A quick guide to CRM terminology you will encounter

A quick guide to CRM terminology you will encounter

Customer Relationship Management has its fair share of specialized terminology. So, it’s best to understand the main phrases you are going to encounter. What, for instance, is a pipeline and a stage? And what are boxes? If you are new to CRM as a small business owner, don’t panic. This article will help demystify some of the common CRM terminology you will encounter.

What you will learn in this article

  • The basic CRM terms to know
  • The main advanced features 
  • What formula columns are
  • How to write formulas in Spreadsheet and Javascript
  • How to get started with CRM

What you need to know: a glossary

If you can’t tell a pipeline from a stage or boxes trip you up, you have reached the right place.

Pipeline: Where you and your team work. The pipeline is the place that work is defined. The best analogy is that it’s similar to a worksheet within a large spreadsheet file. A pipeline is a home to any workflow or process that involves multiple steps.*

Stages: A stage is a milestone or a specific step within a pipeline’s workflow. Stages break down the pipeline to let you track progress within your workflow.

Boxes: A box is any item that you are tracking within your pipeline. A box moves along the stages until the workflow is completed.

Contacts: A contact is an individual related to a specific box. The contact has their full details accompanying them. Therefore, you can better understand with whom you are working.

* For example, your sales team’s pipeline will contain multiple stages to track every opportunity from lead to deal closed.

Advanced CRM terms

So far, so clear, but let’s throw it up a notch and look at some of the more advanced CRM terminology and what it means.

Magic columns: Sadly they don’t involve rabbits or white doves. Rather magic columns are automated columns within your pipeline. These columns are real time-savers as they enable you to extract useful information from the data that already inhabits your box.

Formula colums: Columns that use values written in Spreadsheet and JavaScript. There’s more about these below.

Saved views: This tool lets you filter, sort, and group boxes by specific views as its name hints. In addition, the tool is uber-handy, as you can use the data within the box to obtain insights into your pipeline.

Zapier: A web service that allows you to connect and automate your existing third-party apps and platforms into your CRM service.

What are formula columns?

Formula columns are a great way to automate data handling in your pipeline. 

The formula column is a custom column that you use to define a formula, have it run it an evaluation, and return a value. It is a CRM version of how spreadsheets use formulas, but with a few significant differences:

  • You are limited to referring only to other cells within the same row
  • The formulas are written in Spreadsheet or JavaScript

However, you can add a formula column from the pipeline. Clicking on a cell opens a large text box for you to use. When you are finished, click or tap ⌘/Ctrl + Enter to save your formula.

Formula scoping

By default, formulas contained in a column appear in every box within your pipeline. But you can customize formulas for different stages of the pipeline or attach a formula to only one box if you wish.

  • Entire column (the default) –  If you select this, the formula will run in every box within your pipeline.
  • This stage only – This overrides the formula you defined for the entire column. In this instance, the formula will only run in the boxes within the stage selected.
  • This box only – This overrides everything and applies the formula to the selected box.

To reference a particular column in your formula, the syntax used is: $’Column Name’

Writing formulas in Spreadsheet and JavaScript

As discussed, formulas are usually written in Spreadsheet or JavaScript.

The first method is how you write formulas in Excel or Google Sheets. Spreadsheet formulas still need references to be written in column notation. For example, you would reference a column called Deals Closed as $ ‘Deals Closed’ in the formula.

Typically, a CRM will support several functions, including:

  • Range references
  • Logic such as IF
  • Number functions that often support extra values in a comma-separated list

JavaScript formulas, meanwhile, require an explicit return statement. Typically with most CRMs, simple formulae will resolve as usual. But more complicated formulae will not return an answer without one.

The return types that are generally available within CRM systems include:

  • Numbers (floats and integers)
  • Strings 
  • Dates
  • Boolean
  • Array
  • Object
  • Basic Math

When delving deeper into these matters, it’s a good idea to check which functions a CRM system does not support. Formula functionality is compiled on various platforms, but most will support ES5 functions.

How to get started with CRM

Using CRM is a lot simpler than the jargon may suggest. Ultimately, users don’t need to code if they don’t want to; it’s that simple. But it’s good to know you can when you need to crunch numbers.

For small businesses wishing to get into CRM for the first time, the best option is undoubtedly a cloud-based CRM solution. These are affordable, easy to implement, user-friendly and intuitive, and can scale up as your small business expands. To save time, refine your search to cloud CRM vendors. And take up any offer of a free trial as there’s no substitute for practical hands-on experience. Free trials are risk-free demo accounts that let you get your hands dirty and see how CRM can help your small business.


CRM is not the impenetrable jungle of jargon you may have first imagined. Indeed, cloud CRM developers have put in many thousands of hours to ensure their platforms are as user-friendly as they can get them. Contact us today. We are the cloud CRM specialists for small business and talk your language, not techspeak.

May 23, 2022

Team Samdock

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