Welcome to the LinkedIn sales glossary, where we've created a quick reference guide to all the sales terminology you've been wondering about. Chock full of sales terms and selling words, consider it your go-to sales dictionary as you move through learning about the world of sales.
Whether you're new to the field or have already set off on your journey, we understand that sales acronyms and terminology can get confusing. To the uninitiated, all of this talk about prospecting and pipelines can end up sounding like an old west oil baron talking about the California gold rush. That's ok! We're here to help you separate the gold from the sand. Below, we've collected the most common sales terms and their definitions in an easy-to-read format, so you can come back to it whenever you need a refresher.
In a sales team, the account executive role serves as the main point of contact for an existing client. An account executive is there to support the client, manage the client relationship, and educate the client about other products or services the company offers. They add value by helping the company retain clients, which is less costly than the process of generating new clients.
The AIDA model is a simple model in four parts. AIDA stands for attention, interest, desire, and action, outlining the four stages a customer goes through as they move through the buying process. This hierarchical model is a specific type of sales funnel or purchasing funnel, and is used in both sales and marketing contexts.
The acronym B2B comes up frequently when reading about sales. B2B is short for business to business, and refers to a transaction between two businesses rather than a business and a consumer. The term B2B sales can apply to the sale of raw materials in a manufacturing supply chain, consulting, software, or any other product or service a business might need to purchase.
The acronym B2B comes up frequently when reading about sales. B2B is short for business to business, and refers to a transaction between two businesses rather than a business and a consumer. The term B2B sales can apply to the sale of raw materials in a manufacturing supply chain, consulting, software, or any other product or sevice a business might need to purchase.
Business Development Representative
A business development representative or business development rep (BDR) is a junior member of the sales team whose role focuses on outbound prospecting. That means these team members are the ones who reach out to prospects—often via cold calling, email, and networking—to see if they are a qualified lead. If they are a good candidate, the prospect will be contacted by a senior member of the sales team.
The final stage in the sales cycle, closed-won occurs when a purchase is completed. For a purchase to be complete, all required approvals must have occurred, and the prospect has accepted or signed a contract. Closed-won is the definitive point at which a prospect officially becomes a customer and the sale is considered complete.
Cold calling is the practice of contacting a potential customer who you have not previously contacted and generally do not have an existing business relationship with. While a cold call is named for making contact via phone, this term is sometimes used to describe initial contact made through other means of communication.
When a salesperson earns money in addition to their base pay for making a sale, this is known as sales commission. Employers typically use commission as part of an employee’s compensation package to help incentivize making sales. There are many different types of commission structures based on the business and what is being sold, so it is important to pay attention to what kind of sales commission plan is being offered.
Selling a related product or service to an existing customer of your business is known as cross selling. This product or service typically complements something they have already bought from you. A salesperson cross selling by encouraging the customer to buy complementary products at the same time can also be considered upselling.
Customer Lifetime Value
The total amount of time a person or business spends as your customer is called a lifetime. Profit gained from that customer during their lifetime with your business is known as customer lifetime value (CLV or CLTV). Also called lifetime value, the average CLV can be compared to the average customer acquisition cost to find out the average net profit a business gets from each customer.
Contact made with a prospect after they have shown an initial interest in your product or service is known as a discovery call. This is the sales representative’s first conversation with the prospect, and is an opportunity to understand whether or not they are a qualified lead. This is when you can discuss what their challenges are and educate the prospect on how your product or service might help.
The Great Reshuffle
Sometimes used interchangeably with The Great Resignation, the phenomenon known as The Great Reshuffle refers specifically to the “shuffling” of workers into different jobs, rather than out of them. Whether due to a shift in priorities or a preference for remote work, COVID-19 caused many people to reassess what they wanted from their jobs. With greater flexibilty and better work/life balance topping the list, employees are increasingly opting to move to companies that align with these goals
The Great Resignation
The Great Resignation is a popluar term that was coined during the COVID-19 pandemic when it became clear that a record number of people were quitting their jobs. This phenomenon included people who permanently left the workforce, workers who changed career paths, and employees who left for companies that allowed them to work remotely on a permanent basis. The latter two categories gave rise to the alternate term The Great Reshuffle.
Different from outbound sales, which occurs when a sales rep is the first to contact a prospect, inbound sales is defined by the prospect initiating a relationship with a seller. This typically involves the company having content for prospects to interact with, such as a web form, letting the prospect approach the business. When they have shown interest, the salesperson will contact the prospect to find out if they are a qualified lead.
Synonymous with virtual sales, inside sales involves a sales transaction that is made remotely. This term came into use with the prevalence of the telephone, when phone sales needed to be differentiated from outside sales made by a salesperson working in locations outside the office. Inside sales are distinct from telemarketing in that they are lead-based, unscripted calls carried out by a skilled sales rep.
A lead or prospect is someone who shows interest in the product or service that is being sold, or is in a demographic that is likely to have a need for what is being sold. Lead generation is the practice of defining and and acquiring new leads via data, marketing, and other means, and is followed by identifying qualified leads that should be nurtured by the sales team.
The identification of qualified leads who are likely to become buyers can be done through a process known as lead scoring. After identifying the criteria that make a qualified lead, those criteria are given point values. Each lead is measured against these values to give a final lead score. This allows the sales team to prioritize their efforts based on data-based lead rankings.
Marketing Qualified Lead
When a company’s marketing efforts result in a lead who shows interest in your product or service, they are a marketing qualified lead (MQL). This potential customer has demonstrated interest by interacting with your company in some way, such as repeated website visits, and meets the marketing team’s criteria for being passed to the sales team.
Modern selling is a model tailored to the modern buyer, who has generally collected all of the information they need to feel comfortable with making a purchase before approaching the seller. The modern sales model focuses on building strong relationships through interaction along with consumer education via content to create repeat customers.
Outbound sales versus inbound sales is defined by which party initiates the sales relationship. In an outbound sales model, a salesperson from the company initiates the relationship by contacting the prospect first. This may occur in the form of cold calls, email marketing, social selling, or any other mode in which the salesperson initiates contact.
A prospect, also called a lead, is a person or business who is likely to have an interest in the product or service your company is selling. Prospecting is the act of defining them through an ideal customer profile, finding the businesses or people who match that profile, and initiating contact with them in order to generate new business.
Sales Development Representative
A sales development representative or sales development rep (SDR) is a junior member of the sales team whose role focuses on inbound prospecting. That means these team members are the ones to assess leads who have shown interest in the product or service to see if they are qualified leads. If the lead is a good candidate, they will be forwarded for more senior members of the sales team to contact.
Estimating a company’s sales revenue for a specific time period is called sales forecasting. A sales forecast typically looks at a month, quarter, or year, and is based on both current and historical data about the company, the industry, and the market as a whole. Sales forecasting helps leadership plan spending and adjust strategy to maintain the health of the business.
A sales funnel shows the path a prospective customer takes from discovering something to purchasing something. The sales funnel can be split into three main segments, often referred to as TOFU/MOFU/BOFU. Top of funnel (TOFU) represents the awareness stage, middle of funnel (MOFU) represents the evaluation stage, and bottom of funnel (BOFU) is where a purchase is made. Each of these steps may be broken down into more specific parts tailored to a business model.
Sometimes taken to mean the same thing, sales pipeline and sales funnel are similar, but address different sides of the sales experience. While sales funnel describes the journey of the customer, the sales pipeline outlines the path of the salesperson. The sales pipeline is often shown as a visual representation of the sales process for a given business.
A sales process is a standardized and repeatable series of steps that members of a sales team follow in the course of converting a prospect into a customer. Having a well-defined sales process helps the sales team be more prepared and effective, and also offers a consistent customer experience for the consumer.
Sales Qualified Lead
A sales qualified lead (SQL) is a lead who has been assessed by the sales team and is deemed ready to buy. While a marketing qualified lead has shown interest in marketing materials, a sales qualified lead has shown interest in pricing or other specific details that suggest they are closer to making a purchase.
Generally a time-bound figure, a sales quota is a goal applied to both individual sellers and teams. This serves to set a performance expectation by giving the sales team a number to work toward and a defined amount of time to do it in. A sales quota is frequently thought of as a dollar amount, but may also be units sold, new customers acquired, or other measurables. Sales quotas are used as a component in incentive pay structures.
A sales strategy is a long-term, strategic plan for increasing sales. This outlines how your product or service will be positioned and how it will be sold to qualified leads. Unlike the structured steps of a sales process, a sales strategy is an evolving plan that is designed to shift based on business needs and other factors.
When a salesperson uses social media to identify and pursue leads for the business, it is known as social selling. The social sales process involves interactions on various social media platforms that allow the salesperson to build a rapport with leads, typically answering questions and building trust between the prospect and the seller. This relationship can then be leveraged to make a sale.
Upselling is a technique used by salespeople while they are making a sale. When a customer has decided to purchase a specific product, the salesperson will educate them on a higher-end product or add-on products with the goal of getting the customer to spend more money. Compensation structures with commission further incentivize upselling.
A key building block of marketing messaging, a value proposition is part of how your product or service is positioned in the market. This is a simple statement made by the company that summarizes the features of their offering, explains what differentiates the offering from that of their competitors, and displays how the offering will help alleviate a customer’s pain points.
Instead of a face-to-face sales transaction, virtual sales occurs when a sales rep interacts with a customer remotely. Virtual selling is also used as a catch-all term for any communication channel, technology, or related process that a sales representative may use to engage buyers remotely, such as texts, social media, and email.
When a sales representative reaches out to a lead who is already aware of the product or service they're selling, it’s considered a warm call. This prospect may be a referral or has done something to indicate interest like putting their contact information into a web form. This is in contrast to a cold call, which is made with no prior indication of interest from the lead being contacted.