Pitching Your Business to Customers and Investors

//Pitching Your Business to Customers and Investors

Pitching Your Business to Customers and Investors

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Have a business idea or new business – learn how to pitch it like a PRO!

Pitching your business to customers or investors can be nerve racking, especially the first few times.  Practice doesn’t make perfect because there’s always room for improvement, however it does prepare you to handle just about anything a prospect can throw your way.  Start out small in arenas where it’s not a make or break situation for your business.  Getting an audience, the right audience, may not always be an easy task – we’ll cover ‘Finding the right people’ in a follow-up article, but for the time being let’s assume you have an audience.

So you have the stage and you’re in a cold sweat thinking about talking to a stranger about your business idea / business.

It’s okay, take a deep breath.

Elevator Pitch

We’ll start with the basics.  The first thing you should be able to do is make an “elevator pitch”. This is a thirty to sixty second pitch that you could, hypothetically, make to the CEO of a big company in the span of an elevator ride.

Practice this until you know it by heart.  Why?

If I ask you for the down and dirty rundown you need to be able to tell investors or potential customers without hesitation. No “um-ing” or “uh-ing” your way through it. What is the business, what does it provide, why do people need it, and how much do you want?

Tip: Find serious friends to practice this on. You want serious friends because they will consider your pitch in a better light and offer realistic criticism. They will also NOT make jokes (well ok, maybe some). Let them get it out of their system then focus – you have potential funding and a future riding on elevator pitch. 

The elevator pitch is typically what’s going to get you in the door (whether it’s a customer, investor, or otherwise) – not a long winded, confusing, multi-page business plan that drones on.  Tell them why you’re different, grab their attention, get to the point and make them want more.

Business pitch

Assume you’ve given your “elevator pitch” – you grabbed their attention now what?  By now if you’re in front of any sort of audience be it an investor or customer you should know your business plan and model inside and out.

There’s an acronym that is floating around out there, you may have heard it before: K.I.S.S.

Keep. It. Simple. Stupid.  Live by this mantra – simple is hard to mess up.

Be able to expand up your elevator pitch in a way that’s not ‘salesy’.  Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself ‘do I sound like a slimy car salesman’?  (nothing personal against car salesmen, this just seems like one of those examples everyone is able to relate to for some reason)

Practice it, lots, but not to a point where it comes out robotic.  Think of multiple types of individuals or businesses you may encounter and run through example scenarios.  Learn to tell a story in the context of their business or an individual’s life so they can relate at an emotional level.

Q&A

Investors and customers alike will likely ask you questions before making an investment / purchase, any why shouldn’t they?  Now it’s time for some fun – let’s get unpredictable!

Unless you’ve dazzled them with your Jedi Mind tricks, answered every single question in your pitch or you’re peddling wares that really don’t need a sales pitch, it’s time for Q&A.

This can be a nerve racking experience, especially if you aren’t prepared.  You should know your business, strategy, financials and every other functional piece of the business inside and out.  You should be prepared based on the situation you’re knowingly walking into.

For example, an elevator pitch and solid communication of the business model and benefits is great for an impromptu customer rendezvous if you are indeed in a shoot-from-the-hip elevator pitch situation.  In many cases you don’t need intimate details down to the most granular bits of information, it won’t be expected of you.  If on the other hand you have a scheduled meeting with Angel Investors or Venture Capitalists and don’t have projections, expenses and can’t answer seemingly simple business related questions you’re going to have a bad time.

It’s OK to not have an immediate answer, truly.  Take the time to reflect on what’s been asked and come up with an intelligent answer.  Blurting out the first thing that comes to mind or reacting over emotionally / personally to a valid business question / criticism can sink your deal.  Don’t babble, be concise, it’s also OK to have a take away or to defer the questions until later on in the session.

A great way to prepare yourself is to pretend you’re on Shark Tank / Dragon’s den.  Listen to the types of questions they ask.  Know how to answer them.  Nobody wants to be torn limb from limb. 

Have a little fun by putting together your own panel of Shark Tank investors / customers.  This can also help tremendously during the validation phase.  Have them grill you like a sweaty ballpark frank on the fourth of July.  Create some mock-up questions or areas of questioning should they not be the savvy business types (although you should try to get at least one on your mock panel – this needs to be challenging so it prepares you, not a slam dunk leaving you overconfident or even cocky).

Overall Presentation

All the prep work is done and you’re starting to build your confidence.  How you deliver your pitch can be just as important as what you deliver.

Be confident, speak clearly and with an appropriate volume, dress professionally, be courteous.  Be humble but make your presence felt.  A little self deprecation can be helpful at times to ease any tension.  You want to keep an upbeat, positive tone but keep in mind – it’s a business pitch not a comedy act.

Your are the face of your product or service – customers / investors are investing in you just as much as the product or service.

If it’s an investor meeting always bring a copy of your business plan (which you have, right?) nicely printed. Don’t attempt to be flashy; an attempt to stand out can cut both ways.

You should also have a pocket full of business cards with you at all times.  There’s nothing worse than ‘closing’ someone on the idea only to try to get them to memorize your Website or scrawl your number on the back of a napkin.  Give them something tangible and professional to remind them of your awesome meeting!

Outcome

The pitch was a success, well done!  Pat yourself on the back.  Don’t rest on your laurels – pitching is an art where there is always room for improvement.  Markets change, customer demand change, the reasons we purchase and what we purchase changes for numerous reasons.  Stay Sharp.

The pitch wasn’t successful – this is a great opportunity to ask for feedback on why and what you could do to improve on it.  Answer questions to the best of your ability and be honest if you’re unsure of the answer. If you don’t like public speaking then practice, and practice more after that. The more confident you are with the material the less intimidating it is to present. 

Above all, remember that you’ll be okay.  Whether or not you succeed in your pitch you’ve come this far.  ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.’  There will be other opportunities.  There will be other avenues of financing (social media, crowdfunding, bank loan, etc – see Raising Capital for more options), other customers that want your product / service.

Additional tip

Never avoid a pitch because you’re unsure if they’re the type to invest in you.  They’ll let you know and you don’t want to lose money because you were unsure – leave no stone unturned.  The second benefit to that is how connected investors are.  An angel investor may want to invest in technology based start-ups but knows another investor who loves investing in the area your idea is in.  To round it out they may also offer invaluable information and insight which can help you in future pitches.

Bonus – Elevator / Business Pitch Breakdown

You’ve made it this far, EXCELLENT!  Here’s a bonus for your unwavering attention span.

Your elevator pitch should follow this simple format (which may change slightly depending on your audience):

  1. Who you are
  2. What your business does / value proposition
  3. How this benefits the individual / business / Why you need funding
  4. Ask a question at the end or during – get them engaged!

Your lengthier business pitch should add on:

  1. The industry you are entering/have entered and what the future looks like
  2. The market and where it is going
  3. Your one, five and ten year plan and benchmarks for success
  4. Sales forecasts
  5. Why you?
  6. Solicit questions – keep them engaged, read the situation and gather intelligence

Remember, K.I.S.S. The initial pitch is about selling them on the idea in a short period of time, you’ll do due diligence later that will begin to truly delve into things.

Be confident, prepared and thorough.

Good luck with your pitch!  Remember – Coffee is for closers!

Looking for ways to raise capital / get funding for your business?  Check out Business Funding for the Aspiring Entrepreneur!

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By | 2016-11-07T22:12:33-04:00 April 22nd, 2015|Categories: Articles|Tags: , , , , , , , |0 Comments

About the Author:

Fiction writer with formal education and a few years experience with business plans and investment proposals. It's an odd combination. Current partner in a game development firm.

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