Part 2: Defining Lead Stages & Statuses

Jess Cody

In part 1 of the sales and marketing alignment series, we talked about the importance of driving alignment, mapping the buyer’s journey to the funnel, and defining funnel ownership.

Next up — defining lead stages and statuses to facilitate even stronger alignment 🤝.

Defining lead stages

“Don’t create definitions in a vacuum,” says Hana Jacover, Director of Marketing Technology at Unreal Digital Group. 

Define lead stages collectively as a sales and marketing organization. Setting these definitions together enables alignment on other crucial elements, including how lead stages map to the buyer’s journey and stage ownership. 

The foundation of lead management is only successful if key stakeholders (sales and marketing teams) actually adopt the processes. While it is a collaborative effort, as a marketing ops leader, you should be driving these conversations with empathy to ensure everything is well-defined and designed with the end user in mind. As a marketing ops leader, it is important to assess if sales understands the operational definition of an MQL, if they are in agreement with the definition, and if they have the context they need when they get an MQL. Brad Couture, Marketing Ops at Tulip, shared “one of my biggest priorities is making sure that when leads flow into the database that they are being routed to the correct sales rep, they’re being routed at the right time, they have the correct data, and the data is accurate.” 

Setting your organization up for success depends heavily on collaboration, putting yourself in the end-user's shoes, and operational alignment across teams. 

Here are some lead stage definition suggestions based on what we’ve seen across successful sales and marketing orgs, but each company is different, so consider what works best for your business.

Defining Lead Stages


Diving deeper, it is also essential to clearly outline what happens in each stage and who is responsible. Here’s an example of some of the stages we use and engagement suggestions.

Lead Stage Definition Template


As you’ll see above, we make the distinction between low-fit hand-raisers and hand-raiser MQLs. Identifying the fit of each prospect is a critical part of effective lead management. While hand-raisers may indicate a high level of behavioral engagement, they are not always the right fit for your business (which is why it is important to separate fit and behavioral scores and signals). We separate low-fit hand-raisers from hand-raiser MQLs so that sales can focus their time on the leads most likely to close. 

Successful lead management starts with clearly defining lead stages as a go-to-market organization and layering in qualification criteria to determine points of engagement. 

Lead stage technical plays: date stamping and campaign stamping

To track lead stage progression and which campaigns are helping progress prospects through the funnel, consider implementing date stamping and campaign stamping. Here’s what Drew Noel, Head of Professional Services, at MadKudu recommends.

  1. Create a date field for each status in the funnel (consider first or most recent date) for PQL/MQL statuses.
  2. Set a triggered campaign in your MAP or CRM (your preference) to monitor (forward) changes in the status and set date fields with TODAY() or NOW() values.
  3. SFDC: Employ APEX code to monitor forward MQL (or even other status changes), scan last campaign responded status, and add to lookup field for MQL Campaign.

These stages are not stagnant. As your business changes, be sure to revisit them and ensure they fit the current needs of your sales and marketing teams. 

Check out our newest playbook for even more technical plays to drive sales and marketing alignment!

Track lead stage progression with lead statuses

Beyond just tracking lead stages, it is essential to identify what is happening in each stage by utilizing lead statuses. 

Understanding where a lead is within each stage helps sales and marketing take the next best action to move them through the buyer’s journey. For example, once a lead reaches the SAL (Sales Accepted Lead) stage, you want to be able to identify if sales has reached out and if the prospect has started a conversation. It is also an opportunity to define what needs to happen in each status and time frame (more on SLAs in part 3, stay tuned!).

Mapping lead statuses to lead stages

And here are some suggestions of lead statuses you can use to align on outreach type, messaging, and crucial SLAs. 


Lead status examples

Lead status technical plays: lead velocity tracking

Here’s how Drew, Head of Professional Services at MadKudu, suggests tracking the speed at which statuses progress through the funnel.

  1. Create Formula Fields for Status-to-Status Incremental Math 
  2. Create Formula Field for Status-to-Date (Post-Qualification or Mid-Funnel Age) leveraging OR() and TODAY() logic.
  3. Create Formula Field for MQL → SQL(Conversion) and/or New Lead → SQL(Conversion) timeline

Check back soon for part 3, where we’ll dive into SLAs and how to use them to align your sales and marketing teams. 

Get the whole sales and marketing alignment playbook here. 



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