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HubSpot Lifecycle Stages – What are they and how to automate them

You want to implement a sales process based on the lifecycle stage of your customers, and you use HubSpot as a CRM. This post will explain what a lifecycle stage is, how to use the HubSpot lifecycle stage properties, and how to save time by automating the whole process.

What is a lifecycle sales process?

A lifecycle sales process is a set of strategies and tactics used by salespeople and marketers to impact the decisions and experiences of potential leads throughout the customer journey — from the first interaction with your brand to winning a customer. 

Setting up and automating a cohesive lifecycle strategy for sales and marketing is the foundation of every successful business operation. The ultimate goal is to move a potential lead through all stages of the customer lifecycle until they pay you.

To achieve the best results, a lifecycle sales strategy would require the implementation of different operations, workflows, and SOPs. A strategy can be completely manual or extremely automated. It can involve one person or multiple teams.

Do not fret about creating the perfect lifecycle sales process if you are just starting out. This article will arm you with the foundations for thinking about the whole process. Then it will dive into specific, actionable tips on how to set up your lifecycle program using HubSpot and Encharge.

How to put together a lifecycle sales process?

We recommend a simple 3-step approach when building your lifecycle sales process:

The steps to design a lifecycle sales strategy in HubSpot

  1. Evaluate and discover
  2. Design
  3. Implement

Let’s jump and discuss each step:

1. Lifecycle evaluation

Your first step is to evaluate your current sales process, and the performance of your sales funnel.

You could be tempted to skip this step. Do not do this. You must thoroughly understand your sales funnel and current customers’ lifecycle. Evaluating your existing process will give you a ton of critical insights on how to set up things for the best customer experience and effectiveness. 

Start by asking a simple question: how do our leads become customers? 

The very first step is more about your customers and less about you. In other words, look from your customer’s perspective – what are the steps they go through once they learn about your product until they make their first payment? 

You can go in as much detail as you want, but at a bare minimum, you should list the basic steps of your lifecycle. At Encharge, almost all of our customers go through a similar journey:

  1. Visit our website
  2. Download a lead magnet
  3. Receive a lead nurturing sequence
  4. Sign up for a product trial
  5. Book a demo call
  6. Evaluate the tool
  7. Implement and test the tool
  8. Become a customer

Of course, this is an over-simplified version, and two customers rarely have the exact same journey. Still, it gives enough structure to start thinking about lifecycle stages and what processes we can optimize.

While we are on this step, you’d also want to evaluate your sales funnel metrics. Again, this step depends on the maturity of your company and the complexity of your analytics setup. 

You can track these metrics in your product analytics software (example below):

Or keep track of these metrics manually in a spreadsheet:

Whatever method you use, you want to have a clear picture of how your sales funnel, and sales process are currently performing.

  • Do you attract enough people at the top of the funnel?
  • Are they engaging with your website?
  • Do they leave their contact details?
  • How many sales calls do you get?
  • How much are you converting into trials or customers?
  • Where is the most significant drop-off?

All these will guide your decisions when building and automating your sales process. They will also indicate where you need to focus. If you leave good qualified leads on the table, you’d want to re-design and improve that stage of the lifecycle. As a startup, it will be hard to nail down the whole lifecycle stage process, so start with the areas that need improvement.

2. Lifecycle design

The next step is to think of the top-level design of your lifecycle strategy. 

The first thing here is to define the actual lifecycle stages of your leads. This critical element will guide how you set up your lead lifecycle stages in HubSpot and work as a universal dictionary for your team. 

Start with the top of the funnel and move down. Make sure to define each stage as clearly as possible.

Here are how our lifecycle stages look:

  • Lead – a contact who has signed up for our blog lead magnets.
  • Prospect – a subscriber who has signed up for our lead magnets AND has visited our homepage AND pricing page.
  • User – a user who signed up for the product
  • PQL (Product Qualified Lead) – a user who signed up for our product and has performed some (if not all) of the important actions in the app
  • SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) – a contact or user who has booked a demo call. However, their Lead status should be marked as Unqualified if they do not fit our customer profile after evaluation and/or demo call.
  • Opportunity – a good fit SQL
  • Customer
  • Evangelist – an advocate for Encharge. Agencies with multiple clients, content creators that produce educational content for Encharge, etc.
  • Other – any contacts that don’t fall under the other stages, like employee applicants, for example.

We have set these definitions in our sales lexicon in Slab (the tool we use as a company wiki), accessible to everyone on the team:

In most cases, your leads would go through each lifecycle stage. However, sometimes they can skip stages. In our case, for example, someone can reach the Customer stage without being a sales-qualified lead (i.e., when they sign up, trial, and subscribe through the self-serve process). So while these stages are closely mapped to your sales funnel, they are not the exact stages of your sales funnel

As the next step, we recommend drawing a chart with your full sales process. Here’s an example from Lucidchart:

When drawing this chart, consider the following things:

  • The customer messages throughout their customer lifecycle – what emails, in-app messages, and notifications your leads receive.
  • The sales processes you currently have in place – do you qualify leads, do you score them, do you do discovery calls or go straight to demo calls, what is your current follow-up process with SQLs, and so on?
  • Inefficiencies in your sales process (remember the funnel metrics).
  • The sales processes you want to improve or optimize – what are one to three things you want to improve in that process?
  • Your current resources – team members, software, etc.

You want to improve, optimize, and automate the sales process, but you must keep things realistic. Suppose you are a startup with a 2-person sales team. In that case, designing the most sophisticated sales process with complex lead scoring systems, round-robing routing, and AI-driven lead qualification algorithms will not make sense. 

The end goal is to have a clear vision of what happens for a person to go through all of the lifecycle stages of your business. Refrain from spending an unproportionate amount of time on this chart, especially if you need to agree on this process with other stakeholders (like the sales leader, your CEO, etc.)  

Avoid the temptation of thinking of this deliverable as your masterpiece. Instead, use it as a starting point for discussions and the first version of many revisions. Do not fret if you are asked to make multiple iterations of the flowchart. That’s the goal of this step — sketch the fundamentals before you implement. You want to make more changes now vs. when everything is implemented, and you must adapt your whole HubSpot account and marketing automation tool to accommodate a completely different process.

3. Implement your lifecycle sales process

Up to this point, you should have avoided touching a software tool. To goal of the previous two steps is to get a go-ahead on your new, improved lifecycle sales process and design the overall strategy.

In this step, we get to the building; we’ll delve into the nuts and bolts of implementation.

Before we get into the practical steps, let’s answer an important question — what tools do you need to get this job done?

CRM platforms like HubSpot and marketing automation tools like Encharge are geared toward helping you achieve the best results in your lifecycle strategy while automating most of the repetitive tasks.

Since this article is about HubSpot Lifecycle Stages, we assume you will use HubSpot. More specifically, the HubSpot CRM. That means the free HubSpot tools or HubSpot Sales Starter and above. Everything we share in this section is achievable in the free tools of HubSpot, so don’t worry — you don’t need the Professional or Enterprise tier.

You’d also need a marketing automation platform to automate certain parts of your sales process. One option is to get HubSpot Marketing Hub. However, to get access to automation workflows in HubSpot, you need to be on a Professional plan and above (price tag starts at  $800+). Since the primary segment of our readers are early-stage startups, we would assume that this option is out of reach for most of you. 

That’s why we built a powerful two-way sync integration with HubSpot. This integration makes Encharge the best and most affordable marketing automation platform for HubSpot. The integration works seamlessly with your HubSpot CRM and is the closest alternative to HubSpot Marketing Hub you can get. Starting at just $159/mo.

Feel free to check the page of our integration to learn more about the features we support. In this article, we’ll focus on how to use HubSpot with Encharge to automate your lifecycle stages.

The implementation process will be divided into four main steps:

  1. Setting your lifecycle stages in HubSpot updating the lifecycle stages property in HubSpot to match your new model. 
  2. Creating matching segments in Encharge – build segments of people to match your lifecycle stages.
  3. Automate the lifecycle stage setter – once the stages are set, we want to automate the lifecycle stage changes as much as possible. 
  4. Automate your deal process – if you work with deals, this will be a core part of automating your sales process across the lifecycle.

1. Set up your lifecycle stages in HubSpot

The first step of the implementation is to set up your lifecycle stages in HubSpot

Note that both contacts and companies in HubSpot have lifecycle stages. 

To set your stages, go to Settings → Objects → Contacts → Lifecycle stage.

This property comes with pre-made stages:

  1. Subscriber
  2. Lead
  3. MQL (or Marketing Qualified Lead)
  4. SQL (Sales Qualified Lead)
  5. Opportunity
  6. Customer
  7. Evangelist

These stages are a good starting point and inspiration to think about your lifecycle. Still, most likely, you’d want to update them to match your customer lifecycle based on the findings from the Lifecycle evaluation and Lifecycle design you found earlier in this guide. The best thing is that HubSpot allows you to remove, re-arrange, and change all stages. You can also see how many contacts are in a specific stage (number to the right).

This is what our lifecycle stages look like at Encharge:

Our recommendation is to start from the coldest to the hottest, as this is how your stages will show in the dropdown when making changes in the CRM.

All contacts in your CRM must have the right and up-to-date lifecycle stage assigned to them. If you are a sales-driven or even a hybrid organization (sales + product-led), HubSpot will serve as your single source of truth for your sales and marketing teams. You want them to be in sync. The ultimate goal is for marketers to send the best leads and for sales reps to focus on the best leads at the right time. 

Note that the lifecycle stage in HubSpot will be used across the whole platform. You can create views and active lists based on that property.

Views are one of the easiest ways to show marketing, sales, and product-qualified leads to your salespeople at a glance. At Encharge, we have created a view for every stage of the lifecycle, so we can easily access the important leads:

At this step, you’d also want to create or update any additional properties in HubSpot to account for lifecycle customization, such as lead status. 

Lead status “describes the sub-stages within a Sales Qualified Lead lifecycle stage”.  Again, HubSpot comes with a bunch of default options. We find them way too vague and too many for our organization, so we reduced the number to just Unqualified, Bad timing, Attempted to contact, Connected, and in Progress.

2. Create matching segments in Encharge

The goal of this step is to create segments in Encharge that match the criteria for your lifecycle stages.

Segments in Encharge are dynamic groups of people that have the same set of criteria. For example, “all people from the US that have visited the pricing page”. We call these criteria rules “conditions”. 

Remember how we defined the exact criteria for our stages in the lifecycle design stage? Here it is again below:

  • Lead – a contact who has signed up for our blog lead magnets.
  • Prospect – a subscriber who has signed up for our lead magnets AND has visited our homepage AND pricing page.
  • User – a user who signed up for the product
  • PQL (Product Qualified Lead) – a user who signed up for our product and has performed some (if not all) of the important actions in the app 
  • SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) – a contact or user who has booked a demo call. 
  • Opportunity – a good fit SQL
  • Customer
  • Evangelist – an advocate for Encharge. Agencies with multiple clients, content creators that produce educational content for Encharge, etc.
  • Other – any contacts that don’t fall under the other stages, like employee applicants, for example.

We will use those exact criteria to build our segments in Encharge. Note that we won’t be able to recreate some stages as a segment – for those, we would need to use automation flows in Encharge, as explained in the next step about automation. That’s totally fine – the goal, for now, is to have as many stages as we can as matched segments in Encharge. The end result will be a neatly organized section of segments that you can use to automate your HubSpot account:

Let’s review in practice how we build some of our lifecycle stage segments in our organization. Note that depending on your lifecycle stages, the conditions for your segments could be wildly different. 

Leads for us are people who have downloaded a lead magnet through our lead generation tool (ConvertFlow). As we connect ConvertFlow through, we use the Event condition “CTA Form Submitted”.

Prospects are people who have downloaded a lead magnet AND visited our pricing page and our homepage. These people have indicated at least some commercial interest in our product. We add two Page visited conditions to the “CTA Form Submitted” event condition.

Users are people who have signed up for our software. These people have performed the “Signed Up” event. It’s one of the events we send using an API. 

PQLs (Product Qualified Leads) are users that have performed the Signed Up event but also performed a number of other events critical to our product, like creating a flow, creating an email, and importing contacts. These are people that have engaged more with our product. If you run a SaaS business, you can easily send custom events to the Encharge API and build segments (and lifecycle stages) based on what people do in your product.

For SQLs (Sales Qualified Lead), we will not create a segment. The SQL stage will be assigned when a person books a meeting with us, so we are going to use an automation flow to set the SQL stage, as explained in the next step about 

Opportunities we set manually in HubSpot after a sales call, so we don’t need a segment for them.

Customers are all people that have subscribed to our product. We use our native Chargebee integration, so the segment condition is a field condition “Chargebee Subscription” is “Active”. 

Lastly, we have Advocates — partners or resellers/agencies, so we also set that status manually.

Learn more about the segment conditions in Encharge.

3. Automate the lifecycle stage setter

So far, we have set the lifecycle stages in HubSpot and in Encharge. 

As you can picture, manually tracking and updating hundreds and thousands of contacts’ lifecycle stages can be a nightmare. 

Thankfully with Encharge, we can automate most of the lifecycle stages progress. 

The premise is as follows:

  1. When a person matches certain criteria, they will enter one of the segments in Encharge that we created during the previous step. 
  2. Now, we will build a flow that automatically updates the HubSpot Lifecycle stage when a person enters a specific segment.
  3. The two-way data sync with HubSpot will automatically sync the lifecycle stage value of the person to HubSpot.
  4. Tada. We have a fully automated lifecycle stage setter.

We already have the segments ready, so let’s create the flow that sets and updates the lifecycle stages.

This is how this flow looks like when finished:

In this flow, we use the Entered Segment trigger step connected to a Change Field action step.

As you can see, we have an Entered Segment trigger step with each one of the segments we previously created: Leads, Prospects, Users, etc. When a person enters one of the segments, we use the Change Field to update the HubSpot Lifecycle field to the appropriate stage. We’ve also added wait steps between the trigger and the action step to avoid simultaneous changes if a person enters more than one segment at the same time. 

Last, we have the Chargebee Subscription Activated trigger, which sets the value of the lifecycle stage to “Customer”. But you can also use a segment to achieve the same thing, it’s up to you.

3. Automate your deal sales process

We have automated almost all of the lifecycle stages in HubSpot using the Lifecycle stage setter flow. 

The only lifecycle stage we haven’t automated in the flow above is the SQL (Sales Qualified Leads).

In our sales process, an SQL is someone that books a meeting.

To achieve this, we have created a separate flow called “HubSpot Deals Automation” that automates most of our deals and sales processes. 

It also sets the lifecycle stage in HubSpot to SQL when someone books a meeting in HubSpot. For this, we are using a Meeting Booked in HubSpot trigger.

Notice how we also do a number of other automated tasks as a part of this:

We send an email notification to the whole sales team. Yes, HubSpot sends a notification to the sales rep that the person has booked the call with, but we also want to notify the whole sales team. That allows other salespeople to be in the loop and jump in if needed.

We use the Update HubSpot Record to update the lifecycle stage of the Company associated with the contact and also pass some other information to the company record in HubSpot, like industry and country:

Finally, we also use the Create HubSpot Record action step to automatically create a deal for the SQL. This is a critical part of our sales process. This step creates a new deal that is automatically added to our sales pipeline under the “Demo scheduled” stage. Notice how we can also automatically associate this deal with the company and the contact, as well as any other records connected to that contact.

This is just a part of our deal automations flow, which we use to automate our whole process, but it’s the essential one needed to automate our lifecycle stages.

With that, we have covered automating the majority of our customer lifecycle stages in our HubSpot CRM. The sales team can focus on reaching out to people instead of trying to find the right leads to reach out to and doing a ton of manual work.

As you can imagine, we are just scratching the surface of sales process automation, but if you design, set, and automate your lifecycle stages, you have the proper foundation ready. 

If you need help automating your lifecycle stages or your whole sales process in HubSpot, feel free to book a free strategy call with us.

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