Lead Lifecycle Explained:
What it is & How to Improve it

Learn how to turn your leads into customers.
lead lifecycle cover photo
Anyone in sales or anyone interested in growing their business should be keeping close attention to their lead lifecycle.

You want to nurture those leads to arrive at a better understanding of what works for your business if you want to find success. Knowing what your lead lifecycle is, how it works, and how to improve it, will help you tweak and adjust your sales approach accordingly to gain even more business.

Without further ado, let's dive into the world of the lead lifecycle!

What is the Lead Lifecycle?

The lead lifecycle is the process your leads go through in your sales funnel: from their first engagement with your business to them becoming a paying customer. Instead of focusing on the sales process itself, the lead lifecycle focuses on how the lead moves through that process. It's ideal for customer-first companies.

Depending on a variety of factors, including your product or service, the lead lifecycle can be fast or slow. If it's more expensive, as B2B sales tend to be, then you're likely looking at a longer lifecycle.

But you can't assume that one hard and fast rule will apply to all leads. Each lead has a different need and expectation, and this will affect the speed at which they go through the lifecycle. Someone might be ready to buy at a first interaction because they have a pressing need, while someone else may be in the process of months of nurturing and checking in. Still, some lifecycles in more static industries can take years.

What doesn't change are the general stages of the lifecycle.

Lead Lifecycle Stages


The initial stage in any lead lifecycle is the subscriber stage. This is when a lead subscribes to a newsletter, blog, follow your LinkedIn or Instagram page - there's a variety of ways they show up.

The fact of the matter is that at some point something you contributed was interesting to them and they wanted to know more, but passively. They have not yet indicated a desire to interact beyond reading your content.

Your marketing and sales teams want to begin nurturing them correctly to make them more active.


When a subscriber becomes interested and active - responding or seeking more information, they become a lead. Indicators of this are downloading content from your website or newsletter, messaging directly to your social media, or responding to a newsletter.

Marketing-Qualified Lead (MQL)

Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) are leads that arrive to the marketing team that they believe are solid enough to pass to the sales team. Responses to newsletters or downloading of marketing materials (case studies, prospectus, etc) typically fall into this category.

Other examples are visiting the product page frequently, watching a demo video, attending a webinar or information session, or filling out a non-sales-focused form on your website. The qualifying requirements will vary depending on the company, but this is what you're typically looking for. They're a slight step up from a lead by itself.

Sales-Qualified Leads (SQLs)

A sales-qualified lead (SQL) is a lead that your sales team determines is a good fit and well worth their time exploring. Typically, these are folks who have interacted more directly with your sales team to indicate interest.

Examples include filling out a form, requesting a quote, having a discovery call, or an initial demo. Once again, the actual qualification criteria will depend on the company and industry.

Check out our blog post SQL vs MQL for more in-depth information.


Once your sales team is in contact with the lead to further qualify it, they determine if it's a dud or an opportunity. An opportunity means that the lead is a good fit, and that your sales team thinks they are well on their way to become a paying customer.

Any final questions, reservations or timing issues are handled by your sales team actively seeking to engage with the lead. For example, a lead asking to touch base again in a month after a discovery call will become a task for the sales team to revisit. Following a demo, sales teams will check back in to move leads along until they arrive at purchase.


If your lead was nurtured correctly, then they have become paying customers - congratulations!

At this point, your customer will typically be handed off to the customer service team for support and retention purposes.


The relationship with the lead, now customer, doesn't stop there. If they're having a positive experience, marketing teams can put together case studies or testimonials that sales teams can then re-use.

Additionally, salespeople can upsell or network for connections, or indeed if the customer is happy enough they themselves may start to recommend your product or service. The final stage of the lead lifecycle is thus when the lead becomes an advocate.

What Causes Slowdowns in the Lead Lifecycle?

Sometimes, your lead lifecycles can slowdown dramatically. This is the last thing you want as a business.

Whether it's cyclical, the nature of the industry, or something else, it's important to keep an eye out for factors that are within your control.

Fragmented Data

A common cause of lead lifecycle slowdown is fragmented data. If the lead data is distributed amongst multiple spreadsheets, documents, or sales tools, it often becomes difficult to accurately track the lead and many will fall through the cracks.

It becomes easy for leads to be missed, contacted multiple times by different people, information to be missing for discovery or demos, and more - all of which do not induce confidence in your company.

Lack of Integrations

Another thing that may be slowing your lead lifecycle down is a lack of integration.

If you have multiple tools, but they're not integrated correctly, you will probably find that you and your team are constantly re-doing the same tasks or re-completing the same information, or missing information.

This results in slower responses as you spend more time checking information or re-completing tasks. And the slower you are on your end, the slower they'll be to respond.

Operational Failures

It could also be a case of operational failures that are responsible for your lead lifecycle slowdown. As we said above, any task that requires re-doing or re-confirming is time taken away.

Manual data entry, manual processes, missing information, lack of clarity for hand-offs or call scheduling - all of these are operational failures that affect your lifecycle speed and that you have control over.

How to Improve the Entire Lead Lifecycle

Unified CRM Integration

The first thing you want to do to improve your lead lifecycle is to utilize a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool to centralize your data. These tools help sales and marketing teams align goals and share relevant information.

They help streamline processes, monitor relationships and interactions with prospects throughout their entire lifecycle: from prospecting to initial outreach, negotiation, winning their business, and providing support and additional services throughout their time as a client.

Centralizing this data with a CRM tool allows your sales and marketing teams to better understand their pipeline and how they should move leads through the funnel, and also avoid any crossover or misunderstandings during hand-offs.

Examples of these tools are Salesforce, HubSpot, and Pipedrive. If you're a small business, you can also make your own.

Process Automation

Once you've got your data in a CRM, you can start reviewing your processes and find spots where you can save time with automation tools. A good example of this is automating email sending so sequences run automatically without a rep having to push a button every time.

But this can also apply to other manual processes such as data entry, data imports, personalization in messaging, lead assignments, and more.

The more manual and mundane tasks that you can automate, the more time your sales team gains that can be dedicated to parts of the funnel that require a more manual and personalized approach. And you increase the quantity of leads you can move through the funnel as well!

Lead Scoring & Segmentation

Now that you've automated the more manual tasks for your sales team, it's time to start moving those leads across the funnel. This means qualifying the leads and determining if they're a good fit for your business. A good way to do this throughout the team is to develop a lead-scoring system based on both demographic and behavioral data.

By utilizing this system, your sales team can segment leads according to fit and better probability of converting into customers, so that quota is hit faster and by the ideal customer profile (ICP), instead of spending a long time chipping away at a bad fit.

Outsource Sales Development

With your systems in place, you now need a team to run them. A good choice here is to outsource your sales development to a sales outsourcing company, such as SalesPipe.

You'll get reps who are already proficient in the sales tools you're using, know how to automate processes, have lead-scoring knowledge, and understand the importance of ICPs.

As you are trying to ramp up your lead lifecycle, who better to call in than a professional crew to help you either get things started or clean out the cobwebs and start fresh with their in-depth industry know-how and experience.


Lead lifecycle is important since it helps you measure your success rate and discover the tactics that are working. You can take the data you gain by studying it and duplicate your success tenfold, allowing you to tweak and optimize your communication to improve your conversion rates drastically.

Keeping track of it may seem like a lot of work at first, but it is truly no greater task once you get into a good rhythm, and any sales team worth your time knows this.

If you're looking for quality sales development representatives who will help you understand your lead lifecycle and nurture them correctly, do reach out to us here at SalesPipe and we'll put you in touch with our top talent!
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