Not everyone who starts a business is a natural performer but with business owners increasingly required to pitch for investment – or to win business from new clients – knowing how to put your best foot forward could be the key to successfully growing your business.
OK, so if you’re in the market for investment, you’ll need to work to a well-planned business brief. Do your investors the courtesy of keeping your pitch short and sharp with realistic projections that are backed up by cold, hard facts. Validate your projections with verifiable data and don’t ask for the moon.
Get ahead of the game by making sure you have an executive summary, a business plan, with financials such as profit and loss, cost of acquisition and cash burn, plus a realistic business evaluation that demonstrates the level of investment needed in exchange for a specific amount of equity in the company.
It’s up to you to assemble the team that can best deliver the pitch. If you’re asking for investment, you’ll need all your financial ducks in a row, so make sure your posse includes someone who can talk confidently about the figures. Brainstorm ideas for the kind of questions that are likely to come up and try to have an answer ready for every eventuality.
The big idea
Find a way of communicating your big idea as simply and succinctly as possible. Think elevator pitch rather than ‘Lord of the Rings’. Overly complicated presentations and long-running explanations won’t impress your investors, and may actually set them against the idea altogether. Keep the preamble to a minimum and get to the point as quickly as you can. Investors are looking for businesses that will appeal to customers and create momentum; if they don’t grasp your concept in fairly short order, they may jump to the conclusion that customers won’t understand it either.
A few minutes of chit-chat – introductions all round – is fine, but make sure you start the presentation with a bang and get into your stride as quickly as possible. Include details about the potential size of your market, its demographic, where the revenue is going to come from, who your competitors are and what gives your solution its USP. Use a range of media to accommodate different knowledge acquisition styles and finish with what you consider to be the three most important takeaways. Try to deflect the Q&A session till the end and make sure you have all the answers at your fingertips.
Even if you know your stuff, it still takes courage to stand up and talk in front of an audience. Give yourself a better chance of overcoming you nerves by practising your presentation as often as you need to feel totally comfortable with it – try it out on a couple of trusted colleagues before the big day. It might also help to get a few general business presentations under your belt to improve your confidence, so contact local business clubs or chambers of commerce and see if they’re looking for speakers. If you can get investors to be genuinely excited about your idea through a well-delivered, confident presentation, you’ll have a head start.
Don’t leave without eliciting some kind of feedback – even if it’s just to ask if they enjoyed the presentation or if there’s anything else they need to help them come to a decision. As you take your leave, see if there’s an informal moment when you might be able to glean an indication of whether you’re in with a chance.