I’ve listened to hundreds of business pitches in my time, many exceptional – many, well, less so. The point of this article is to give you an investors perspective on what we like to hear. Following these steps do not guarantee an investment or a sale, but in most cases you will go further along the path to an investment.
The truth is we all listen to pitches on a daily basis. Whether we are at a clothes store checking out a new shirt, or ordering a meal at a restaurant, or going out on a date; life is all about SELLING, and the best salesmen always win.
KNOW WHO YOU’RE SPEAKING TO. This is one of the most important aspects of a pitch. You need to know what the people you are speaking to are about; What interests them, what makes them laugh, what they hate. This comes with research. If you show up to a pitch and you start pressing the investors’ wrong buttons, don’t expect a favourable outcome.
KNOW WHAT YOU’RE SPEAKING ABOUT. Knowledge is your value. It is what sets you apart from your potential investors and others. If your investors know more about what YOU are talking about than you do, your value to the whole project diminishes. Research takes time and effort, if you’re not willing to put in the effort, don’t be surprised if you impress no one.
ACCEPT CRITICISM. An investors job is simply to make money grow. If they start poking holes in your presentation, it is because they’ve seen potential holes that could ‘leak’ their money. You can counter this by presenting ways your business can LOSE money. When an investor knows you have studied your business so thoroughly that you know the pitfalls and how to avoid them – you’ll be better positioned to avoid too much criticism.
CHECK YOUR ATTITUDE. There are few things more irritating than someone who’s not professional. I was recently spoken to by someone who looks up to Linus Torvalds – the inventor of Linux. Torvalds is known for his tough, rude, and insulting stance towards beaurocracy and ‘the system’. That’s all well and good if you’ve created an Operating System that the world knows about – but it doesn’t work if nobody knows what you’ve created. The person decided to go Torvalds’ way, insulting his way through – before even speaking about his business that was supposedly so great that ‘he didn’t even need an investor’. We never heard his pitch. A few days later he wrote back apologising for the way he behaved. The apology was accepted, the business was not. If you have a terrible attitude, an attitude that makes it impossible for others to work with you, you will find it almost impossible to get an investor. Simply coming back later saying ‘sorry’ does not cut it. One chance is what most of us have, we aren’t children on a playground where you can say ‘sorry’ and be friends. Investors want to protect they’re money – if you show an attitude that is counter to that, you won’t get what you need.
KEEP IT INTERESTING AND SIMPLE. Hitting people with pie chart after chart after chart is not overly exciting; save that for the written presentation. When you have the opportunity to present your business, grab your audience’s attention with interesting facts about your business, try and be funny from time to time (not overly so) and KNOW your numbers. Be honest with projections – don’t just pull numbers put of thin air; investors know when you’re projections make no sense. If you can master this, you’re on the right path.
And finally WOULD YOU INVEST IN IT? If you had some extra cash and someone presented the business you are presenting to you – would you take the gamble and go for it? Of that answer is a ‘no’, you need to improve your presentation. Be honest with yourself, and always present a business that is on the rise. No one will invest in a sinking ship – unless it’s a very large business that can be bought on the cheap in lieu of a turnaround.
I wish you luck!