“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Will Rodgers
You’re at a cocktail party and start talking to the couple next to you when they ask what you do for a living. As you proudly explain your business idea or company, they ask if you are looking for investors! This happens time and time again to me and to other entrepreneurs I know. It happens on airplanes, business meetings, conferences, vacations – anywhere, really. But what do you say? How do you sell your idea in just a few minutes?
Most entrepreneurs have heard of the term ‘elevator pitch’. Sometimes known as a ‘pitch’ for short, it’s a simple but compelling overview of your business idea or company that you deliver in a couple of minutes or less. It’s meant to capture the listener’s attention and intrigue him or her into wanting to know more. If you follow these simple tips, a pitch is easy enough:
- Talk about your entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs fill a vitally important role in market economies and people are always interested in hearing about them. But, no one will pay any attention if you talk about dull, uninteresting things like how you formed your company or came up with the name for your idea. Investors want to know who you are and how you make a difference – and what makes you an Entrepreneur.
- Keep your pitch short. Always make sure your listener is eager for more details. A short, simple, and concise pitch gives the listener something specific to think about instead of being overwhelmed with too much information at once. What is your idea, product, or service, and how does it solve a problem that potential customers have? That’s what people want to hear.
- Stand up straight. This sounds like an obvious tip but is probably the most important. When you stand up straight with your shoulders back, you are giving people the signal that you are confident in yourself. Speak clearly and purposefully. Look people directly in the eyes!
- Explain how your solution is better than the others. Grab the listener’s attention as soon as possible. Make it interesting. Just like any good book, movie, or TV show, there has to be something that keeps us wanting more. If there isn’t, we get bored and move on.
- Don’t use scientific, engineering, or other such terminology. It’s imperative not to confuse the listener with technical jargon and statistics. As an investor, there is nothing more tiresome than listening to someone spouting off useless information. First and foremost, an investor wants to know about you and why he or she should spend the next minute or so listening to you. It doesn’t take long to bore someone. Don’t spend time boasting about the engineering nuances of your product or your company’s growth when that is not information the investor can use. Listeners want to hear something of value, something of interest, and something that they can get their heads around – such as, what is the real opportunity here? What’s the upside if I invest?
- Don’t forget to sell. You can get caught up in explaining everything you are passionate about, but remember that what you are really after is a follow-up discussion. Early on in the pitch, let the investor know you are looking for investment and explain why you need those funds. Don’t make a big deal about it, either. If you win with the pitch, you’ll have an opportunity to explain more details later. You could say something like, “We have a full order book/customers are calling us. Additional funding will support the hiring of more people to meet customer demand,” or, “Funds are needed to market our product/service because we have the best widget around and we need to get the word out”.
- WIFM – What’s In it For Me? Years ago, an investor friend of mine reminded me that all investors subscribe to WIFM. He explained that when making a pitch, you have to make sure the listener understands how he or she can benefit. If you are pitching an investment in your company, explain what the exit strategy is – go public/IPO, sell to a larger company, stock buy-back, dividends, etc.
- Ask for the order! Now that you have the investor’s attention, listen to what he or she has to say. Ask for feedback and see if the person is interested in your business or idea. Ask for a follow-up phone call, or better yet, a meeting. Offer to send additional materials by email. Give them your business card!
Remember: you can tailor your pitch to fit any scenario or situation depending on your audience. That way, you’ll have different versions to use when you meet different people.