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A Quick Guide to Common Lead Lifecycle Stages

    Lead lifecycle

    Lead lifecycle defined

    A lead lifecycle (or sales and marketing funnel) refers to the stages people go through from being aware about your company to eventually becoming a customer.

    Defining a lead lifecycle, and agree on lead terminologies and their definitions help align the sales and marketing efforts, and get a complete understanding of where all your contacts stand and how they move through your sales cycle.

    Common lead lifecycle stages

    Lead lifecyles should be aligned both to your buyers’ journey and your own business structure needs. Here are some common lead lifecycle stages to help you get started:

    Anonymous / Website visitors

    Anonymous leads / anonymous website visitors are people who have visited your website, but who have not yet converted to a known contact/lead (for example by providing their through a form submission). The activity and behaviour of anonymous leads can be recorded with Marketing Automation platforms, and their record can be attached to a lead if they become “known” at a later time.


    Leads are people whose identity has been determined. Typically, this happens when a person has filled out a form to get a content offer on your website.


    The Engaged stage is used to identify leads who are actively engaging with your marketing content, such as clicking your email links, downloading content, engaging on social media, watching videos, or reading your blog.

    Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

    A Marketing Qualified Lead, also known as MQL, is a lead who’s engaging with content that suggests that they are ready to have a buying discussion with a sales person. This content typically includes bottom of the funnel offers like buying guides, free trials, demo requests, and Contact us forms. The MQL stage is typically used to indicate the point at which leads are handed over from Marketing to Sales.

    Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

    A Sales Qualified Lead, or SQL, is the lead stage used to identify leads that are deemed worthy of a direct sales follow-up. During this follow-up conversation, the member of the sales team will have determined if the prospect is a qualified lead who is worth the investment of further interactions. However, more work is required before the sales team can decide whether or not to create an Opportunity.


    This stage happens when the contact is converted to an Opportunity in your CRM and your sales teams is actively working on the sales opportunity.


    Once the first sales is made, the contact is categorised as a paying Customer.

    Other lead lifecycles stages you may want to use and track


    Recycled leads are those that have been contacted by the sales team, but who drop out of the buying process for whatever reason, a change in priorities, a change in timeframe, or a lack of budget. However, they may still be viable prospects for your organisation in the future. Lead recycling is the process of bringing these people back from the sales process into the lead nurturing process, managed by marketing. Keeping these leads separate from Engaged leads provides the ability to more clearly report when leads are arising from new lead generation campaigns vs recycled lead campaigns.


    The Inactive stage is for those leads that the organisation is no longer actively nurturing or selling to. Keeping a record of these leads, rather than deleting them, helps show historical performance, and provides the sales team with more information if the inactive lead gets in touch with the business again.

    Lost/ Disqualified

    The Lost stage is often used to identify those opportunities that were well progressed in the sales process, but were then marked as lost either because they selected a competitive product, didn’t respond after a minimum number of attempts, or made no decision to buy at all. The Lost stage is often used as a quarantine for a period of time (say 90 days) before being automatically moved back to the Recycled stage for lead nurturing to start again.

    Is there another approach that is more relevant to your organisation? Please share your processes.