Stakeholder Meetings & Sales Deck for an Early Stage Startup – Explained

by Whitney Sales

TLDR; Think of this as Qualifying Call, Part 2. The only difference here is that you’ll be speaking to a larger group of people at the prospect organization. As a result, you’ll spend some time requalifying the prospect, but you’ll also be expected to offer some additional information. Your slides should include:

  1. Cover Slide
  2. Insights Slide
  3. Market Opportunity Slide
  4. Before and After Slide
  5. Demo/Case Study Slide
  6. Solution Slide
  7. Next Steps Slide
  8. Closing Slide

Learning to sell can be a daunting task, especially as a product/technical founder. Your immediate instinct might be to hire a sales rep to sell your product, but we’re here to tell you that you are in fact the best equipped to sell your product in your company’s early days. As the founder of your company, you know the market, product, and landscape better than nearly anyone you could hire. On top of that, strong relationships with early customers and a clearly defined sales process are essential to setting your first sales hire up for success. Once you have the skills to sell your product, you can then train your first sales hire on your process and better evaluate sales performance in the long term.

We’ve outlined a 7-step process walking you through the ins and outs of qualifying clients, running stakeholder meetings, proposing terms, negotiating contracts, and closing deals. The entire process can take anywhere from 3-18 months depending on the size and levels of bureaucracy you’re forced to deal with through each stage. A general rule of thumb is that the larger a company is, the more people involved, and therefore, the longer the sale may take. Stay strong. The long-term success of your company depends on this!

The first step in the sales process is the Qualifying call, which we’ve written about in a separate article (linked below). While qualifying, you’re looking to make sure that the problem your product solves maps well to the problem your buyer is facing while also finding a Champion to help gather the necessary stakeholders, and walk you through your client’s unique buying process.  

If none of that made sense to you, we suggest you take a look at that previous article, Send Decks for Early Stage Startups. There we explain how to structure a Qualifying meeting and provide an overview of what to use as a visual in this meeting – your Send Deck. This article is all about the second step in the sales process, the Stakeholder Meeting, where you’ll likely present a Sales Deck. The great thing about both Send and Sales Decks is the large amount of overlap. Your Send Deck is a simplified version of your Sales Deck, and your talking points will be very similar across qualifying calls and stakeholder meetings. We’ll help you tune into nuances that will help you stand out in the market and approach clients with the confidence necessary to close deals.

Enterprise Sales Process

  1. Qualify – Identify a Champion within the organization who will help you navigate the sales process and build buy-in across decision makers and influencers
  2. Stakeholder Meeting – Align buyers around value of using the software and their buying process
  3. Proposal -> Contract – Collaboratively craft a proposal with your
  4. Negotiation – Align on pricing and timeline
  5. Verbal – Agreed upon pricing, terms of Service, and timeline.
  6. Legal – Legal review
  7. Close – Receive signature


 Here is what you want to achieve during a stakeholder meeting.

  • Establish trust – in you and that the product can do what you say it can do
  • Challenge the buyer’s thinking about how to solve their problem through framing and education
  • Utilize the founding story of the company to establish your credibility as a thought leader in the ecosystem and relate to the buyer
  • Convey benefits of the product via storytelling of another customer’s experience to validate that you can do what you say you can do
  • Your goal is to get the customer to tell you the problems they have that relate to your product. Then show them how your product solves their problem.
  • Finally, align the Stakeholders on the goals of using the product and ROI (return on investment) your product offers as well the process the company will go through to sign off on the purchase

Quick tip for first time sellers, it is helpful to schedule a 15 min call with your Champion a few days before and the day after your Stakeholder meeting. Utilize the pre-Stakeholder meeting to prepare for the meeting – understand how to collaborate with your Champion in the meeting and review your plan for the meeting with your Champion to ensure you’re both setup for success. Utilize the post-meeting to get your Champion’s take on how the meeting went. If you’re lucky your Champion might have feedback or insights to share to help you navigate the sale.

A few words of warning before we dive deeper into the details of a sales deck and stakeholder meeting. You might be tempted to “pitch” your stakeholders in the meeting. Instead  keep the tone conversational, and if possible, allow your stakeholders to do the majority of the talking Use questions to guide the thinking of the buyer and learn as much as you can about how the problem your product solves shows up in the day to day of the people you’re talking to and the cost of the problem to the organization. Your deck is simply a visual tool. It should support what you say, not be what you say. Avoid using your deck as a crutch or script.

Now that you understand the steps in a sales process and have a rough idea of the goals for your stakeholder meeting, it’s time to dive into the meeting and deck itself. 

1. Cover Slide

The initial visual for your buyers should always be a cover slide. This helps to establish familiarity and a sense of brand.

Visual Component

Your cover slide should include both your company logo and your buyer’s company logo, a short 3-5 word description of your product, your contact information, and the date.

Talking Points

Your talking points here should be simple. An introduction of each person on your team, their titles, and responsibilities. Also be sure to confirm how much time you have for this meeting. You surely don’t want to get cut off or to lose your buyers’ attention before you can actually get anything from the meeting.

Be sure to set an agenda for the time you have together. Set goals for your call, gain an understanding of the pain points they are facing, discuss how you can help them with those specific pain points, and outline next steps should there be a fit.

For your own sake, set a structure for when questions should be asked and make sure to lead a discussion rather than simply pitch them. Pause for questions during the meeting itself. Lastly, make sure they know you are open to discussing anything they would like to discuss.

Remember, this meeting is about learning as much as you possibly can from your buyer. Don’t get caught up in the moment and forget to include your buyers. Think more the Q&A portion of a panel discussion rather than a lecture on why your company is such a great idea.

2. Insights Slide

On this slide, show how the industry, technology, or customer expectations you’re targeting have changed leading to an unmet need; a void your solution fills.

Visual Component

The visual should offer a few simple stats that support the problem statement in your founding story.

Talking Points

This is a great place to introduce your buyers to your founding story. The goal here is to get them all thinking the same way about the problems they are facing and align the stakeholders   around the problem by educating them. Try this outline:

Story of a desired outcome, but you faced a challenge (problem). We decided to learn more and uncovered that (data).

Frame the problem you are both facing with data. This is a surefire way to earn some questions and show your buyers that the problem is real. Envision this portion of the conversation as an opportunity to establish yourself as a thought leader and to educate and relate to your buyer within the context of the problem you outlined.

3. Market Opportunity Slide

Bring up current solutions and the reasons they don’t actually solve the problem. Why do current solutions not solve the problem? Try outlining like this:

We looked into current solutions/tried to do it manually and realized – (fragmented, took too long, inaccurate), etc. – there had to be a better way. So we built (product)

Visual Component

Incorporate a strong visual diagram showing how other companies currently solve the problem. Ensure the diagram actually supports your claim that current solutions don’t work.

Talking Points

Add to your founding story at this point in the discussion. Talk about how you tried to solve the problem the same way everyone else does, or with your competitors’ solutions, and emphasize the numerous problems you encountered. Maybe you ran into issues with fragmentation or complex processes. Maybe the process was simply too time consuming or required too many people. Be thorough in analyzing these issues and present them in a down to earth, and undebatable manner.

Don’t forget to cover your bases and discuss how the manual process is inefficient and leads to errors. Be ready for any curveball questions that might come as a result of this slide.

4. Before and After Slide

This is your shining moment. You’ve explained the problem you faced that inspired  you to build the product. Now it’s time to show the results of using your product and uncover the potentially disruptive technology you’ve built. 

Visual Component

Offer a simple before and after graphic for your buyers’ sake. That’s all. Less is more throughout the process, but especially here.

Talking Points

Here, you’re going to want to conclude your founding story. Wrap it up in a personal experience that establishes empathy between you and your buyer. Then, hit them with a solution; Your software.

You’ve framed the problem in your Stakeholders’ minds. Now it’s time to qualify the stakeholders. The before and after visual is a great visual to have up while you do this because it visually tells the stakeholders there is potential value in speaking with you.

Conclude founding story:

  • Quantify the problem through personal experience.
  • Introduce software

Some notes on qualifying:

  • Every time a new buyer is added to the sales process you need to requalify. Every role in an organization will have different needs / uses/ benefits from product
  • Structure qualifying questions as open ended:
    • Talk me through
    • Walk me through
    • Help me understand
  • Respond to every question in a way that establishes knowledge of the industry and the credibility of the market or pain point your customer is experiencing

There are two things you are seeking to learn when qualifying your stakeholders:

  • What do you need to know about the buyers to know if they are a good customer for you? 
    • How do they experience that Pain/Challenges your product solves for?
    • Do they have money to spend on this problem?
    • Qualifying Event – Is there an internal event that is driving the need to solve this pain/challenge?
  • What do you need to know to identify a relevant customer use case to share when you demo your product (if you use demos in your sales process)

5. Demo/Case Study Slides

You should have some use cases, whether from family and friends, beta users, or real customers (hopefully you didn’t develop your product in a vacuum).  Pick the use case that is most relevant to the stakeholders you are speaking with. Are there similarities in size, tech stack, problem profile, etc? The more relevant the better.

Visual Component

This is the first slide we’ve come across that can take multiple slides if you need it to. Include, customer quotes, case studies, and customer logos to help establish legitimacy both for your brand, and your customer’s.

Talking Points

Walk your buyers through a relatable user/customer’s experience with your product. Emphasize and expand on benefits relevant to your stakeholders. A Customer’s experience is fact, not opinion. The stakeholders may contest relevance, but they can’t argue with another company’s experience with your product and the benefits they receive.

There are many benefits to this slide for you. It establishes that you can indeed do what you say you can do. Tie your customer’s experience back into the challenges your buyer is facing, you hopefully uncovered a few while qualifying. Then pause for questions. Questions will fall into one of two buckets: Process-oriented questions or value oriented questions. 

Process oriented questions are ‘how’, ‘what’ and ‘who’ type questions:

  • How long does implementation take?
  • Who needs to be involved in implementation?
  • What data do we need to provide

These types of questions are strong buying signals because they indicate the stakeholders are trying to understand what it would take to get the product working for them.

Value oriented questions are ‘why’ type questions:

  • Why do we need a solution like this?
  • Why couldn’t we just modify this process to solve the same problem?

These indicate the stakeholders are not bought in on challenge/pain or value the product offers. In this case you need to go back and requalify.

6. Solution Slide

Up until this moment, everything has more or less mirrored your qualifying call. The only difference is that you’ve had more people to listen to and educate around the pain point. This is where things start to get a bit different, so really pay attention to this stuff. 

This is one of the most important moments of this entire interaction with your buyers. This is where you align everyone on the value they will receive from the product and how they will judge the success of using your product. 

Visual Component

A feature overview of your product – Pretty simple and straightforward. Don’t over complicate it with technical details unless there is a technical person involved in the decision making process. Getting too technical can lose non-technical buyers. It’s about the benefits these features provide, not how they were designed 

Talking Points 

While you have an outline of what the product does on the screen, it’s time to understand how these stakeholders will use the product specifically. We break this down into two different sets of questions you should get answered; sales questions, and buyer ROI questions.

Your sales questions should help you quantify the ROI your software offers this organization, or put together a clear use for your buyers? Dive deep into the key stakeholders day to day experience of the challenges they’re looking to solve.  Validate your buyers’ challenges with customer examples. “That’s something we hear a lot…”

Your sales questions should answer: 

  • How will using your product impact your buyers’ business? 
  • What about their day to day?
  • How many people benefit from your product and how?

Once you understand this you should be able to craft a clear ROI for your stakeholders:

“So it sounds like (problem) currently takes X number of people, X amount of time on a weekly/monthly basis. Do I understand that correctly? Ok if that’s the case, using (product) we can cut that down to X amount of time and X number of people.” 

This is a very simplified script, but you get the jist. The buyer needs to have a clear understanding of how your solution impacts their day to day and their company at large. Align your buyers around goals for the technology, and be sure to pause for questions.

On a side note – if your buyers ask for a price, make sure not to give them a specific number. Rather, offer them a more precise range than you did in the Qualifying Call and explain the various criteria that go into putting together a proposal without committing to a specific price. Understand that they will be looking to buy at the lowest price estimate you provide, so play the long game. Don’t show your hand. 

7. Next Steps Slide

This is important for establishing where this interaction has led. You may find that you’re repeating questions you’ve already asked, or inquiring information you received in earlier stages, but that is alright. There is nothing wrong with further clarification. During this part of the conversation your goal is to map the buying process. You have your steps to implement on the screen, but you need to understand the company’s steps to buy the product

Visual Component

Show the next steps in process, but offer no more than 3. Less is more. Adding more steps makes the implementation appear complicated and can turn off your buyers or delay the sale.

Talking Points

There are three topics you will cover in this section of your conversation: 

  • BANT – Map the buying process
  • Agree on an Implementation Process and timeline
  • Immediate next steps based on what’s been outlined in BANT

BANT: Budget, Authority, Needs, Timeline These may have been asked earlier in the conversation, but do not worry about it. Clarify for your own sake if not for everyone else in the room. Your team may use CHAMP or another qualifying framework. I like to teach BANT because it’s the easiest place to start when training people new to selling.

  • Budget

    Find out how your buyer typically evaluates tools like yours. Do they have resources and a budget allocated for implementation? Will sprint cycles play a part in when they implement the product? Make sure that you are asking about technical resources (if there is a technical implementation required), not just money.
  • Authority

    Is there anyone else who would need to see the product or be involved in the decision-making process? If a technical buyer, setup a separate call and include your technical resource who can speak the same language.
  • Needs

    These should have been established earlier in the meeting during the “Why Does your Buyer Need Your Solution?” slide.
  • Timeline

    Figure out if your buyer has ever purchased a tool similar to yours, and ask them to walk you through that . ‘Have you ever purchased a tool like this before? Can you walk me through that process?’ What does your legal process look like? What kind of security requirements do they have; any privacy requirements?  Do they have an internal deadline that your solution is part of? This will allow you to work on their timeline and drive urgency.

Implementation Process

If the conversation is going well, the buyers will drive this portion of the conversation. This is a strong buying signal. Map to the  internal deadline this allows you to work on your prospect’s timeline. Who will be involved and responsible for making things happen internally to make sure you meet the deadline? Most importantly, keep it simple. Don’t overcomplicate it, complication leads to delays and lost deals. 

Next Steps

Repeat back your understanding of what is going to happen after your meeting. Make sure both you and your buyers are clear on what homework you each have.

Finally, ALWAYS schedule and confirm your next step. Get on your buyers’ calendars while you have their attention. Don’t expect to be able to do this later. People get busy, and the longer this takes, the harder it is to get what you need from your buyer.

Send a calendar reminder for your next meeting. Let your buyer know you’re on top of your end of things. They should never be waiting on something from you. The experience you give your buyers presale is the experience they expect post-sale.  

8. Closing Slide

Visual Component

Thank your buyers for their time and offer your contact information again. Keep it simple. Less is certainly more here.

(Optional) Additional Slides

Team Slide

If your team has deep domain expertise in the industry it certainly does not hurt to include that information to help legitimize your brand and convince your buyers that you are the people needed to create a solution and make your buyer money.

Include this after the cover slide if you do use it.

Technical Differentiation Slide

If you are in a saturated market or speaking with a technical buyer don’t be afraid to expand on the technical details that differentiate your solution from those of your competitors. Don’t overwhelm them, but be convincing. Include this after the demo, or case study slide should you use it.

Partner Slide:

If integrations are important to your product, expand on your partners, why you chose them, and why they are integral to your solution. Keep it simple, and remember that less is more. Include after the demo, or case study slide if you need it.

Customer Slide:

If you have relevant logos or great customer quotes, don’t be afraid to show off a bit. This further establishes legitimacy and helps your buyer understand that you’re the right people to fix the problem they are facing. Include this slide after the demo, or case study slide.

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