HubSpot’s Lifecycle Stages and Lead Status - What’s the Difference?

Written By Sean McGauley
June 27, 2023

Learn all about lifecycle stages and lead status in HubSpot and how they help drive sales and marketing alignment in the customer lifecycle.

Effective targeting and nurturing in your sales and marketing starts with understanding the journey your prospects take to making a purchase, or the Buyer’s Journey.

By understanding the steps in this process, organizations can use HubSpot’s lifecycle stages and lead status property fields to track how contacts or companies progress through each stage and optimize over time to improve.

The lifecycle stage property helps pinpoint where a specific contact or company record is within your lifecycle, tracking lead generation and how leads are progressing and being handed off between marketing and sales.

During the handoff from marketing to sales, the lead status property comes into play. Lead status helps the sales team further refine and track how leads progress through the sales process. 

Although related, lifecycle stage and lead status are different. Let’s take a look at both in greater detail and review their differences, how they work together, and how they can be used to target your ideal customer profile (ICP) and generate interest in your products and services. 

What is a Lifecycle Stage?

HubSpot’s Definition for lifecycle stages:

“Lifecycle stages are used to track how contacts or companies move forward in your process. Default automatic updates to the lifecycle stage property will only move the stage forward (e.g., no value to Subscriber, Subscriber to Opportunity, etc.)”

HubSpot defines Lifecycle Stage

Lifecycle stages play a crucial role in mapping a contact’s buyer’s journey and defining the responsibilities between sales and marketing teams. Not every lead that lands on your website is ready to make a purchase. By utilizing lifecycle stages, you can ensure that contacts follow a thought-out nurturing path to lead them to their purchasing decision. You can also weed out those who prefer not to be marketed to or contacted and remove them from your engagement efforts.

HubSpot’s default lifecycle stages offer the building blocks for monitoring the advancement of your contacts or companies. These stages act as significant milestones in your process and can be configured to update automatically as contacts or companies progress. Here is the listing of the default stages provided by HubSpot:

  • Subscriber: Someone who opted into your newsletter or blog subscription.
  • Lead: Contacts or companies that have shown interest in your organization beyond subscribing, typically through conversions on your website or other interactions. This stage is also generally owned by marketing and tied to nurturing contacts further down the funnel.  
  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): Contacts who meet the readiness/fit criteria, usually determined by a lead score. Learn more about how to set up your lead scoring model in HubSpot here
  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): Contacts or companies that your sales team has qualified as potential customers. This lifecycle stage is where sales takes over ownership.  
  • Opportunity: Contacts associated with a HubSpot deal in your CRM.
  • Customer: Contacts who have successfully closed at least one deal with your organization.
  • Evangelist: Individuals who actively promote and advocate for your product or service.
  • Other: Contacts or companies that do not fit into any of the above-defined stages but still hold value in your database. Ownership of these stages should be decided on a case-by-case basis.

By implementing lifecycle stages, you can effectively manage your contacts, align your teams, and maximize the potential of your sales and marketing efforts.

What is a Lead Status?

HubSpot’s Definition for lead status: 

“The Lead Status property describes the sub-stages within a Sales Qualified Lead lifecycle stage.”

HubSpot defines Lead Status

Lead status is a vital component that directly corresponds to the actions your sales team takes when engaging with contacts in the Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) lifecycle stage. While HubSpot provides default options, you have the flexibility to customize these categories to align with your unique sales process. Note: We recommend starting with the default categories as they’ve been thoughtfully created by HubSpot to be able to adapt to most organizations. Here are the default lead status options in HubSpot:

  • New: Indicates leads that have been recently identified and assigned to a salesperson.
  • Open: Represents leads that are actively being worked on by your sales team.
  • In Progress: Signifies leads that are currently being nurtured or engaged with to move them closer to a potential deal.
  • Open Deal: Indicates leads that have progressed to the stage of discussing specific deals or opportunities.
  • Unqualified: Identifies leads that do not meet the necessary criteria for further pursuit or conversion.
  • Attempted to Contact: Reflects leads with whom your sales team has made attempts to establish contact but hasn’t connected yet.
  • Connected: Indicates successful contact and communication with leads.
  • Bad Timing: Represents leads that are not currently ready or suitable for your offerings due to timing constraints or other factors.

By leveraging these default lead status options, you can effectively track and manage the progress of your leads, enabling your sales team to make informed decisions and take appropriate actions at each stage of the sales cycle.

Lifecycle Stage vs. Lead Status – What’s the Difference?

Lifecycle stages and lead status fields are designed to be used together. You can even see a hint at how they work together based on the definitions we reviewed earlier in the post. Simply put:

Lifecycle stages: help you to categorize your contacts and companies based on where they are in your marketing and sales processes and is used for all of the contacts in your CRM.

Lead status: describes the sub-stages within a Sales Qualified Lead lifecycle stage and used by the sales team for the individual contacts they are pursuing.  

How Lifecycle Stages Improve Your Funnel – Easily Identify Bottlenecks

Lifecycle stages help guide your contacts through defined steps in your marketing and sales funnel. Lifecycle stages create consistent and reliable data that helps you quickly identify bottlenecks in your buyer’s journey.

“Listen up, bottlenecks…”

Easily identify bottlenecks with lifecycle stages

Lifecycle stages give you a holistic view of your entire funnel, allowing you to quickly identify where your attention is needed most. For example, if your sales team is overwhelmed with the number of SQLs coming from marketing and not closing the deals at a desired rate, it may be time to look at adjusting your criteria to move a contact from a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) to a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). This will ensure your SQLs are even more qualified and relieve the bottleneck in your funnel.

In a similar way, if you’re not converting enough subscribers to leads, the marketing team can review the content offers and strategies at this stage and look for opportunities to improve. 

But, the best part about lifecycle stages is that it benefits your target audience and creates a seamless and highly personalized journey for them.

How Lead Statuses Improve Your Sales Process – Converting Your Leads

Lead status proves its worth as your leads progress further into Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). SQLs represent the sales equation of your lifecycle journey and where your sales team is working to convert SQLs further down the funnel into Opportunities and then hopefully, Customers. 

Organizations use lead statuses to track the specific actions that sales reps and teams take during this stage. This is where detailed lead statuses come into play, revolutionizing your ability to analyze and report on your sales team’s performance and processes.

How Lifecycle Stage and Lead Status Work Together in HubSpot

Lifecycle stages and lead statuses work together like Batman and Robin bringing your sales, marketing, and service teams together, aligning on lifecycle journey definitions, triggers, and behaviors. By fully understanding the needs of each team, the necessary automation and workflows in HubSpot can be created to support them. It creates a unified sales strategy between cross-departments.

Lifecycle stages and lead status working together in HubSpot

This alignment ensures that everyone speaks the same language when it comes to identifying contact bottlenecks and when exactly a contact is ready to be passed between departments. In addition, lead status definitions provide clarity on areas that require improvement and optimization.

Applying It All To Your Sales and Marketing

Understanding the difference between HubSpot’s lifecycle stages and lead status is essential for effectively managing your contacts and optimizing your sales and marketing campaigns. Both are needed as lifecycle stages track the overall progression of a contact through your buyer’s journey, while lead status represents the specific actions taken by the sales team within the Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) stage.

By utilizing lifecycle stages and lead status together, you can easily identify bottlenecks in your funnel and make informed decisions to improve conversion rates. Lifecycle stages provide a holistic view of your entire funnel, enabling you to pinpoint areas that require attention and adjust your criteria accordingly. Lead status, on the other hand, allows your sales team to track the progress of individual contacts and take appropriate actions to convert leads into opportunities and customers.

When these two fields are aligned and used effectively, they act as a dynamic duo, empowering your sales, marketing, and service teams to work together seamlessly. By bringing all teams to the table and establishing common definitions, triggers, and behaviors, you can leverage the full potential of automation and workflows in HubSpot to enhance your customer journey and drive success as a unified organization.

Learn More About Lead Scoring In HubSpot

Overcome the common pain points of developing a lead scoring system for your prospective customers. Click here for our Lead Scoring in HubSpot How-To Guide. Learn more about lead scoring, how to decide if it's right for your business, how to set it up, lead scoring examples, and more.

Sean McGauley

About the Author

Marketing is more challenging than it’s ever been - but, I’m committed to finding new and creative ways to succeed. By day, I’m a digital marketing enthusiast with a passion for connecting brands with their target audience. I have over a decade of experience in creating and executing successful campaigns with a proven track record. I specialize in Strategy, Copywriting, SEO, and social media marketing - always staying up-to-date with the latest industry trends and technologies. By night, you'll likely find me adventuring with family and friends. I enjoy nature, photography, mountain biking, fly fishing, and trying new foods. I want to connect with other like-minded professionals to learn from and work with.