Lifecycle Stage vs Lead Status in HubSpot

by Don Crow | Updated Jul 14, 2022

Most B2B marketers are awash in terms, definitions, and acronyms when it comes to funnels and flywheels. Two terms that are essential for business leaders in sales, marketing, and service to align upon are lifecycle stages and lead status.

Let's start with how we define the two categories at Digitopia and then explore each before diving into why understanding the difference is critical for your business leaders.

Lifecycle Stage vs. Lead Status

What is a Lifecycle Stage

Lifecycle stages are or should be, prescribed based on where a contact is in their buyer's journey and to signal responsibility between your sales and marketing teams. Coincidentally, using lifecycle stages ensures contacts who don't want to be marketed to or contacted are removed safely from your engagement efforts and marked accordingly in your CRM.

It's equally important to use lifecycle stages to exclude employees, partners, bad-fit prospects, and more from being adding your nurturing funnels.

We use a Technical Lifecycle Journey Map, a resource that provides a simple framework to align sales, marketing, and service leaders on these concepts:

List of Lifecycle Stages

  • Visitor - anyone coming to the website regardless of channel
  • Subscriber - anyone who has filled out any form
  • Lead - someone who matches our Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and MQL demographics but hasn't yet exhibited behaviors to show enough buying intent (NOTE: demographics needs to be defined even further and is company/industry-specific)
  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) - Meets "Lead" criteria and has a lead score of 100+
  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) - Contact has been made (i.e., Discovery meeting booked), and the prospect has NOT been otherwise disqualified
  • Opportunity - HubSpot deal associated with contact record
  • Customer - Signed contract
  • Evangelist - Has helped spread the good word about your product or service
  • Other - worth noting, these are contacts who've asked to be removed or otherwise disqualified and we use "other" to preserve reporting throughout the journey

Fix your funnel by fixing your lifecycle stages. Start with this simple tool »

What is Lead Status?

Lead status relates directly to the specific actions your sales team is taking when a contact is in the Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) lifecycle stage. HubSpot has default options and you may decide to further customize these options based on your sales process.

Default Lead Status Categories in HubSpot:

  • New
  • Open
  • In Progress
  • Open Deal
  • Unqualified
  • Attempted to Contact
  • Connected
  • Bad Timing

Benefits of Standardizing Your Lifecycle Stages & Lead Statuses

Defining and understanding lifecycle stages offers a ton of advantages in reporting and building dashboards that assist decision-makers at every level of your organization. Clear definitions also help in smoothly transitioning a contact from marketing to sales, sales to service, and in creating service level agreements between marketing and sales, and sales and service.

How exactly do contacts move through these stages? 

Within HubSpot, there are a couple of ways a contact would progress automatically without the assistance of workflows built by your platform experts.

  1. When a deal is associated with a contact or company, HubSpot will change the lifecycle stage to 'Opportunity'
  2. When a deal is moved to Closed-Won, HubSpot will change the lifecycle stage to 'Customer'

By documenting your definitions, contact owners, data indicators, and change triggers, you'll be able to create automation and workflows to support cleaner reporting and ownership at every stage.

How Defined Lifecycle Stages Help Your Funnel

At Digitopia, we feel strongly that contacts should pass through every lifecycle stage, regardless of original source (online or offline) to help maintain consistent data collection so you can confidently identify the bottlenecks in your buyer's journey.

For example, a high number of MQLs who aren't converting to SQLs could mean your criteria to move from Lead to MQL isn't reflective of your ideal customers or signaling, "hand-raisers" ready to speak to sales. Similarly, a high number of subscribers who aren't converting to leads could mean your content marketing team needs to rethink their approach.

Ultimately, our lifecycle journey map exercise benefits your contacts, especially those who become MQLs, SQLs, Opportunities, and Customers, because the customer will feel as though their journey with your organization was seamless and highly personalized.

When to Use Lead Statuses?

Further into the sales equation of the lifecycle journey are all the specific actions your sales reps and team is taking to actually convert those SQLs into Opportunities and then into Customers. That's where your detailed lead status enters and unlike the lifecycle stages, you can fully customize and edit the existing fields within HubSpot.

In fact, as part of the Digitopia Technical Lifecycle Journey Map exercise, we work with clients to document:

  • Each step their sales team takes in their process
  • Develop sequences and task queues
  • Validate lead scoring
  • Build lead status and deal flows accordingly

Plus, you can further integrate lead status into custom workflows and automation to boost your lead tracking and reporting. Making the most of lead status within HubSpot is truly a game-changer when it comes to reporting on, and analyzing your existing sales team and processes.

Bringing Them Together

Bringing your sales, marketing, and service teams to the table to align on lifecycle journey definitions, triggers, and behaviors will allow your platform team to then build the supporting automation and workflows in HubSpot.

From there, you'll all be speaking from the same page when it comes to the contact bottlenecks and how to confidently move contacts through to a sales call. Once in the sales process, those lead status definitions will add in more clarity into what needs improvement and optimization as part of the people, process, and platform.

These two definitions are a couple out of many, but they're oh so important to becoming a high-converting RevOps organization.