Whether you’re just getting started evaluating Salesforce or you’re one year into your implementation, you may find yourself scratching your head — or turning to Google — every time you hear terms like “org,” “object,” and “opportunity.”  

Fortunately, Salesforce provides a very thorough glossary with definitions of key terms. If you’re just getting started, it can be a lot of info to digest in one go.

Don’t worry, we got you.

Here’s a quick list of common Salesforce terms to bring you up to speed fast.

org - This is short for “organization” and you’ll hear this term quite frequently. Each Salesforce customer has their own unique org environment. This is where you log in, where your records are stored and where your own unique configuration lives.

instance - While an org contains your unique data, code, objects, and configuration, an instance is the server that your org lives on.

object - Many folks come to Salesforce having previously used Excel to manage contact and account records. An object is a type of record contained in Salesforce comparable to a tab on a spreadsheet. Salesforce comes out of the box with standard objects like contacts, accounts, and opportunities. You can also create custom objects with a few clicks to track any information especially important to your organization. The sky’s the limit here, so it can be helpful to chat with an expert to discuss your goals, find the right solution for your needs, and determine the best path forward.

record - Sticking with our Excel metaphor, you can think of a record as the horizontal row in a spreadsheet. If we’re looking at a spreadsheet of contacts, the record would include the name of the contact, as well as all relevant information about that contact (address, phone number, email, employer, preferred method of contact, and any other info you might have).

field - A field would be the columns in your spreadsheet. On each record, you’ll want to track certain distinctive data points about that record. Using the example of the contact (which is the object) for each record, fields are the individual columns in the spreadsheet. Address is an example of a field.

account - One of the standard objects that come with Salesforce, an account will help you track most organization entities, whether they are companies, partners, organizations, or households.

contact - Another of the standard objects that come with Salesforce, a contact is an individual and contains all relevant ways to get in touch with them. Generally speaking, there’s usually more than one contact associated with an account. Because of this, contacts are considered children of account records.

opportunity - An opportunity represents any potential financial transaction that could occur. Simply put, an opportunity is a deal. Opportunities progress through a series of stages before ultimately being closed when they’re marked as closed/lost or — ideally — marked as closed/won! This is where most salespeople live.

lead - Where salespeople live and die by opportunities, leads are marketing’s domain. Before an opportunity ever becomes an opportunity, first we have to identify the potential for revenue. Leads are generally individuals that come into the system as potential business opportunities that haven’t been connected with a salesperson. They often come through as a result of a marketing campaign or call to action on a website. A more clinical way to define this is an unqualified sales opportunity.

campaign - A Salesforce campaign is generally used to track a series of outreach efforts, whether related to sales or marketing. In its simplest terms, a campaign is a way to group records together. It can provide better context and thread together your data in useful ways.

task - An item that must be completed by a certain due date. While this definition probably doesn’t blow your mind, a Salesforce user can create tasks connected to certain objects (like follow up with an opportunity or send a contract), set a due date, and even assign them to other members of their team. Reports can be pulled on overdue tasks to see where items may have fallen through the cracks.

Trailhead - The virtual learning and training environment available for free to any Salesforce user looking to sharpen their skills. Trails are available on numerous subjects and you can even drill down by skill level. A great place to start for folks new to Salesforce (after this list of course!).  

If you’d like more guidance, don’t hesitate to drop us a line. We’re always happy to share our knowledge, how we got started with Salesforce, and what we’ve found to be the most helpful along our own journeys.


Sara is one of the newer additions to Cloud Giants and already making a big impact in her role. A trained opera singer, she brings curiosity and grit to everything that she does. Originally from Raleigh, Sara's a Carolina alumna and naturally, a big fan of the Tar Heels. She’s also lived in both New York City and San Diego while pursuing the arts. You can share your favorite Broadway musical with Sara by email and connect with her on LinkedIn.

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