The Complete Guide to Sales Terminology
Sales honestly has its own language. Are you familiar with the sales strategies "land and expand" or "puppy dog sales"? In this comprehensive glossary of sales terms, we'll go over all the concepts and lingo you need to be familiar with as a salesperson.
If you're interested in learning more, be sure to check out our guides to marketing and SEO terms as well:
2021 Guide to Marketing Terminology
SEO Terms Every Marketer Should Know
A mantra in the sales world that goes: “always be closing.” Popularized in the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross, ABC is the idea that a salesperson should use any and all methods to close, and prioritize the closing above all else. However, in reality, the sales process includes a lot of research, strategy-planning, and follow-up with customers, so closing is only one small part of the big picture. (And these days, the focus should really be on helping clients solve their problems, not on rushing to meet your quota).
Also known as split testing, this is a common practice in marketing and sales in which you test two versions of something (a website, email campaign, sales call script) and see which yields the best results. Generally, you will set version A as the control, and then change a single factor in version B to test it by itself.
A sales model that targets companies (aka accounts) as a single unit, as opposed to focusing on individual leads. In many cases, this focus on whole companies is more effective than the traditional leads-based model in B2B sales, because there are often multiple decision makers and it opens up possibilities for different uses or cross-selling to other branches of the company.
A salesperson who is in charge of managing client accounts.
ARPA (average revenue per account)
The average recurring profit per customer, within a given year or month.
B2B (Business to business)
When a company sells its products/services to another business.
B2C (Business to consumer)
When a company sells its products/services to consumers who are the intended end-users.
A framework which can be used to determine how far along the sales funnel a lead is. Stands for budget, authority, need, and timeline.
Buying intent, or purchase intent, is a measure of a potential customer’s inclination to buy a product/service, which can be determined by their demographics, the content they consume, as well as their behavior as a customer.
Actions by a prospect that indicate their strong interest and strong consideration of purchasing a product/service. An example could be multiple visits to a product web page in a short period of time, which shows a heightened interest in that specific product.
“Alignment means we are working towards the same destination” (Kotler et al., 2010) The coordination of sales and marketing to smoothly work together towards a common goal with a shared strategy.
When a company introduces a new product and ends up unintentionally displacing one of their old products.
A sales business model that incorporates partners or third-parties for referrals or distribution. This is different from the traditional method of selling directly to your end-consumer, with no outside assistance. A channel sales model often enables you to reach customers who normally would not buy directly from a vendor.
The percentage of customers or subscribers who stop using your service over a specified time period.
C-level executives (CxOs)
The senior ranking executives in a company, like the CEO, CFO, and CTO. C-level executives are often the top decision makers in a company and thus are often directly negotiated with in B2B sales.
The stage in the sales funnel in which a sale is successfully completed.
The opposite of closed won, this is the case in which a sales rep fails to close the sale and the prospect is lost.
An outbound sales method, in which you make an unsolicited call to cold leads (leads who have not yet expressed any interest in your products). Often, your company will not have developed any sort of relationship with these cold leads at the point of cold calling.
Cold emails are the same idea as cold calling, though you send the sales promo or pitch via email to unqualified leads.
Also referred to as “enterprise sales,” this is a large sale that involves multiple decision makers, has a relatively long sales cycle, and increased perceived risk from the buyer’s perspective.
Generally-speaking, this refers to the point at which a potential customer performs a desired action. In web marketing, conversion is when a user fills out a form on your website, like a “Contact Us” form and makes direct contact.
The selling of an additional, often complementary product/service on top of what the customer has already purchased.
A branch devoted to follow-up with clients to help them achieved their desired goals by using your products/services. Customer success helps you prevent churn while creating new opportunities to cross-sell and upsell.
CX (Customer experience)
The subjective response a user has whenever interacting with your brand that contributes to their overall impression of your business. By optimizing CX you can directly improve customer satisfaction.
When a sales prospect suddenly halts contact and stops responding to your emails and calls, they have “gone dark.”
The individual who has final say in a buying decision, typically an executive.
Direct mail (DM)
Sales pitches sent directly to a prospect via analog methods like the postal service and fax, or through digital methods like email or text message. One new practice is to send DMs through the inquiry forms on target companies' websites.
The sales model in which businesses sell directly to their intended end users without any third parties involved.
Your first conversation with a prospect to find out if they are a good fit with your company and realistically going to buy from you.
Door-to-door sales (D2D)
Though now thought to be a bit antiquated as far as sales methods go, D2D is a direct selling strategy in which sales reps physically visit their target leads and try to engage them in a conversation about their product/service. Door-to-door sales focuses on the salesperson’s personability and skills rather than relying on marketing to bring in qualified leads.
When prospects buy based on emotions as opposed to logic. Since the way prospects react emotionally to your sales pitches and approaches play a huge factor in their buying decision, it’s important for sales reps to develop emotional intelligence, such as empathy and being able to read a stranger’s emotions.
Stands for “features, advantages, and benefits.” FAB is a common structure for a sales pitch, and concisely summarizes the specific features that make it unique, each feature’s functionality, and the long-term results you can get out of this investment. For example, if you’re selling a laptop, one feature could be that it's compact and light-weight, the advantage that it is easy to carry and travel with, and the benefit that your back won’t get sore from lugging around a bulky laptop all day.
Fair market value
The price that a product would sell to an informed buyer under normal market conditions.
A new approach to sales, proposed by Hubspot as a replacement for the traditional marketing/sales funnel. The flywheel takes into account the influential role of consumers in brand promotion, and then positions them at the center of the business.
Estimating how much sales revenue you expect to make within a certain time frame, based on historical data and industry trends.
An annual list published in Fortune Magazine that ranks the 500 largest US corporations in terms of yearly revenue.
Anyone who blocks a salesperson’s way to the decision maker, like a receptionist who is trained to reject sales calls.
A sales framework that relies on already-interested prospects coming to you to inquire about your product/service, rather than you searching for prospects and pushing them to buy (before they’re even interested, in most cases). Since inbound sales focuses on “pulling in” or attracting new customers, it’s important to have a plethora of quality content available on your website, so they can easily find their way to your business online.
Inside sales, or “remote sales,” are reps who contact potential customers over the phone, email, and internet, but not in person. Often, a business will set up both an inside sales and outside sales to complement the other, and inside sales will make first contact with tentatively qualified leads to make sure they have interest or potential to buy, and then make an appointment for outside sales to make the first visit.
A highly valuable customer who makes up a disproportionately large amount of your total revenue. They offer mutually-beneficial long-term relationships, by making repeat purchases, referring acquaintances to your company, etc.
KGI (key goal indicator)
Final indicator to measure big-picture goals in a business.
KPI (key performance indicator)
Intermediate indicators of progress towards the big-picture goals, shown by breaking it down into multiple smaller goals.
Land and expand
The strategy in which a rep makes a small deal with a new client and then continues to build the relationship to later expand the sale to other sections of the client’s organization and recommend add-on products/services.
A qualified prospect that is very likely to become a customer. Sales opportunity is the stage in which you’re having a two-way conversation about your product and they’re now deliberating whether or not to make the purchase.
A mathematical formula created by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto to describe the wealth inequities in Italy, in which 80% of the country’s wealth was controlled by only 20% of the population. The Pareto distribution formula can be applied to business because in many cases a single aspect of a business may contribute to the majority of the profit, in which case the company should concentrate their investments in that area.
A business model that depends on the product’s inherent value as the driver for customer acquisition, sales, and retention. Sales-led growth, on the other hand, relies directly on the efforts and skill of sales reps to communicate this value and acquire new clients.
A calculation of total revenue minus expenses. In other words, how much of the total revenue can actually be called profit?
An organization or individual who has shown interest in your product and engaged with your company in some way. Essentially, a prospect can be defined as a qualified lead.
The act of searching for potential customers from the lead pool. Sales reps will make an outbound call or email, test the water, and if the interaction goes well, they will hopefully create a new business opportunity.
Puppy dog sales
A sales technique where you offer your product on a free trial basis, lowering the pressure to buy, making it easier to create a positive relationship with the client, and then having them see real results on their own. The name originates from a sales method that used to be used by pet stores, where they’d let a little kid take home a puppy for a few days, just to try it out, and then allow them to return it if it’s too much responsibility. However, since puppies are adorable and the family can’t help but get attached, of course they choose to keep him.
Purchase order (PO)
An official document that the buyer submits to the seller with a request for an order, that lists agreed prices and quantities
When an existing client recommends your business to another company, and gives you their contact info so you can meet with them.
Activities intended to re-engage and keep existing customers.
Return on investment (ROI)
A metric used to calculate the profitability of an investment.
RFM (Recency, Frequency, and Monetary value), is a method used to qualitatively rank customers based on how recent their last transaction was, how frequent they visit, and their purchasing power.
The process and specific actions that sales reps follow when making a sale. Your sales cycle is unique to your company, but the basic cycle includes prospect → connect → research → present → close.
The process of equipping your sales team with all the tools (tech, information, content, etc.) they need to effectively sell. Steps to sales enablement include the incorporation of IT tools to track customer data, creation of new high-quality content like whitepapers or case studies, and the automation of repetitive tasks like email sequences.
A visual representation of where prospects are in the sales process. The structure of a sales pipeline can vary between companies, but generally the steps include lead qualification, first meeting, proposal, and closing. Note: A sales funnel, on the other hand, refers to the quantity and conversion rates of prospects as they move through the pipeline. That’s why the funnel is shaped the way it is: wider at the top, full of unqualified leads, and narrower as they go through the process (some decide not to buy, turn out not to be within your target, or require more nurturing).
The process of dividing your target audience into smaller subgroups (called segments) based on shared characteristics, such as location, demographics, industry, and more, and then approaching that subgroup individually with specific methods.
When marketing and sales are aligned in a fluid, continuous process, working together towards common goals.
A series of questions to ask during a sales call: Situation questions (figuring out the prospect’s current circumstances, their processes and the tools they’re already using), problem questions (that help them identify their problems on their own), implication questions (which help them become aware of why these are urgent problems that need to be solved), and finally need-payoff questions (to make them realize for themselves what value your product could offer).
SQL (Sales Qualified Lead)
A lead that has already been vetted by marketing, and then further qualified as a hot lead with a high potential to amount to a sale.
A commitment between a service-provider and their customer, which defines exactly what services they will provide and the metrics used to measure them.
SFA (Sales Force Automation)
An IT tool that allows you to automate workflows and make the entire sales process smoother and more efficient.
Selling to the state, local, and education market - public organizations like government agencies and schools.
Subject matter expert (SME)
An individual with a deep knowledge of a topic. Sometimes you can majorly benefit from including an SME in a sales meeting - someone who may not have the sales skills but can provide the customer with the information they need to improve or effectively solve a problem. For example, during the onboarding period of our marketing automation tool, we often have a SME on website optimization join in to give pointers on how they should edit their homepage for better results.
SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunity, and Threat) is a framework for identifying an organization's competitive positioning.
Identifying the customer segments that are most likely to buy from you, then prioritizing them by approaching them first with a sales strategy specifically developed for each unique segment.
This term comes from car dealerships, where people with nothing better to do used to come around every once in a while and kick the tires on a few cars to feign interest, but would always leave without buying anything. In the IT industry, tire-kickers tend to take sales meetings only to take advantage of your expertise, with no intention or actual interest in your product.
Any time a customer comes in contact with your organization throughout the customer’s journey. In other words, touchpoints are interactions like phone calls, emails, social media, attending webinars, downloading content, sending a contact form, etc.
Unique selling proposition (USP)
How your product can be set apart from those of your competitors. A specific benefit that this product brings, and at the same time, matches with your target audience’s needs like highlighting what your company does best.
Persuading the customer to buy an upgraded or premium version of the product they currently have, in order to increase sales revenue.
A simple, clear statement that answers ‘why’ a potential customer should buy your product.
A lead that comes with the promise of an enormous sale, so big that it could significantly boost your business’s growth. A reference to Moby Dick, the white whale is so rare and elusive that you may become obsessed with catching him, and end up forgoing other potential sales for this unrealistic one.