Now that HubSpot has tools for both marketing and sales, many of our customers enjoy having their two teams working inside the same environment. But despite that, many companies find that their marketing and sales teams still feel as though they're speaking two different languages. What's the problem, here?

As it turns out, marketing and sales do speak different languageseven inside of HubSpot's software. Here's a quick explanation of the differences and how to bridge the gap.

Teams that work together grow better. Check out our lesson on aligning your  marketing with sales.

Lifecycle stages: the language of marketing

In the context of inbound marketing, every contact in your database fits into one of five stages: stranger, visitor, lead, customer, or promoter. In HubSpot, there's a Lifecycle Stage property that labels every contact in one of eight ways:

  • Subscriber - People who have subscribed to a newsletter, blog, etc. In some cases, these contact records may be nothing more than an email address.
  • Lead - People who have provided you with more information about themselves, usually by filling out a form in order to receive some sort of offer.
  • Marketing Qualified Lead - People who have expressed a deeper interest in your offerings. Whereas Leads are usually accepting top-of-the-funnel offers, MQLs are asking for information closer to the bottom of the funnel.
  • Sales Qualified Lead - People who have been identified by your sales team as being ready for direct contact.
  • Opportunity - People your sales team is actively in conversation with.
  • Customer - People who have purchased something from you.
  • Evangelist - People outside your organization who are invested in spreading the word about what you do. Evangelists are an invaluable source of referrals.
  • Other - People who don't fit into any of the above. You might not have any contacts in the category, but if you do, you need to be sure to clearly define what sort of person belongs here.

The Lifecycle Stage property will be most interesting to your marketing team. They'll use it to segment Lists, create Smart Content, and trigger Workflows. They'll also design Forms and Workflows to update Lifecycle Stage as your contacts take various actions.

From a marketer's perspective, Lifecycle Stage might be the single most telling property on the contact record. And yet, even if their sales team is using HubSpot CRM, they may find that the typical sales rep has no idea what Lifecycle Stage is, let alone what the individual stages mean. What's going on over there on the sales floor, anyway?

Deal stages: the language of sales

Your sales team probably won't pay as much attention to Lifecycle Stage. In their domain, deal stages play a much more prominent role.

Just as Lifecycle Stage tracks the progress of contacts as they move through their buyer's journey, deal stages track the progress of the sales those contacts are involved in. But while the lifecycle stages are hardcoded into the system, your deal stages will be unique to your sales process. In fact, if you haven't customized your deal stages, you could be missing out on valuable information inside your CRM.

Check out this blog post to learn how to customize your deal stages.

But despite their differences, deal stages and lifecycle stages are closely related. When a sales rep creates a deal for a contact, that contact's Lifecycle Stage automatically gets updated to Opportunity. If the deal closes successfully, the contact's Lifecycle Stage gets updated to Customer. So even though sales reps don't interact with Lifecycle Stage directly, the work they do still affects this property.

This should offer your marketing team some relief. They can rest assured that Lifecycle Stage isn't neglected by the sales team. Still, it makes inter-team communication pretty tricky. What to do?

Lead Status: the common ground between sales and marketing

You need to find a way for marketing and sales to come to an understanding on where a lead is in the buying process. This is crucial: leads often get handed back and forth between marketing and sales. If there isn't a way to get insight into how leads are being worked with, some leads will end up endlessly mired in the MQL or SQL stages.

Lead Status is a customizable property inside HubSpot CRM. Out of the box, there are five Lead Status options: New, Open, In Progress, Open Deal, and Unqualified. These default options are a great starting point, but customizing Lead Status with options that are more meaningful to your marketing and sales teams can do a lot to improve communication.

For example, I've spoken with several sales teams that like to be able to star individual leads or mark them as "hot." Making a Lead Status option of Star or Hot gives the sales team a way to prioritize the leads who are most eager to move, and the marketing team can use this designation to opt contacts out of any nurturing emails they might otherwise receive.

On the other hand, some leads are fully qualified, but the timing is simply not right. These are the people who actually mean it when they ask a sales rep to call them back in six months. But six months is a long time for a sales rep with a monthly quota, and it would take a lot of manually effort for that rep to nurture that lead for half a year. Instead, a Lead Status of Bad Timing would enable the rep to set such leads aside. Then, the marketing team could put them back into a nurturing workflow.

The way you customize Lead Status will depend entirely upon the sort of back-and-forth your marketing and sales team have with each other. Bring it up in your next Smarketing meeting and see what ideas you can come up with. If you've had success using Lead Status to align your marketing and sales teams, share your experience in the comments below!

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Originally published Aug 24, 2016 12:30:00 PM, updated June 13 2018