for each other. The service level agreement exists to make sure the sales and marketing departments are aligned and complement each other’s work.
Smarketing refers to aligned sales and marketing efforts. The word sounds silly, but the principle behind it is crucial for the success of a business. Marketing and sales need to support each other, and that requires a lot of communication and collaboration.
33. Social selling
Social selling is the act of using social media to interact with prospects. Oftentimes, this includes providing answers to simple questions that will help the prospect better understand their pain points and potential solutions.
34. Sound bite
A sound bite is a series of words or phrases that a sales rep has prepared to help them quickly and effectively communicate with a prospect.
35. Top of the funnel
The top of the funnel refers to the first stage in the buyer’s journey. At this point, buyers are still trying to understand their problems. On the selling side, it’s the job of marketers to provide content that will help educate the buyer about their problem and point out possible solutions.
Upselling occurs when a seller finds a higher-end solution to provide an existing customer. An example of this would be when you buy a subscription to a software tool, and the next month the sales rep attempts to upsell by showing you the ropes of a more expensive version with better features.
37. Value proposition
A value proposition is the presentation of the benefit(s) that a solution provides to its customers. A good value proposition (that is presented during the value demonstration stage in the sales process) will cater to the individual needs of that particular customer.
38. Weighted sales pipeline
A weighted sales pipeline is a version of the sales pipeline where a value is placed on each opportunity based on their current stage in the sales process.
“Always Be Closing.” An antiquated sales strategy that basically says everything a sales rep does throughout the sales process is in pursuit toward the singular goal of closing a deal. The implication is that, if a sales rep doesn’t close the deal, then everything they did regarding that opportunity was a failure. In the inbound methodology, the preferred ABCs of selling are: Always Be Connecting. Even better, “Always Be Helping.”
40. Adoption process
Another way of saying “the buying process.” The stages a potential buyer goes through, from learning about a new product or service to either becoming a loyal customer or rejecting it. The potential buyer may or may not end up purchasing/adopting that product or service.
An acronym used in Sales that stands for Attention/Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action. They are the four steps of the now somewhat-outdated Purchase Funnel (although most agree the funnel is much more complex than what is represented in this traditional model), wherein customers travel from awareness to purchase.
An acronym used in sales for lead qualification that stands for Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline. It’s a famous tool for sales reps and sales leaders to help them determine whether their prospects have the budget, authority, need, and right timeline to buy what they sell.
B = Budget: Determines whether your prospect has a budget for what you’re selling.
A = Authority: Determines whether your prospect has the authority to make a purchasing decision.
N = Need: Determines whether there’s a business need for what you’re selling.
T = Timeline: Determines the time frame for implementation.
The BANT formula was originally developed by IBM several decades ago. We don’t think BANT is good enough anymore, though: Learn more here about the better qualifying formula, GPCTBA/C&I.
43. Bluebird Sales
A “bluebird” is a sale that came seemingly from nowhere or with unexpected ease. A sales rep might say, “Fortunately, a bluebird flew right in at the end of the quarter, helping me reach my goal.”
One thing to keep in mind with inbound sales is that many of these sales may not be true bluebirds since your inbound engine is actively building awareness and helping prospects along a buyer’s journey. With high-performance sales organizations, you’ll want to have some control over your pipeline forecasting and be able to look at lead attribution, so it’s best not to rely on bluebirds.
44. Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU)
A stage of the buying process leads reach when they’re just about to close into new customers. They’ve identified a problem, have shopped around for possible solutions, and are very close to buying.
45. Buyer Behavior
The ways a consumer identifies, considers, and chooses products and services. Buyer behavior is often influenced by the consumer’s needs, desires, aspirations, inhibitions, role, social and cultural environment.
46. Buyer Persona
A semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. While it helps inbound marketers like you define their target audience, it can also help sales reps qualify leads. Learn more about developing buyer personas here.
47. Buying Criteria
All the information a consumer needs to make a buying decision. It can be written or unwritten, and often answers questions like, “what is it?; “why should I buy it?”; “what is the price?”; “why do I need it?” and so on.
48. Buying Process/Cycle
The process potential buyers go through before deciding whether to make a purchase. Although it’s been broken it down into many sub-stages to align with different business models, it can universally be boiled down to these three lifecycle stages:
Awareness: Leads have either become aware of your product or service, or they have become aware that they have a need that must be fulfilled.
Evaluation: Leads are aware that your product or service could fulfill their need, and they are trying to determine whether you are the best fit.
Purchase: Leads are ready to make a purchase.
49. Buying Signal
A communication from a prospect indicating they are ready to make a purchase, either verbal or non-verbal. An example would be them asking the sales rep, “When can it be delivered?”
When a sales rep has more than one type of product to offer consumers that could be beneficial, and s/he successfully sells a consumer more than one item either at the time of purchase or later on. An example is when Apple sells you an iPhone and then successfully sells you an Apple iPhone case or a pair of Apple headphones. In this case, a sales rep identifies a need the customer has, and fulfills that need by recommending an additional product.
51. Inside Sales Rep
A sales representative who conducts most of their business online and over the phone. An inside salesperson typically handles smaller accounts than field reps and is one of the first sales roles SaaS companies hire for when expanding their team.
52. Sales Development Rep
A top-of-the-funnel sales role focused on identifying qualified opportunities for your team. They under who your ideal customer is, how to build lists, and how to connect with decision-makers. Often the first point of contact for a new prospect, a sales development rep’s goal is not to close deals, but to set as many qualified meetings and demos as possible.
53. Field Sales Rep
A traveling salesperson who visits potential customers to pitch products and services in person. Their primary objective is to land new clients and make sales. They typically handle much larger accounts than inside sales reps and may not be a necessary hire unless you’re selling expensive products with a lengthy sales cycle and pitching to enterprise-class businesses.
54. Account Executive
A quota-carrying rep responsible for managing existing customer accounts. They consult with prospects to learn about their objectives, negotiate contracts, upsell to current customers, and address customer concerns. It’s crucial for account executives to be able to clearly explain your company’s value proposition as it relates to a specific customer’s needs.
55. Sales Engineer
Part engineer, part sales rep, a sales engineer understands the ins and outs of your company’s solution so well that they can clearly communicate technical details and benefits in layman’s terms. Also known as solution architects and pre-sale engineers, sales engineers support other sales reps by answering technical questions and conducting product demos for qualified leads.
Mirroring is a method applied in sales and any other business negotiations. This method can work well in any business environment as well as in most personal social interactions.
When mirroring, one person scans and subtly replicates the physical and verbal behaviors of another in order to establish rapport and empathy during a conversation (e.g., in the process of promoting an offer).
This may sound like an easily detectable method, however, when done accurately, it’s almost impossible to notice, and numerous studies support its efficiency. On top of that, mirroring helps bring both sides to a common understanding of key points and enables them to draw identical conclusions.
Sandbagging is a strategy of lowering the expectations of a company or an individual’s strengths and core competencies in order to produce relatively greater-than-anticipated results.
In a business context, sandbagging is most often seen when a company’s top brass shrewdly tempers the expectations of its shareholders by producing guidance that is well below what they know will be realistically achievable. In other words, management personnel lowball projected earnings and other performance indicators.
58. Puppy Dog Close
It’s a sales technique, allowing prospective buyers to “try out” the product for a few days before deciding; it consists of offering to the prospect free trial or test period before agreeing to make the deal. This technique creates trust relationships and takes the pressure off the client. Why do marketers call it puppy dog close? Salespeople from pet stores allow customers to take a puppy home for the weekend for free and bring it back if they change their minds. Practically nobody brings the dog back. Any other examples? Car shoppers are allowed to take a car for a test drive.
58. Emotional Selling
Emotional selling is a more personal way of tuning into what your customers are feeling. While it can be easy to fall into always using a prepared sales pitch on particular products that you know well, emotional selling takes more of an effort to “read” your customers and be able to deliver on what they may be wanting. You can spot opportunities for emotional selling especially when you see a customer is indecisive, unsure, trying to choose between multiple options, or lingering over items that catch their eye spontaneously. Emotional selling is more or less the ability to hone in on each individual customer, and then appeal to how they’re feeling at that moment in time, or how you want your products to make them feel.
59. Buying intent
Buying intent is the likelihood of a person making a purchase, which is realized through monitoring online buying journeys. Businesses can use tools like G2 Buyer Intent to learn the companies researching their product and find the right people to contact.
Commission is additional compensation that is earned based on performance. The money typically comes from a portion of the sales revenue. Any sales related position is a common commission-based job, but the percentage will be different from business to business.
61. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems
Customer relationship management software acts as a database full of customer information. There are three types of CRM tools:
Operational CRM: manages day-to-day information
Analytical CRM: analyses customer data and behaviour
Collaborative CRM: streamlines communication with customers and makes it easy to share information across any customer-facing department
Contact information, past interactions, and previous purchases can all be found in a CRM tool. CRM is designed to help sales reps create relationships with customers and give customers a personalized experience, resulting in more sales.
62. Customer success
Customer success is a business practice, or department, that ensures customers achieve their desired outcome when using a business solution. This creates a mutually beneficial situation for the business and the customer – the customer resolves their pain point and the business increases the likelihood of earning that customer’s loyalty.
63. Decision maker
A decision maker is the person who makes the final decision of a sale. This person needs to have the authority to buy.
64. Demand generation
Demand generation is a marketing process that builds awareness and interest in a company’s solution. Demand generation activities include lead nurturing programs, content marketing, and search engine optimization.
65. Discovery call
A discovery call is the first call a sales rep makes to a prospect. This stage can also include lead qualification and determination of pain points.
Forecasting is the act of estimating future sales so companies can make better business decisions and predict performance. Forecasts can be based on past sales data, industry comparisons, or economic trends.
Onboarding is the act of introducing your solution to a customer and getting them set up to use it after they buy. It can also refer to hiring and training a new sales rep.
An opportunity is a contact or prospect that has been qualified and is considered worthy of pursuing. It is important to note that the definition of an opportunity can vary across businesses. The general idea is that they show potential for becoming a customer.
69. A positioning statement
A positioning statement is a brief description of a product or service and target market, and how the product or service fills a particular need of the target market. It’s meant to be used as an internal tool to align marketing efforts with the brand and value proposition.
Positioning statements are used to describe how your product or service fills a need of your target market or persona. They’re a must-have for any positioning strategy and create a clear vision for brand positioning.
70. Profit margin
Profit margin is a ratio of profitability that reveals how much money a company actually makes. It is the amount by which revenue from sales exceeds costs. To calculate profit margin, divide your gross profit (revenue-cost of goods sold) by revenue.
71. Sales dashboard
The definition of a sales dashboard is an easy-to-read graphical representation of sales data that’s intended to enable sales managers to make better decisions. While dashboards sometimes reveal periodic reporting data, the gold standard of sales dashboards are those that provide data in real time.
72. Zeroed out
In sales jargon, zeroed out is when a salesperson earns enough commission to make their draw balance equal to zero. This means that they have paid out all their draws and can start earning commissions again.
73. Sales whale
A whale is a sales prospect so big that it could make a major difference to your company’s business. A whale is much larger than your usual target, and the revenue it could bring in is much larger, too.
A sales demo is the process of demonstrating a product or service to a prospective client. The reason it’s called a sales demo is because its purpose is to create a sale. It can get mixed up with a product demo, which refers to a demo that is for already-existing clients.
75. Sales wordsmith
Not knowing the proper definition for sales terms can cause confusion, miscommunication, and misinformation being shared. Getting a firm grasp on these terms is crucial to becoming an effective and well-informed sales team member.
76. Sales performance management
Sales performance management refers to the organization of sales processes to improve efficiency and effectiveness. Areas of sales performance management include compensation plans, quota setting, and territory management.
77. Buyer behavior
Buyer behaviour is the manner in which a customer chooses solutions. It can be influenced by their wants, needs, aspirations, occupations, and environment.
To understand what being zeroed out is, we must first have some context and talk about how commissions and draws work.
Learning the right sales words and acronyms isn’t enough; you need to act on the terminology that you’ve read. A smart marketer and salesperson knows how to use systems, processes software, and how to apply strategies learned in this sales glossary to generate leads, learn about human behaviour, and make additional income.
With this sales glossary and your existing sales knowledge, you can tweak your image and strategy to target and retain the clients you want. The best salespeople have an innate ability to charm, but they also have the foresight to apply what they’ve learned and evolve their strategy to stay ahead.