The Sales Dictionary: How to Speak "Sales"


Did you ever make up a secret language with your best friend in elementary school? Only you two knew what you were saying between the giggles and whispers. It was awesome. Fast forward some years, and it is not so awesome when you make an industry switch and all your coworkers are speaking a language you’ve never heard in your life.

Every industry has its own share of lingo that only the “insiders” or experienced understand. Sales is no different. To add confusion to chaos, many sales terms are just common everyday words with alternate meanings.

The Will Reed team created a resource to help you better understand the lingo in the world of sales.

Outside Sales: Also known as “field sales,” Outside Sales Reps are very independent and are often outside the office traveling to meet with customers in person. This is typically what people think of when they think of “wining and dining” Sales Reps.

Outside-Inside Sales: Also known as “hybrid sales,” Outside-Inside Sales Reps sit in an office and do most business over the phone or video conferencing. They may occasionally travel to meet customers in person.

Inside Sales: Inside Sales Reps sit in an office every day and do all business over the phone with occasional video conferencing.

Direct Sales: Direct Sales Reps sell directly to the end customer. These customers/users can include a company’s CTO, tech team, or marketing team.

Indirect Sales: Also known as “Channel or Partner” Sales, Indirect Sales Reps sell with a middleman who represents a variety of products from a variety of vendors. The middleman is often called a partner and is associated with an NSP (national solution provider company such as SHI, Insight or CDW) or VAR (value-added reseller via a local partner such as Prosys or GDT). At some companies, it’s required for a salesperson to sell alongside a partner, who often does the quoting and pricing for an IT product.

SMB: Small and medium businesses; SMB companies can be based on customer spend with the vendor company, size of business or revenue numbers.

Corporate/Commercial/Mid-Market: Mid-sized businesses; Sales organizations typically set a revenue range they must fall within to be qualified as mid-sized. This differs within every sales organization.

Enterprise/Global: Large businesses; Sales organizations typically set a revenue threshold for what is considered an enterprise or global company. Oftentimes these are Fortune 500 or 1,000 companies with millions of dollars in spend with a vendor company.

Public Sector (SLED/FED): This includes any government entity such as federal or local government, K-12 schools, public universities, etc. Typically these are very different sales cycles, as a number of organizations bid for a long-term contract and the lowest price usually wins.

Transactional Selling: Sales Reps are focused on quantity of deals over size/quality of deals; the sales cycle is fast, and deal sizes are small.

Consultative Selling: Sales Reps are focused on the size of the deal over the quantity of deals; the sales cycle is typically lengthier and the salesperson must intimately learn the customer’s needs and build a long-lasting client relationship where the customer will become a repeat buyer.

SaaS (Software as a Service): In the past, customers had to make a large upfront investment in software. The software would be installed once on-premise, and updates had to be physically facilitated, often at high cost. Now, software is oftentimes hosted in the cloud, and customers subscribe to it for a contracted amount of time. While likely more expensive over the long run, this model allows costs to be spread over time and updates to be streamlined indefinitely.

Quota: A monetary success metric Sales Reps are held to, more often than not based on revenue brought in during a set length of time (monthly, quarterly, annually).

Metrics: Any tangible measurements that sales teams use to gauge success (dials/day, customer meetings/week, product demos/week, etc).

Base Salary: A Sales Rep’s salary. This money is guaranteed regardless of performance to quota (or lack thereof).

Commission: The variable amount of income a Sales Rep earns based on how they perform against their quota; (Side note: Will Reed only works with companies that offer uncapped commission.)

OTE (On Track Earnings): A Sales Rep’s base salary + the commission they would earn if they met their quota. OTE’s can be broken down in a variety of ways (50 base/50 commission split and 60 base/40 commission split are most common).

Full Sales Cycle: Managing the full sales process, from hunting/prospecting net new customers to closing deals and receiving final customer sign-offs.

Hunter / Hunting: The person or practice of finding net new business. This usually involves a lot of cold outreach (cold calls, emails, unannounced site visits if in the field, etc).

Farmer / Farming: The person or practice of maintaining and growing existing client accounts. It is very important to build  strong client relationships as they can lead to successful up-selling, cross-selling and renewing in the existing client accounts.

Named Accounts: If a salesperson works with only named accounts, it typically means they are given a list of set customers (AKA “book of business”). These customers may all be existing customers or they could be a mix of acquisition or new customers alongside existing customers.

Individual Contributor (IC): Any salesperson who is responsible for their own sales cycle or a portion of the sales cycle where they are solely responsible for achieving their own quota.

TOLA: The region that encompasses Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas; typically is slow to adopt new technology, so sales can be more challenging.

SDR/BDR: Sales Development or Business Development Reps. These reps are oftentimes at the bottom of the sales “food chain” and usually do a lot of the cold calling and lead generation for Account Executives and field reps. Oftentimes, these people only run the early stages of sales cycles and do not close deals.

Overlay Role: Someone who works under another sales position (ex. an Inside Account Manager or works alongside a Field/Enterprise Account Manager). Also important to double check if these reps are owning the full sales cycle and closing deals by themselves.

Now that you have a grasp on sales lingo, check out our Tech Sales Encyclopedia.