TV shows such as Dragons’ Den have done little to quash the fears of pitching novices, delivering quaking hopefuls into the investors’ lair each week. Pitching is the Marmite of the business world – some people thrive on the buzz, but many hate the thought of having to sell their idea…and themselves. But an investor is not just taking a risk on your business, they are also taking a gamble on you – so they will want to see what you’re made of.
Here’s a few tips to deliver a memorable pitch that will impress bank managers and private investors alike:
Keep it short: Sir Richard Branson has seen and made his fair share of pitches and says “You need to stand out from the crowd…to do that you need to keep it really short, as short as possible”
Keep to the essential elements: Clearly state “I’m looking for X amount of money, this is what our business does, this is our strategy, this is the competitive environment and here’s how we’re different” Outline the revenue streams you’re generating – or are going to create – and mention milestones already met, as well as next steps.
Sell yourself: At the first pitch, focus on your story as a founder – funders will want to see your drive and passion for what you do…and don’t be afraid to crack a smile and remind them that you are human.
Team spirit Investors aren’t just interested in great ideas – they also want to be confident that a business has the right team for the job, especially post start up and the second or third round of funding. Take the team that is most appropriate to the pitch – if the General Manager knows more about day to day operations than you do, take him with you to deal with the nitty gritty questions.
Tell a consistent story: Make sure that your team can also give your company’s “elevator pitch” fluently – nothing sounds worse than fumbling, inaccurate or contradictory company descriptions.
Be anything but boring! A presentation is like a performance, so be sure to entertain as you inform. There’s a whole world beyond PowerPoint – moodboards, samples, demos, stories and analogies, etc – but if you feel naked without slides, use graphs and charts to illustrate key points but avoid line after line of text at all costs. The moment you start simply repeating lines from a screen you’ve become a robot, and have probably lost your audience.
Lose the technobabble. Your audience may, figuratively, speak an entirely different language so make sure that when you are explaining your proposition, you use plain English, not sector specific speak. An effective pitch is a relevant pitch.
Know your numbers: Take in a copy of your key figures if you struggle to commit them to memory. And keep it realistic – investors want conservative estimates that they can trust, not pie-in-the-sky propositions.
Derisk the proposition. Fundamentally for the investor, it is all about pricing the risk – and anything that can give comfort that the risks are mitigated makes it more appealing. Be realistic about the risks your business faces and turn yourself into an expert on how to deal with them.
Rehearse…again and again. As a rough guide, spend around a third of your time collecting your material, a third of your time preparing it and a third rehearsing…and don’t skimp on that last element. Practise your timing and your commit as much as possible to memory without using prompts – even if it means delivering your pitch to the cat several times a day
If at first you don’t succeed…persist. When Thomas Edison, who invented the light bulb, was asked what it was like to have failed 1000 times in trying to invent it, he replied that he didn’t fail, he just found 1000 different ways not to invent the light bulb. Make your final words count. Give your audience a reason to remember you and want to find out more. Your last line is what they will walk away with.
If you have a new business idea, and you need assistance in developing a business plan and presenting your proposition to potential funders, contact Lisa Entwistle-Evans within our Corporate Finance team for a free initial consultation to talk it through.