AMA - Demystifying HubSpot's lifecyle stages, deal stages and lead status (2024)

AMA - Demystifying HubSpot's lifecyle stages, deal stages and lead status

Hi all

I'm Frank Steiner, Principal Inbound Consultant at HubSpot (Germany). I've been with HubSpot since May 2018 and have been a HubSpot fanboy and customer since 2014/15 when I did my first HubSpot implementation whilst working as Marketing Manager for an IT Service Provider in the UK.

Lifecylce stages, lead status & deal stages can be pretty confusing, especially if you're learning about HubSpot for the first time. That's why I'll start with a few definitions first:

Lifecycle Stage: Describes a contact's relationship with your company

Lead Status: Describes sales activities during the qualification process

Deal Stage: Represent steps in your companies sales process

I came up with this little visualisation, keep in mind I am not a designer! 😉

AMA - Demystifying HubSpot's lifecyle stages, deal stages and lead status (1)How lifecycle stages, lead status und deal stages are connected

1. Lifecycle phases

Let's first take a look at the lifecycle phases. These form the foundation for editing and categorizing contacts in HubSpot. The following points should be noted when working with lifecycle phases:

  • Lifecycle phases should "increase" incrementally, resetting an LC phase is possible but not recommended.
  • HubSpot Lifecycle phases cannot be modified or added to. (*yet…)
  • A lot of HubSpot features and standard reports use HubSpot Lifecycle phases, for this reason creating your own custom LC phases should be well considered.

Setting of lifecycle stages in HubSpot

My colleagues and I are often asked which of these phases is automatically set by the system and when:

  • Subscriber: Automatically set when a new contact: Manually created*, imported*, filled out a blog subscription form, or created via the conversation tool.
  • Lead: Automatically set when a new contact: was converted via a form*, was created via Salesforce Sync, or was created via the HubSpot Sales plugin.
  • MQL: Not set automatically by the system, but based on user-defined lead scoring criteria and through workflows.
  • SQL: The contact has been qualified by sales (according to BANT model or similar) and the purchase intent has been classified as probable.
  • Opportunity & Customer: Can be enabled in Deal Settings in HubSpot, and means: if a contact is associated with a deal, its lifecycle phase is raised to Opportunity. If a deal is later set to Won, the LC phase automatically changes to Customer.*

* Small addition: unless another lifecycle phase was set when manually creating, importing or in the form. Existing customers with which further deals are associated keep their lifecycle phase "customer" and are not reset by this setting.

When is an MQL an MQL and who sets the SQL status?

As soon as a contact has cleared the "hurdle" to becoming an MQL, in the ideal scenario the transfer of the contact to Sales takes place. But often the definition of the MQL already proves to be difficult. From experience I know that this question alone deserves an AMA, and there can and should be many different implementations. In the end, however, an MQL represents a lead that is more likely to become a customer than other leads.

Once we have defined our MQLs and set up lead scoring, we come to the next controversial point - how does an MQL become an SQL and who is responsible?

There is often policy discussion here, in some cases the marketing team defines and sets the SQL status, which I personally find rather questionable. This decision should be left to the sales, inside sales, pre-sales (whatever the team is called in the company). After all, this should ideally be the qualification of the MQLs according to proven models and criteria. BANT (Budget, Authority, Need & Time) is a well-known model here. While much of the marketing activity can be automated, direct and personal interaction via emails, calls, video conferencing is recommended here. And here we move seamlessly into the "Lead Status" topic....

2. Lead status in HubSpot

Is a detailed look at the MQL/SQL lifecycle phases of a contact. The lead status property is predefined, but can be fully customised and changed to meet the unique needs of each sales team and process. Ideally, the lead status represents the typical activities that are performed during the qualification process.

Furthermore, the Lead Status is not set fully automatically via HubSpot's system settings, but either:

Manually by the respective sales staff, or.

Via workflows (e.g. If a contact is associated with a new deal for the first time, then set Lead Status to "Open Deal").

By combining several properties, we are thus able to better segment our database, and in particular our leads, and can for example display contacts whose lifecycle phase is MQL, but whose lead status has not yet been set. These should be qualified by sales as soon as possible.

AMA - Demystifying HubSpot's lifecyle stages, deal stages and lead status (2)

Assuming a contact has been qualified, we are sure there is potential here to sell our products/services, then we create a deal....

3. Deal Stages & Pipelines

Are a detailed look at the opportunity lifecycle phase and yes depending on the business model a contact can spend several weeks and months in this phase and deal phases help us go into a bit more detail here.

Again, some general info here:

  • Deal phases are predefined but can be completely customized.
  • The phases are strongly oriented towards the sales process of the respective company, golden rule: Multiple pipelines only make sense if they are also based on strongly divergent sales processes.
  • Deal phases can be combined with mandatory fields for deal properties and workflows.

There are 2 options how we can ensure that the necessary deal information is captured and stored in the system during deal creation & during the sales process.

  1. System-wide definition of deal properties that are queried during the creation of each deal (no matter in which pipeline).
  2. Pipeline and deal phase specific deal properties that are queried when moving a deal to a specific deal phase, these can be optional or mandatory.

AMA - Demystifying HubSpot's lifecyle stages, deal stages and lead status (3)

Additionally, we are able to associate a variety of automation options with reaching certain deal stages. This is where I am often asked - "What is best practice? What do you need to do?" This is where my standard answer kicks in again - it depends... The more appropriate questions are:

  • What are your company's internal processes?
  • Are there mandatory and "nice to have" notifications?
  • Are there internal approval processes that need to be mapped?
  • Do we want to change or set default or custom properties based on where a deal is located?

AMA - Demystifying HubSpot's lifecyle stages, deal stages and lead status (4)

In the above example, we do the following:

  • When deal phase "decision maker brought in" is reached, then create a task for the sales representative:
  • Within 3 days, the first quote should be created.
  • We add deal specific info like "Deal Name" & "Deal Stage" in the task title and notes.
  • Once set up, this workflow is triggered whenever a deal reaches the "decision maker brought in" stage.


My top tip after nearly 6 years of HubSpot experience (and especially 3 years as a HubSpot customer) is that the need to have an open discussion between sales & marketing (Buzzword - Sales & Marketing Alignment!) and reach a common understanding of these properties and categorizations are essential. Not only for the successful implementation of HubSpot, but also for better alignment between marketing and sales and the long-term business success.

  • If possible, always stick to HubSpot lifecycle phases, and use custom lifecycle phases only in the absolute exception and consider their impact.
  • Lifecycle phases should "ramp up" incrementally, and not be reset
  • The "Lead Status" property provides a more detailed look at the MQL/SQL LC phase.
  • Pipelines & Deal phases are a detailed look at the Opportunity LC phase.
  • Golden Formula: Deal Pipelines = Sales Process, only if there are fundamental differences in the sales process do multiple pipelines make sense.
  • Deal phases can be combined with mandatory fields for deal properties to ensure good data quality.

Additional resources & reading

  • Use lifecycle stages
  • What is the default lifecycle stage for newly created contacts in HubSpot?
  • Benutzerdefinierte Lifecycle-Phasen erstellen (englischer Community Artikel)
  • Install HubSpot Sales for Gmail, Office 365, and Outlook desktop
  • Set up score properties to qualify contacts, companies, and deals
  • Set up and customize your deal pipelines and deal stages
  • HubSpot's default properties for contacts, companies, deals and tickets
  • Property Field Types in HubSpot

Now it's your turn!

What questions do you have about lifecycle stages, lead status and deal stages?

What experiences have you already had? Are there any implementation scenarios that puzzle you? Or maybe you've built a "best thing since sliced bread" setup that saves your company time and money?

From October 25-29, I’ll answer your questions about Lifecyle Stages, Deal Stages and Lead Status!I look forward to hearing from you.



Found my comment helpful? Great! Please mark it as a solution to help other community users.

AMA - Demystifying HubSpot's lifecyle stages, deal stages and lead status (5)
AMA - Demystifying HubSpot's lifecyle stages, deal stages and lead status (6)


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