The Stakeholder Meeting is one of the most critical steps in a provocative selling process. It’s important to understand that a stakeholder meeting is not a sales meeting. The purpose is to drive urgency. You want to not only get executives to attend the meeting but also to participate actively. By the end, you set up the next steps that lead to downhill selling, a proposal, and a commitment.
For this meeting, you will have both external stakeholders, and internal participants. The external stakeholders are those on your client’s team who have a stake in the process, and who need to be involved in order to move the discussion and the deal forward. At this point in the sales process, you should have already met with the gatekeepers — the managers and directors who can bring your ideas to the C-suite. It’s these top executives, the client’s ultimate decision-makers, who should be present at a stakeholders meeting.
You may need various internal stakeholders from your own organization to attend the call along with you. That may be your manager, and perhaps some of the executives on your team, who can help to move the conversation forward, add their perspective, and show the client the broader team that is behind your solution.
How to Structure a Stakeholder Meeting
Step 1: Share insights
At the beginning of a stakeholder meeting, your first step is getting everybody on the same page. During this phase, align everyone by setting the context of previous discussions between your two organizations. It’s important that you empower your champion at the client to introduce the context of the meeting. To do that, before the meeting, coach them to start with a phrase like, “The reason I gathered you all here today is to …” This will help to set the context for the entire group.
Second, talk authoritatively about the client’s company and the problem that needs to be solved. Don’t ask questions — that was fine during the ‘uphill selling’ process when you were talking with the gatekeepers. But now with executives in this meeting, you want to show that you already understand the inner workings of their company, the pain points they are trying to solve, and the impact that they are looking for.
Step 2: Share what’s possible
In this step, you’re taking the client’s stakeholders from the present into the future. Executives are busy, so get right to the point. They want to hear how you can solve their problems. Align what they want to achieve with what you can do in order to get them there.
Don’t rely on a static PowerPoint presentation. Draw on the whiteboard if it makes sense, or use a shared doc that everyone can open and see for themselves. This is the stage where you offer metrics, stories of similar clients, and discuss the impact of what your partnership will entail. Draw the executives into the conversation. Ideally, this step will be all about co-creation so that the client is invested in the outcome.
Step 3: Agree on a mutual action plan
The last step is where you agree on the path forward. Coordinate with another person on your team to make sure that one person is taking notes and attending to meeting logistics, including follow-through and next steps.
Organizations often make this process too complex. Try to distill it down to one major step that everyone agrees on. If you need more steps, put together an action plan. Clearly delineate the next steps that you will take, as well as the next steps that the client should take. Don’t forget to assign deadlines; without deadlines, you run the risk of everyone agreeing it was a great meeting and being excited to work together more, but then momentum stalls.
Agree on a 30- to 90-day plan (adjust this as needed depending on your typical sales cycle) so that you can achieve a quick win and stay top of mind for the client. Following these steps, a stakeholder meeting leads directly to ‘downhill selling’ and a commitment.