Dynamics 365 – A Glossary for SMB

Even though Dynamics 365 was not specifically designed for the SMB customer, we engage with those SMB customers on a daily basis, who are still interested in Microsoft’s Customer Engagement offering. Most of these conversations start with an explanation of the terms and concepts that are used in Customer Engagement… or what we used to call CRM. I thought it might be helpful to create a “Cheat Sheet”.

The Basics of CRM

For most SMBs, a defined process for sales is a new concept, much less using an application specifically designed for managing that process. If that first sentence did not already scare you off, good for you. While the beauty of a “platform” like Dynamics 365 is that it can be molded to fit your processes, many SMBs would do well to understand how Dynamics 365 processes are provided out-of-the-box, before applying “How we have always done things” to it. The best end-result is always a blend of “What you have done” and “What Dynamics 365 can bring”. If you are exploring Dynamics 365, you have most likely already determined that there are areas needing improvement, so it would be kind of pointless to replicate your crappy process on a more powerful platform. That would just be higher powered crappiness. Most SMBs start their journey by exploring Sales, so let’s start with some basic Dynamics 365 “Sales” terms.

All SMB customers already have established terms for things in their sales organization. Sometimes these terms only make sense to you, and sometimes these terms are the same as terms used in Dynamics 365, but mean something different. While you can certainly change the terms in Dynamics 365 to match your vernacular, it is often better to change your vernacular. “No you change”, “No you change”. Working with Partners, third-party add-ons, or with Microsoft for that matter, can get challenging when you are using terms differently that what these sources are familiar with, and can easily, and always leads to misunderstandings. So, notwithstanding how you may have used these terms in the past, the following is what Dynamics 365, and everyone else around it, assumes these terms mean.

  • Lead: Typically, a “Lead” is someone you have had not done any business with yet. Every business has Leads, if not, you won’t be around long. In Dynamics 365 “Leads” are a unique thing that are handled differently than your existing customers. The Lead record in Dynamics 365 is unique in that it captures three kinds of data on a single record form; information about the person, information about the company, and information about what kind of business you might potentially do with them. Since these are not currently customers and have not even reached a stage that we are talking about any real business yet, we certainly don’t want them clogging up areas in Dynamics 365, where we do have real customers and business, so they are Leads until determined otherwise. Some examples of Leads: Business cards collected at a trade show, inquiries from your website, a purchased list of prospects, a name you overhead at the bar, you get the idea. You will want a process for progressing these Leads to a point where you either eliminate them as not qualified, or they reach some point where you feel they are “real” enough, and then you will “Qualify” them. Many SMBs, coming from spreadsheets and post-it notes, will struggle to grasp this concept, but it will make you life a lot easier, and your business more successful, if you just assimilate.
  • Opportunity: Now we are getting somewhere, an Opportunity is potential real business for us. We have passed the tire-kicker stage. An Opportunity may have been created by “Qualifying” a Lead, or it may be new business for an existing customer, either way we should be happy; it’s not money in the bank, but it’s closer to it. An Opportunity can represent multiple items, but a person or business in Dynamics can also have multiple opportunities being worked on at the same time. For example, if you are a contractor, who bids on multiple projects for a company, each of those projects would be its own opportunity. You could win one project but lose another. Think of any “segments” of work that you could win or lose independently, and use an Opportunity for each. Unlike Leads, Opportunities are considered potential “real” business, so data will start to populate in pipelines and projections on dashboards and reports. You will work on each “segment” of real business at the Opportunity level, until you either Win it or Lose it.
  • Account: An Account is assumed to be a Business of some kind. You customer’s business, a vendor’s business, etc. Accounts are usually created as part of the Lead Qualifying process, but your existing Accounts may have been imported when you started with Dynamics 365. By default, the Account record has several things that are “associated” with it, Opportunities for example, but also Contacts and other things. By design, Accounts are assumed to be the “Master” record in Dynamics 365, in fact, by default if you delete, or deactivate an Account record, all Contacts and Opportunities under it are also deleted or deactivated. This behavior, like most in Dynamics 365, can be changed.
  • Contact: A Contact is assumed to be a person you have an actual relationship with. It is not a Lead or Prospect or whatever you have been calling it. SMBs tend to come from systems where everyone and everything is a Contact. Not segregating the people you know, from the people you don’t, will just make life so much harder for you. In B2B scenarios, Contacts are typically associated to an Account. In B2C scenarios they can stand alone. Contacts can also be associated with Opportunities, and usually are, in either B2B or B2C scenarios. A Contact is not exclusively used for people who you are trying to sell something to. Contacts, just like Accounts, can be added to Dynamics 365 for other purposes. For example, to extend my Contractor scenario, an Architect on a project, could also be added to Dynamics 365 along with their firm. The architect could be associated to the Opportunity you created for the project. This way all communications, with all parties related to the project could be in one place. Similarly, sub-contractors that you are getting pricing from, could also be Contacts and Accounts that are related to the Opportunity. Over time, you may be able to see that this Architect always lies to you about the details, so your bid will be higher than his buddy’s.

So that covers the basics, Leads, Opportunities, Accounts and Contacts are the four pillars of Sales in Dynamics 365. Of course, as an extensible, fully customizable platform, this can be changed into anything you want, but these things come out-of-the-box. Before scrapping the Dynamics 365 processes and building your own, as way too many SMBs want to do, you should really explore the logic that has been put behind the Lead to Opportunity process. In most SMB scenarios, I find that they are better off, building on, and extending, what is already provided. So, those are the basics, let’s dive into a few more terms that you will encounter with Dynamics 365:

  • Entity: You will see and hear this term thrown around a lot in the platform and by Microsoft and your Partner. It just means “Things” in Dynamics 365. For example, the Leads, Opportunities, Accounts and Contacts things I described above, are each “Entities” in Dynamics 365. So if you hear a phrase like “Account Entity”, it is just the Account Record Type in the system.
  • Record: I remember the early database explanation of The Filing Cabinet, with the folders inside of it, and the items inside of each folder. For the millennials reading this, who are not sure what a Filing Cabinet is, it is those big metal things in the corner of your grandfather’s garage. The metaphor still pretty much applies; at the end of the day Dynamics 365 is a relational database. A huge filing cabinet, full of folders, many of which are related to each other, and each of which containing details about what’s in it.
  • Form: In the Filing Cabinet scenario, the Form is the folder. For each record in Dynamics 365 there is a form that is used to collect information about the Record, like Address information for an Account, favorite beer for a Contact, etc.. Like your LinkedIn profile edit page, where you can update your details, that is the “Form” for your LinkedIn record. In Dynamics 365, each record, like an Account for example is represented by a Form. There is a Form provided by default, which can be customized to meet your needs. You can also have multiple Forms for Accounts, so for a customer you might collect different data, than for a vendor for example.
  • View: When you open that file drawer and scan the tabs of the folders, this is the equivalent of a View in Dynamics 365. So, the Accounts view, is a list displayed of the Accounts in the system. There are several Views provided already in the system, which can all be customized to fit your needs. Views are primary made up of the columns of information you would like to view, and the filtering you would like applied. Views are very similar to Excel spreadsheets. For example, the default “All Accounts” view could be copied, and have filter applied for Vendors only: now you have an “All Vendors” view. You could apply a filter to that new view of vendors, for those who did not perform well, and save that as “Crappy Vendors that we would never use, unless their price is really, really low”.
  • Qualify: Qualifying is specific to Leads. Basically, once a Lead reaches a point where you feel it might be real, you will want to “Qualify” it. This is just clicking a button for you, but once clicked, a bit of magic happens. From that single Lead record, three new records will be created automatically from the information that was on it. An Account record will be created with the Business information from the Lead, a Contact Record will be created from the persons information on the Lead, and an Opportunity record will be created from the other information on the Lead record. The Lead status will change to Qualified, and the new Opportunity record will be opened up for you, and a telepathic message will be sent your customer to agree with whatever you say. Okay, that last item is not yet available. This new Opportunity record will already be linked to the Account and Contact records that were also created, and the Contact and Accounts records will also be linked together with each other. That is a lot of stuff happening with one button click, and is one more reason that you may want to explore how the system works before mucking it up.
  • Disqualify: Sadly, not all Leads will be awesome, in fact most probably won’t go anywhere. Once you reach this conclusion about a particular Lead, you have another button “Disqualify”. It is not nearly as exciting as the Qualify button, it simply changes the status of the Lead to disqualified, so you can move on with other Leads.
  • Win: This is specific to Opportunities and is the entire goal of most Dynamics 365 implementations for Sales. The contract was signed, the order was given, the bid was awarded, whatever it was, you “Won” the business. While clicking the Won button in Dynamics 365 is very exciting for you, and someone might even ring a bell in your office, not a lot happens in the system. The record is changed to Won status, it is moved out of pipeline projections and over to Won history, and that’s about it. Of course at this point, the Sales Job is done, but many Dynamics 365 customers will want to explore options for what happens next, and continue to use Dynamics 365 for the entire lifecycle of that Customer, including post-Sale.
  • Lose: The opposite of Winning an Opportunity is sadly losing it. Interestingly, the impact in the system is very similar to Winning. The record is changed to Lost status, it is moved out of pipeline projections and over to Lost history, and that’s about it. Maybe your office rings a gong or something. Usually people who find themselves “Losing” a lot of Opportunities, also find themselves losing their job.
  • Activities: For most records type you will have Activities that will be performed. Leads will probably have phone call activities, for example. Activities are recorded by your users right on the Form for the Record. On the Lead Form for example, there is an Activities area, where a person working on that Lead can record items like phone calls made, tasks created and completed, appointments scheduled, emails sent etc. Activities are almost as important as the record itself. When used correctly and diligently, Activities provide the entire history of the relationship from the day it was created, until, well forever. A few handy things about Activities, they can transfer and rollup. For example, when a Lead is Qualified, all the Activities are automatically “transferred” to the new Opportunity that is created. So all of the history of “who said what”, while it was a Lead, is there to be reviewed on the Opportunity. Also, all the Activities of all Opportunities are “Rolled up” to the Account Form Activities section, so from the account form, you can see everything that is happening with every Opportunity in one place. Let me see you do that with Spreadsheets and Post-it notes.
  • Workflow: Workflows are way to add a layer of automation over the top of your records. Workflows are things that can be done automatically when other things happen. What kind of things? All kinds of things. A simple example: a workflow could be designed that whenever an Opportunity is Lost, an email is automatically sent to the Sales Manager, letting them know that Joey could not get the deal done. That is a very simple workflow, but it could be easily extended to also, for example, send the customer an email saying they were idiots for not giving us the business, and it could also create a task for Joey to attend more sales training, and if Joey does not do this within a week, an appointment could then be setup with the Sale Manager to fire Joey, and a last step could be added to go ahead and assign all of Joey’s Accounts to April, who is much better anyway. Why did we even hire Joey?
  • Sales Process: You will hear this term frequently in Dynamics 365, and not just Sales Process, but all kinds of “Processes”. It makes things sound fancier. What are the steps that you have discovered, either on your own, or by shadowing your top salesperson, that more often lead to you winning business. Write those steps down on a piece of paper in order. Congratulations, you have created your successful sales process. Hand that piece of paper to your partner and tell them to build it into Dynamics 365.
  • Charts: Charts in Dynamics 365 are just like Charts in Excel. It is a graphical representation of some data. Charts can be boring, or exciting… okay rarely exciting, but often necessary. They are necessary because we humans cannot easily, or quickly understand what is going on by just looking a long list of records. You will need charts. Fortunately, there are a bunch of them already in Dynamics 365 and you can edit them or make more.
  • Dashboards: Dashboards in Dynamics 365 are basically Chart Holders. A Dashboard can display other things, but the idea is that you can go to a dashboard and get a high-level view of a bunch of different things that are going on with your business. A well-designed Dashboard could have shown you months ago that Joey was not cutting it.
  • B2B: A Secret code meaning that your Business does Business with other Businesses, instead of Individuals.
  • B2C: Other Secret Code meaning that your Business does Business with individuals as customers.
  • SMB: A well know US acronym that means, Small and Mid-sized Businesses. Over in Europe the term SME is often used for this, but that’s just stupid. Recently, Microsoft decide to unilaterally change this well know acronym to SMC, which stands for Small, Midsize and Corporate Businesses. Microsoft likes to rename well-known things, like changing CRM to Customer Engagement for example. So if you hear these terms, they are not new things, just new things to call old things.
  • Duplicates: In Dynamics 365 the term Duplicates refers to duplicate records in the system, and it is a common form of CRM cancer. Left unchecked, duplicate records will metastasize to encompass your entire system rendering it useless.


This seems like a pretty good start, feel free to add your definitions in the comments.

Add your thoughts below, just don’t pimp your stuff on my blog 🙂


  1. Cyril Courree (@CyrilCourree)

    Back to basics 🙂 Dynamics 365 – A Glossary for SMB https://t.co/iVq4mnsQod via @stevemordue

  2. Iain Wicks (@IainWickscrm)

    Great “cheat sheet” for the SME sector #crm https://t.co/ea0uGWtGpy

  3. Inogic #MSDyn365 (@inogic)

    RT @stevemordue: Dynamics 365 – A Glossary for SMB https://t.co/ZVfrUiXIav #extreme365 #msdyn365 #mspartner https://t.co/y0Wg0YbnVF

  4. Inogic #MSDyn365 (@inogic)

    Dynamics 365 – A Glossary for SMB by @stevemordue https://t.co/wYMI6yrfGD #MSDyn365

  5. Inogic #MSDyn365 (@inogic)

    RT @stevemordue: Dynamics 365 – A Glossary for SMB https://t.co/ZVfrUiXIav #extreme365 #msdyn365 #mspartner https://t.co/Bw7mhRiR4o

  6. Inogic #MSDyn365 (@inogic)

    Dynamics 365 – A Glossary for SMB by @stevemordue https://t.co/iguC1W2cXO #MSDyn365

  7. Koen vdv

    Hi Steve, maybe add “Business Process Flow” and “Flow” to the definitions as a lot of SMB customers tends to confuse those.

    • Steve Mordue

      Good Idea!

  8. Kamalu Manango (@KManango)

    Dynamics 365 – A Glossary for SMB https://t.co/wc9slFTR87 #extreme365 #msdyn365 #mspartner https://t.co/BaGlVRLBh8

  9. Jon Rivers (@jon_rivers)

    RT @stevemordue: Dynamics 365 – A Glossary for SMB https://t.co/ZVfrUiXIav #extreme365 #msdyn365 #mspartner https://t.co/ziwJkgoP6c

  10. Crowe Horwath CRM (@CroweCRM)

    RT @nz365guy: Dynamics 365 – A Glossary for SMB https://t.co/rgwyCeBDAo #MSdyn365

  11. @caswell_katrina

    RT @stevemordue: Dynamics 365 – A Glossary for SMB https://t.co/ZVfrUiXIav #extreme365 #msdyn365 #mspartner https://t.co/ziwJkgoP6c


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