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Lead Lifecycle Management 101: Understanding Your Leads

Sep 28, 2021

5 min read

Efficient lead lifecycle management is the backbone of successful marketing automation. Marketers know that leads need special attention from the businesses they seek out in order to gain brand awareness, recognition, and trust. 

To do this, marketers must manage leads through every stage of the buyer’s journey and navigate lead generation funnels with the same scrutiny. 

In fact, 79% of enterprise marketers said that lead generation was their top priority in the year 2016. It’s unlikely that the importance of leads has dwindled since then. 

Understanding leads is the first step to optimizing lead generation. Continue reading to find out more about lead lifecycle management today!

What Is a Lead?

In its simplest form, a lead is a contact or prospect. For businesses, a lead is a person or organization that has the potential to become a customer or client

Marketing teams identify leads through a number of sources from direct advertising to inbound marketing. 

Businesses must also assess the quality of a lead by determining their level of intrigue with your brand or business. 

Determinants can span from the accuracy of the contact information a lead entered into an online form to the incentive that motivated the lead to fill out the form in the first place. 

As an illustration, qualified leads show great interest in your product and are ready to make a purchase. But there are also stale leads who are disengaged and need a gentle push. 

Lead Generation

As established, the primary goal of marketing is lead generation. Lead generation refers to manufacturing consumer interest for your product or service. 

Naturally, the internet has a strong influence on how marketing operates today. With as much as 90% of Americans regularly cruising the web, businesses use the digital space to their advantage. 

Content marketing, for one, is one strategy for garnering organic traffic towards your business. Businesses may employ a content management system (CMS) to produce blog content relevant to the product they are promoting. 

Platforms like HubSpot CMS make it especially easy to attract the eye of the common internet dweller. 

Similarly, customer relationship management (CRM) systems double as marketing automation platforms to enhance your marketing efforts. They can manage marketing contacts and even auto-email leads in response to certain clicks. 

Salesforce and HubSpot are popular CRMs on the market. They have premier tooling for steering different leads in the right direction. 

Sales Cycle 

All the components above are essential to the seven principle stages of the sales cycle. Sales teams use this rubric to gather insights about the sales process. The stages are as follows:

  1. Prospect
  2. Contact 
  3. Qualify
  4. Nurture 
  5. Make an offer
  6. Handle objection
  7. Close sale

To elaborate a potential customer starts off as a prospect (i. e. a prospective customer). Once your business makes contact with the prospect, you can start qualifying the lead. 

You should already have a buyer persona or a detailed understanding of what your ideal customer will look like.


Qualifying leads should take the buyer persona into account, establishing whether or not your lead is even the right fit for what you’re offering. 

After this step, you nurture the lead. This involves guiding them through the sale funnel with whatever resources you have. Maybe this means using the content from your CMS or utilizing an email campaign from your CRM. 

Eventually, you make an offer, address any push back, and if all goes right, close the sale. 

What Is the Lead Lifecycle?

The lead lifecycle mirrors the sales cycle closely. They are virtually the same, except the sales team is not the focus of the lead lifecycle.

Instead, the lead lifecycle defines the different stages a person goes through from their first engagement with a business to becoming a customer

Lead lifecycle management points to the specific ways in which a business manages the life of a lead. Often businesses visualize lead lifecycles to ensure no one — or really, no leads — fall through the cracks. 

Meticulously tracking and analyzing leads, while strenuous, helps businesses find what works and what doesn’t. And by aligning your lead lifecycle with your revenue model, you can create smart campaigns to achieve your goals. 

Sometimes refining your business operations can be as simple as choosing the right sales automation tools. However, knowing what tools and strategies work best can be difficult. 

In any event, the end goal is always converting leads. In business terminology, lead conversion is the process of turning a prospect into a customer. And for obvious reasons, this is just as important to running a successful business as lead generation. 

Lead Lifecycle Stages 

Lead lifecycle management can be complex because there are many stages that a lead moves past before buying a product. But knowing what stage your leads are on can guide you on what to do next. 


An individual or organization becomes a lead after engaging with one of your marketing campaigns. At this point, you should have collected some information about the lead, and saved those details in your CRM.

Note that some lead lifecycles start with a subscriber stage. Subscribers are those who check in with you periodically and likely have signed up to hear from your blog or newsletter. 

Light nurturing urges subscribers into becoming leads who have may have gone so far as to fill out an entire contact form.  

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs) name the two of the most integral stages of the lead lifecycle. 

In the context of a marketing qualified lead, your system determines that a lead is deeply engaged. Your system draws this conclusion automatically based on a set of pre-designated actions. 

Marketing automation tools, by nature, come equipped with the capacity to stimulate workflows and react to triggers. 

For instance, an MQL could have downloaded premium content or viewed your product pages several times within a short period of time, triggering the qualification.

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

In contrast, sales qualified leads (SQL) rely on human qualification. Of course, this qualification will depend on your unique criteria. 

In most cases for SQLs, someone from your sales team has been in direct contact with the lead, perhaps via a demo or discovery call. 


If the initial contact with the lead goes well, there’s a good chance the lead will convert and become a customer. 

At this stage, you might have to answer some preliminary questions, but otherwise, the lead is well on their way to making a purchase. 


This stage is self-explanatory. Here, your lead has become a full-fledged customer.

Moving forward, you should make sure not to neglect the connection you’ve made. 

Your customer service team can take it from here. Ideally, they should foster a relationship with your customer that encourages retention.  

Buyer's Journey vs. Customer Lifecycle

It’s not uncommon for people to confuse the lead lifecycle with the buyer’s journey. It doesn’t help that lead lifecycle is sometimes used interchangeably with the phrase customer lifecycle.

Buyers are customers, right? Or at least in most thesauruses, the two categories are equivalent. 

In reality, the buyer’s journey is distinct from the lead lifecycle in composition and purpose. A customer’s place in the buyer’s journey is not always easy to determine and the different stages depend on the buyer’s internal processing. 

Here are the three stages of the buyer’s journey:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Decision

The awareness stage is where the buyer realizes a problem and takes to different channels to research the issue. 

A quick Google search could look like, “How do I hire software developers with no technical expertise?”

By the consideration stage, buyers have named the issue and their research will start to narrow down in specificity. 

The buyer may post on online forums and social forums something to the likes of — “In need of IT staff augmentation. Any recommendations for outsourcing agencies with great talent?”

Lastly, there is the decision stage. Buyers have taken to actively implementing solutions. Searches have become more in-depth and there are direct comparisons so that the buyer can make an informed decision. 

The stages of the buyer’s journey are clear but ambiguous in regards to quantitative data like time. 

Of course, the buyer’s journey, sale cycle, and lead lifecycle are all crucial elements of marketing, sales, and business as a whole. 

How Does Marketing Automation Play a Part in Lead Lifecycles?

Marketing automation plays a huge role in managing lead lifecycles. From identifying leads to nurturing them through various marketing campaigns, marketing automation is the driver of these processes. 

That said, marketing automation itself hinges on data integration — the endeavor of connecting digital tools with your current business systems. This can be a painstaking procedure. But not if you have the right people on your side. 

Trio engineers encompass a diverse cast of qualified software developers who specialize in data integration for businesses in need. Contact Trio now for more information!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a lead?

A lead is a person or organization that has the potential to become a customer or client.


What is a lead lifecycle?

A lead lifecycle defines the different stages a person goes through from their first engagement with a business to becoming a customer.


What is lead generation?

Lead generation refers to manufacturing consumer interest for your product or service.

Author name

Cordenne Brewster

Cordenne Brewster is a tech enthusiast whose ardor is best expressed through the written word. With contributions ranging from software development to scaling, Cordenne provides insights to keep the curious and inquisitive informed, well-read, and on-trend.

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