Neil Patel

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How to make the ask in a pitch deck?

Pitching is all about the ask. It is this whole point of creating a pitch deck and presenting your pitch. So, how do you include your ask?

There are a couple of ways to get to the amount of funding you are looking for from a specific investor. However, while you may be focused on, and be tempted to jump to the ask, it is important to understand that setting up the ask comes far before the last slide in your pitch deck. It is best to set up before you even deliver your deck or verbal pitch.

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    Setting Up The Ask

    While you may be consumed with getting to the ask, and getting the money in the bank, the art of fundraising is about setting it up strategically.

    Ideally, when it comes to the ask it will already be a no-brainer for your audience. It will just be a matter of how much they are going to put in, and on what terms.

    This is much more easily achieved if you are prepared for how to make the ask in a pitch deck well in advance of your need to put more cash in the bank.

    Remember that even after you get a yes, it can take weeks or a couple of months to get the round officially closed, and cleared funds in the bank.

    Once you start raising capital for your startup it begins a continuous cycle of fundraising until you exit. So, once you start, you are effectively always in fundraising mode. As much as 50% of your time may be devoted to this part of the business.

    If this is your first fundraising round, then you want to be preparing at least months in advance. A year is even better. It’s not that uncommon for it to take this long. During this time, you may deliver many pitches, and be constantly polishing your pitch.

    This isn’t just about pitching and practicing your delivery, but also preparing and perfecting your fundraising materials before you go live, and making the right connections to pitch to.

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    Before You Create Your Pitch Deck

    A successful ask, and pitch deck is going to come after gaining the right relationships.

    It is entirely possible to cold pitch and market to investors you don’t know. Though, that leaves a lot more to chance, and can make closing the round and terms tougher than if you get out ahead of this.

    It is far better to make the right connections months or years before your need. So, if you are planning to raise a Series A round next year, you should already be connecting with your Series A investors now. The same goes for your Series B or Seed round, and so on.

    You can achieve this through cold contacting them now. Though you can shorten the relationship and trust-building phase by getting warm introductions. This may be through your current network, by getting out to network and expand your connections or leveraging advisors and fundraising consultants, as well as other founders.

    Stay in contact, and build personal relationships. Especially in the early funding stages, it is perhaps even more about you and this relationship than it is about your idea or the fundamentals of your startup company.

    You can also develop this connection through regular investor updates, which set up your next funding round. Done well, you may even attract inbound interest from investors that want to pre-empt your round before you start pitching. Be constantly updating them on your progress, and stay at the top of their mind.

    This is also the time to shortlist and research your investors to customize your pitch. You want to tailor it to the specific investors you will be pitching. Including based on their investment preference, criteria, and knowledge of their pattern recognition. It allows you to use the right positioning, design, and metrics.

    This includes getting the angle right. For example, if you are pitching ESG investors, versus those focused on certain business models, or in certain product niches.

    Consider how you will be delivering your pitch to these investors. Will it just be by email? Over a video call? Or at a live demo day or pitch competition? Figure out these questions even as you’re working out how to make the ask in a pitch deck.

    The Right Pitch Deck Flow

    A successful ask isn’t just about what you are asking for, and what you will use the money for. It is perhaps even more reliant on how you get there.

    That means having the right flow leading up to the ask and your closing.

    Get your hands on a proven pitch deck template that naturally carries investors through to the obvious conclusion of funding you.

    This isn’t the time to be trying to reinvent the wheel. Leave the innovation and disruption to your actual product and business model. Use a proven flow that already works. Use the right number of slides in the right order.

    The Cover Slide

    First impressions can make all the difference. An in-demand investment firm might get bombarded with 1,000 plus pitches and pitch decks each week. Your cover slide and intro message are going to be essential to getting your deck looked at.

    No matter how you are sending out your deck, make sure you craft a couple of powerful lines of text that will compel your audience to click and open your deck.

    Once they do, you should immediately nail it with your cover slide. It should set the stage for a well-designed slide deck. One that is clean, professional, and credible. Don’t get too fancy, or distract from your message with the design, but don’t be too lazy and sloppy either.

    Be sure to include your contact information here so that they can quickly refer to it to get in touch with you later. The last thing you want is to nail the ask, but then make it too complicated and slow for them to get in touch and send you a check later.

    This is also a place for a strong tagline or slogan that really hooks them, and ensures yours is one of the decks that they actually view.

    The Problem

    The bulk of the decision to fund you is going to come down to the problem your startup is solving.

    Your solution, product, and business model will almost certainly change and evolve over time. Even the bulk of your team will change. Though it is really hard to switch to find a new problem to solve. It is really the foundation of the entire business.

    Make sure you have real clarity about this and convey that in your deck. It can prove to be a vital piece of information when you’re figuring out how to make the ask in a pitch deck.

    Market Size

    After the problem, one of the most important keys to starting a successful startup, and getting funded is market size. It has to be a really, really big market.

    If it isn’t, you will be capped by this ceiling, and you won’t be able to deliver investors the returns they need.

    It is wise to hone in on a specific niche to start with and nail that. This is your target or serviceable market. Be sure to convey that number. Yet, also zoom out to show how big the whole market is once you expand, add new products, and enter new segments.

    Use an easy-to-understand graphic, with strong authoritative data sources to back up your claims.

    Financials

    This is also one of the most important deciding factors when it comes to investors choosing to fund your ask. It is one of the top four pitch deck slides that investors will pay attention to. It is the one that they will spend the most time viewing.

    If you have existing financials from actual operations, include them.

    If you haven’t started doing business yet, then focus on your financial forecast for the next 1-3 years.

    Remember that this is what investors are going to base their investment on.

    Factors they will pay attention to are growth rates, burn rates, customer acquisition costs, profit margins, and net operating income. If you are not profitable yet, they may also be looking for your breakeven point.

    Team

    The team you show off in your pitch deck will make or break your ask.

    Especially in early stage rounds, the team is one of the most important factors for investors. It will make up the majority of their decision.

    Their past performance and experience are going to be the greatest predictor of the success of this venture.

    Right now is a great time to get ahead of this by bringing in the right team. This may include adding more cofounders to round out the skillset and resumes. It may be making key hires to lead various departments. Or it could be installing notable advisors. Also, mention any board members that will give your company more credibility.

    Milestones & Traction

    Demonstrate your ability to execute and get results by showing the milestones your company has achieved so far. This may include funding rounds, awards, units sold, and your growth metrics.

    Investors want to know that you can keep up growth in order to deliver the returns that they are seeking. Different types of investors will have varying criteria for how fast they expect you to be growing at each round.

    Previous Rounds & Investors

    This is like your fundraising resume. How much have you raised in previous rounds, and which investors were you able to attract to come on board?

    Even as you’re reading up on how to present the ask to potential investors, you might want to start off by learning how to determine the amount to raise in the financial round. Once you’ve worked out exactly how much you need to raise, working out how to ask for it will become easier.

    The Ask

    This is where you detail how much money you are looking for, what you want the money for, and what the potential returns may be.

    Depending on the type of fundraising campaign you are running, you may leave the terms unspoken, and leave it up to the investors to make their own deductions and offer. They might see a lot more value and potential than you do.

    Or you can detail the total amount you are raising, minimums per investor, and the terms you are willing to provide. This is why you finally use the information you’ve gathered on how to make the ask in a pitch deck.

    Use Of Funds

    How you plan to invest their money is certainly a factor that investors will evaluate.

    This, of course, can vary by round, though commonly acceptable uses of funds may include:

    • Hiring
    • Marketing
    • Acquisitions
    • Expanding and funding new locations

    The Call To Action

    Don’t just leave ‘the ask’ as you list the amount you want to raise in this round. Make a clear call to action.

    If you don’t ask, you don’t get it.

    Ask for the money. Then give them very clear instructions on the next step. Depending on how you are delivering your pitch deck, that may include calling you for more detail, emailing a term sheet, or booking a second meeting in person on your scheduling app.

    Make it very simple for them to take this action immediately.

    Post Pitching

    Don’t just pitch, then go back to the garage and just hope something happens. Follow-up is going to be very important. Sometimes it will make all the difference.

    Send prompts or make follow-up calls to get their feedback or help them wire the funds in time to participate. Be very responsive to their questions and concerns.

    If it wasn’t a home run on the first pitch, keep sending investor updates as you grow your business, and gain funding commitments from others.

    What Happens If You Are Successful?

    If you are successful with your ask, you can expect:

    • Follow-up meetings with investors
    • Receiving term sheets to review
    • Undergoing due diligence as investors verify what you told them
    • Renegotiations or adjustments to the final agreement
    • Getting busy prepping PR announcements to make some noise about your successful round

    And, that is how to make the ask in a pitch deck.

    You may find interesting as well our free library of business templates. There you will find every single template you will need when building and scaling your business completely for free. See it here.

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    Neil Patel

    I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

    If you want help with your fundraising or acquisition, just book a call

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