How to Define Lifecycle Stages in HubSpot

Lifecycles are a crucial part of the inbound methodology, allowing marketing and sales teams to work together to sort leads accordingly.

4 min read

How to Define Lifecycle Stages in HubSpot

The HubSpot Sales suite is a powerful platform that can unleash immense business growth potential and sales opportunities.

If implemented and used correctly. 

For the C-suite leaders, adoption is one of the first indicators of return on investment in the software platform itself, which makes it incredibly important to get all users on-boarded and trained to use it correctly within the first six months. 

With so much potential, why don’t sales reps make the leap to using all of HubSpot Sales tools the moment they can?

Why sales teams don’t adopt HubSpot quickly

Sales reps have a busy day. And learning a new platform, methodology, and terminology don’t exactly count directly toward commission.

What they typically don’t know is that using the tools will actually SAVE them time and free up their day to build relationships and do more selling.

As a certified Solutions Partner Agency, we see it all the time. Individual sales reps have gotten left behind without the adequate training or overall explanation they need. They miss out on the translation of what they do and what they should be doing in HubSpot with the correct lingo. 

That’s where lifecycle stages come in. It’s the first step to putting HubSpot in terms any sales rep understands, and builds the foundation for the rest of inbound selling practices and the platform overall. 

After working with countless sales reps across industries in their HubSpot on-boarding process, the implementation team here at DMG found that lifecycle definition is a major sticking point when it comes to sales team adoption of the platform.

This simple translation step is key to getting the sales team to adopt the platform. Before adopting HubSpot, explain to your sales team: 

  • Why they need lifecycles
  • The definition of the lifecycle stages
  • The lifecycle stages before and after sales
  • Why different leads need to be treated differently
  • How to use HubSpot’s lifecycles

Start the conversation about lifecycle stages. 

Why does sales even need lifecycles?

If a sales team is only tracking existing deals that they’ve already connected with or landed, chances are there are qualified leads that are being generated from the website and through marketing efforts that are slipping through the cracks.

Lifecycles allow marketing and sales teams to work together to sort out good leads accordingly, and ensure that there is always a pipeline being generated. 

I should note that lifecycle stages do not have to be moved through the sales funnel in a linear procession. Not every contact will be a lead then an MQL then an SQL then a customer. Instead, think of the lifecycle stages like a flowchart:

Why does sales even need lifecycles?

Define Lifecycle Stages in HubSpot

HubSpot allows for a TON of customization in deal or contact properties...except when it comes to lifecycle stages. 

Why are lifecycle stages unchangeable? These specific contact properties are key identifying qualifiers. They're defined to enforce best inbound practices, and when used correctly, unlock valuable reports and pipeline insights. 

Lifecycle stages in HubSpot are:

  • Subscriber
  • Lead
  • MQL 
  • SQL
  • Opportunity
  • Customer
  • Evangelist
  • Other

Lifecycle stages before and after sales

Some of the stages might seem easy to define: a “subscriber” signs up to receive a blog or newsletter; a “customer” is now a client who has purchased a company’s products/services, right? Right. 

An “evangelist” is someone who is such a fan of your products and services. They're committed customers that advocate for you (and hopefully bring in referrals for you). 

The “other” lifecycle should be reserved for non-customer contacts, like job applicants.

What are the other stages?

The short answer is: leads of different qualities.

But what’s important is how these leads are treated and how they expect to be treated through the different lead lifecycle stages.

Different leads require different treatment

I like to explain the differences between the various stages of leads with a certain anthropological metaphor. (In case anyone was wondering, yes, I did get my B.A. in anthropology, with a concentration in capitalist modernities and consumer’s no wonder I found marketing...)

Humans, back in our primal beginnings, sorted our early clans, or teams, into two distinct groups: hunters and gatherers.

After some refinement, farmers were to the necessary mix for relatively sophisticated humans. For decades business leaders and MBAs have assigned these terms to sales (hunters and farmers) and marketing (gatherers). 

I'm bringing this metaphor to a more granular level, in a way that can help any member of the sales or marketing teams learn how to identify and act based on the type of lead. 

1. Lead

  • Willingly takes an action of note which includes sharing information with you. 
  • Trappers - requires immediate action.

A lead typically comes through a website form. The form is just hanging out, waiting for someone to be interested in it, and then when the lead comes in BAM! You have a hot lead on the line, and someone on your team should immediately investigate to move it into MQL or SQL based on their activities, profile, shared information, and fit. 

2. MQL

  • A lead that’s probably a good fit, but needs more resources before talking to sales.
  • Cultivator - requires general care and attention in infancy to best determine needs

A marketing qualified lead isn’t ready to talk to anyone on the sales team yet. But they should continue to receive additional information and contact from someone at the company until they're ready to progress or opt out of communication. 

3. SQL

  • A lead that is being worked by sales
  • Nurturer - requires additional relationship-building to grow trust and seal the deal

A sales qualified lead has demonstrated that they’re far along in their considered buying process, and ready to start a conversation with sales. Reps should look at this stage in the process as the relationship-building process. A strong customer-sales relationship is necessary for easier upselling, better client retention, and the coveted customer referral. 

4. Opportunity

  • An individual or prospect that has not willingly shared contact information 
  • Hunter - requires personal, approachable outreach & best practice inbound sales techniques

We like to define opportunities as those individuals who are targeted prospects. Business development or account reps have identified potential, but contact has not been returned yet. Opportunities are a huge part of account-based marketing and increase transparency into prospecting. 

Use HubSpot’s lifecycles 

Your specific sales funnel and sales process might not fit neatly into the buckets of lifecycle stages as defined by HubSpot, but your leads do. 

If the team is struggling to assign proper lifecycle stages, have a conversation about specific contacts. Ask where they came from originally, the length of the “nurture” or relationship-building process was. Investigate as to whether they had signed up for a newsletter, or other marketing material. Do this for 5-10 existing leads in the sales funnel, and it should help your team define lifecycle stages by your specific sales and marketing activities in no time.

Lifecycle stage definition is the first step

By design, HubSpot is easy to use - once it has been customized to your sales and marketing processes. HubSpot Solution Partners like DMG can help you set up your portal, and coach your teams on using the platform correctly. 

Capturing and qualifying every single lead and opportunity starts with lifecycle stages. If executed properly, lifecycle stages will provide all kinds of reportable data to start learning about your prospective customers based on how they act, how your team engages them, and where the communication could be improved. 

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