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9 Elements of an Irresistible Business Pitch

Although the Perfect Pitch Presentation structure hasn’t changed, there is a way to liven your idea up to stand out.

Ellen DaSilva and Alex Taub

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The standard business pitch has not changed in decades.

The process usually entails face-to-face interaction at the offices of one of the companies. The company that is seeking a partnership will create a presentation, a.k.a. “pitch deck,” containing relevant and concise information about the business.

During the presentation, the person delivering it will be peppered with questions from the listeners looking for holes in the arguments. Most presenters will steer the conversation back to the deck and conclude with a specific request to the company.

Related: How to Write a Business Plan

Over time and with more confidence, you can begin to deviate from the classic slide-by-slide method. Indeed, most classic pitches seem outdated and often are receive a tepid response. There is a proper way to approach pitching in the modern environment.

1. Pitching materials.

There are a few schools of thought about using materials when pitching. Some professionals prefer to have a short deck to guide them through the discussion of the product, the offering and, finally, the request. Other people opt for longer, more extensive presentations with handouts. Our preference is to not use any materials at all, opting to just converse  with the other side. We simply ask questions, talk and listen.

Most companies, no matter how small, have some form of canned deck. Even if you are the founder of a company, it is your responsibility to put together a concise yet comprehensive deck that includes information about your product, your business plan (or strategy), your team and everything else noteworthy. The first deck may help you secure an initial round of funding but, when it comes to seeking partnerships, your deck must be tweaked to focus on the partnership itself.

2. Making the pitch.

Anyone can pitch. Pitching is just the act of attempting to convince other people to do something that you want them to do. We all pitch frequently, whether we realize it or not.

You’ve pitched to your spouse to see the movie that you want to see rather than the one that he wants to see. You’ve pitched to your parents for gifts around the holidays.

You’ve pitched to your friends about what to do on a Saturday night. Pitching your business, product or offering is not much different. Your pitch needs to convince the other side to do what you want them to do rather than sticking with what they think they need or want to do.

Your pitch deck needs slides on your product or service offering, the basic features, the benefits of working together, a screen shot of the product or service offering, a screen shot of what a potential partnership looks like, a slide listing all the companies that are working with you already (if applicable) and a slide listing the next steps. Each slide is important and helps tell a great story.

3. Product/service/offering slide.

This slide includes a high-level overview of what your product does, usually one or two sentences at most, in big, bold type.

4. Features slide.

This slide describes and elaborates on the capabilities of your product. You can either give each feature its own slide with explanation bullet points under each one or include all the features on one slide, giving all bullet points and then expound on each feature when you are presenting.

5. Benefits slide.

This slide is where you jump into why your offering is going to help the company you are pitching. Pinpoint the specific benefits you offer and set proper expectations.

Related: SAMPLE BUSINESS PLANS

6. Screen shot of your product or service offering.

To fully explain your product or offering, include a screen shot of what you have created. People respond favorably to visuals. Showing is always better than simply telling.

If applicable, jump into a demonstration of your offering at this stage of the pitch but only if you have a viable product that looks impressive and is ready to be shown to a captivated audience.

7. Screen shot of what a potential partnership looks like.

If you don’t sidestep into a product demonstration, the next logical slide is a screen shot of what a partnership could potentially look like. This usually makes most sense for product partnerships, particularly if there is a product or feature integration to look at. When dealing with other types of partnerships, sometimes you put your logo and the other firm’s logo on the same page with some other graphics.

8. Partners slide.

This slide helps to validate your operation. It usually includes the logos of all the companies already partnering with you or using your product.

If you are an enterprise company, include your major paying customers. Displaying the logos of known entities that patronize your product or service offering adds credibility to your pitch. If you are pitching to an e-commerce company and you have Amazon on your partner slide, the e-commerce company will be more likely to partner with you, as well.

9. Next steps slide.

Always end your pitch deck with a next steps slide. You’ve done a killer job of pitching your offering, the company is interested in working with you; now what?

What you list here could be the next steps from a business perspective, a technology vantage point or even a legal or logistical point of view. The next steps slide brings that discussion to light and also leaves the audience with a taste of the future. It makes you and your team appear forward-thinking, organised and committed to the partnership. It also is the next step to actually closing the deal.

Truly, there is no better way to pitch a product then to show it! Regardless of the type of partnership you are proposing, show how your product works and what it does. Show how the other company can use it. If your demonstration touches on something that the company cares about, you should be on track to closing a deal.

Ellen DaSilva is a senior analyst of the business operations team at Twitter, which strategically targets revenue opportunities for -the company. Ellen's past positions include investment banking at Barclays Capital and financial planning at Hillary Clinton for President. Alex Taub is the cofounder of SocialRank, a tool that helps brands find out better information about the people who follow them on social networks. Alex previously led business development and partnerships for online integrations at Dwolla, one of the fastest growing startups in the country.

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Attracting Investors

6 Great Tips For A Successful Shark Tank Pitch

Whilst most of us are unlikely to appear on television shows such as Dragons Den or Shark Tank there is a lot we can take out from watching these programmes.

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Whilst most of us are unlikely to appear on television shows such as Dragons Den or Shark Tank there is a lot we can take out from watching these programmes. Entrepreneurs will often need to promote their businesses to prospective customers, lenders, investors, employees and even suppliers.

All stakeholders would like to know with what and whom they are dealing. They will need to assess risk and will try and evaluate the business against others who are competing for those same funds.

1Know Your Product

You should be able to describe your business within 60 seconds, in a confident and positive manner. Let the stakeholder know what particular problem your business solves which makes it viable and attractive.

Your brand and how you intend to develop it is important in determining whether they will invest or lend you money. Share critical information with them such as large customers, patents and trademarks and details of forward orders.

If you are looking for funding or investment, make sure you have the relevant paperwork to back up what you are saying.

Related: 10 Tips From The Dragons Of Dragons’ Den SA

2The Numbers

You must have your numbers at your fingertips.  A true and successful entrepreneur will know his numbers instinctively and be able to recollect and present them convincingly. Stakeholders want to know your turnover (sales) over the last couple of years, your gross profit and net profit.

Investors want to know what they are investing in and whether there is strong potential for their money to grow. Lenders will want to assess their risk — how are you going to repay the money? Moreover, you as the business owner, need to be sure that you will be able to make the required repayments.

You must know what your margin is, as this will largely determine your viability as a business. Margin or gross profit is the difference between the selling price of the goods and their cost and is usually expressed as a percentage.

3Know What You’re Asking For

asking-for-business-funding

Be clear as to the size of the investment you want to give away and how that determines the ‘valuation’ of the business. Therefore, if you wish to raise R200 000 for 10% of the business, that means you value the business at R2m — be sure you can back that up or you will get taken apart.

4Have a Business Plan

The best way to fully understand your business is by way of having a detailed business plan, which has been prepared whilst working through every facet of your business, from the original idea to the finished product.

As the business owner, you need to live this business plan and be able to use it as your daily guide to success. Develop it, change it where circumstances require it, but most importantly know it and understand it.

In this way, you will be able to deal with most of their questions, be they about marketing, research, international expansion etc. It is also a good idea to know your competition and what they are up to.

Related: Dragon’s Den Polo Leteka Gives Her Top Tips To Attract Growth Capital

5Sell Yourself

In most interactions, you the entrepreneur, are selling yourself. Whether it is an investor, lender, customer or prospective employee, it is their impression of you and your capabilities which ultimately determine whether they want to work with you.

Be confident, defend your position where required, as you will need to parry some blows but do not behave arrogantly.

6Learn From Your Mistakes

Many entrepreneurs who have presented to the Shark’s Den and not been able to garner investment have turned their business into great successes. You need to be able to learn from the experience, and if rejected, bounce back even stronger.

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Attracting Investors

3 Things You Must Have In Place To Get That Start-up Bank Finance

If you’re planning to secure funding for your start-up, you need to put the right foundations in place.

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The South African landscape for raising finance is tough for any business, with stringent lending regulations. Here are three areas to focus on as you set up your start-up to ensure you’ll qualify for a loan or equity funding.

1Securing a Market

Most SMEs I have mentored or advised start with expressing how big the total market size is for their product or service, but, while this is important to understand, the big question is: What percentage of that market will you attract and how?

Look at the ‘how’ first and work your numbers backwards. For example, if you secure a R10 million contract to supply an item that has a market size of R37 billion you are capturing only 0,03% of the market. However, if you’re able to cover your monthly expenses (including your loan repayment) and make a profit, that’s what counts. You should be able to show this contract or letter of intent to procure, which shows how and where you will find this market.

Related: The One Question You Must Be Prepared To Answer When Pitching Investors

2A Strong Team

When you’re starting out you’re likely to be the sum total of your team. If you’re going down the entrepreneurial journey alone, make sure you have identified who will mentor and guide you through the areas you don’t have competencies in and cost this into the business start-up and running costs.

Focus on who in the business is going to:

  1. Sell and market: Do they have the necessary skill, network, product and market knowledge?
  2. Control the money: Are they financially savvy and can they make sure that money is being used for the right things?
  3. Operate: Who has done this before? Can this individual manufacture the product or arrange the supply of goods or services, ensure quality control and sound human resource management?

3Compliance

Formalising your business is costly but necessary. If you don’t have a formal entity, shareholders agreements, loan agreements, financial statements, management accounts, tax compliance and so on, you will come short when looking to raise finance.

Understand these costs upfront and include them into your start-up budget — this will save you a lot of pain in the long run.

Related: 3 Ways For Social Entrepreneurs To Access Fundraising

The truth is that finance is available for women who have the right business ingredients just as much (if not more — in the South African context) as it’s available for men and just as with men. And, resources such as these help to unpack and guide the core fundamentals that are needed to make business bankable/fundable.

Then it’s all about implementation and staying on track to translate all that you’ve done and all that you wish to do in a bankable business plan, and approach the relevant funder for your needs. The right business mentor can certainly help you on that journey.

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Attracting Investors

If You’re Trying To Raise Money, Doing Any Of These 9 Things May Scare Off Investors

Avoid these mistakes and funding could be yours.

Dave Lavinsky

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Most new and existing businesses can benefit from outside funding. With such funding, they can grow faster, launch new initiatives, gain competitive advantage and make better long-term decisions as they can think beyond short-term issues like making payroll.

Unfortunately, though, most entrepreneurs and business owners make several mistakes that prevent them from raising capital. These mistakes are detailed below. Avoid them and funding could be yours.

Making unrealistic market size claims

Sophisticated investors need to understand how big your relevant market size is and if it’s feasible for you to eventually become a dominant market player.

The key here is “relevant” and not just “market.” For example, if you create a medical device to cure foot pain, while your “market” is the trillion-dollar healthcare market, that is way too broad a definition.

Related: The One Question You Must Be Prepared To Answer When Pitching Investors

Rather, your relevant market can be more narrowly defined as not just the medical devices market but the market for medical devices for foot pain.

In narrowing your scope, you can better determine the actual size of your market.

For instance, you can determine the number of foot pain sufferers each year seeking medical attention and then multiply that by the price they might pay for your device.

Failing to respect your competitors

competitors

Oftentimes companies tell investors they have no competitors. This often scares investors as they think if there are no competitors, a market doesn’t really exist.

Almost every business has either direct or indirect competitors. Direct competitors offer the same product or service to the same customers. Indirect competitors offer a similar product to the same customers, or the same product to different customers.

For example, if you planned to open an Italian restaurant in a town that previously did not have one, you could correctly say that you don’t have any direct competitors. However, indirect competitors would include every other restaurant in town, supermarkets and other venues to purchase food.

Likewise, don’t downplay your competitors. Saying that your competitors are universally terrible is rarely true; there’s always something they’re doing right that’s keeping them in business.

Showing unrealistic financial projections

Businesses take time to grow. Even companies like Facebook and Google, with amazing amounts of funding at their disposal, took years to grow to their current sizes.

It takes time to build a team, improve brand awareness and scale your business. So, don’t expect your company to grow revenues exponentially out of the gate. Likewise, you will incur many expenses while growing your business for which you must account.

As such, when building your financial projections, be sure to use reasonable revenue and cost assumptions. If not, you will frighten investors, or worse yet, raise funding and then fail since you run out of cash.

Related: Top 5 Personality Traits Investors Look For In An Entrepreneur

Presenting investors with a novel – or a napkin

napkin

While investors will want to meet you before funding your business, they will also require a business plan that explains your business opportunity and why it will be successful.

Your business plan should not be a novel; investors don’t have time to wade through 100 pages to learn the keys to your success. Conversely, you can’t adequately answer investors’ key questions on the back of a napkin.

A 15- to 25-page business plan is the optimum length to convey the required information to investors.

Not understanding your metrics

How much does it cost to acquire a customer? What is your expected lifetime customer value?

While sometimes it’s impossible to understand these metrics when you launch your business, you must determine them as soon as possible.

Without these metrics, you won’t know how much money to raise. For instance, if you hope to gain 1,000 customers this year, but don’t know the cost to acquire a customer, you won’t know how much money you need for sales and marketing.

Likewise, understanding your metrics allows you and your team to work more effectively in setting and achieving growth goals.

Acting like know-it-alls

While investors want you to be an expert in your market, they don’t expect you to be an expert in everything. More so, most businesses must adapt to changing market conditions over time, and entrepreneurs who feel they know everything generally don’t fare well.

A good investor has seen many investments fail and others become great successes. Such experiences have made them great advisors. They’ve encountered all types of situations and understand how to navigate them.

If you’re seeking funding, acknowledge such investors’ experiences. Let them know that while you are an expert in your market, you will seek their ideas and advice in marketing, sales, hiring, product development and/or other areas needed to grow your business.

Related: Stand Your Ground When Looking For Investors

Focusing too much on products and product features

When raising funding, you need to show you’re building a great company and not just a great product or service. While a great product or service is often the cornerstone to a great company, without skills like sales, marketing, human resources, operations and financial management, you cannot thrive.

Furthermore, if your product has a great feature, be sure to specify how you will create barriers to entry, such as via patent protection, so competitors can’t simply copy it.

Exaggerating too much

When you exaggerate to investors who know you’re exaggerating, you lose credibility.

One key way to exaggerate is with your financial projections as discussed above. There are many other ways to exaggerate. For instance, saying you have the world’s leading authorities on the XYZ market is great, but only if they really are the world’s leading authorities.

Likewise if you say it would take competitors three years to catch up on your technology, when investors ask others in your industry, they better confirm this time period. If not, your credibility and funding will be lost.

Lacking focus

What do investors care about? They care about getting a return on their investment. As such, anything you say that supports that will be welcomed.

For instance, talk about your great product that has natural barriers to entry. Discuss your management team that is well-qualified to execute on the opportunity.

Talk about strategic partners that will help you generate leads and sales faster.

But, don’t go off on tangents that don’t specifically relate to how you earn investors returns, like the fact that you’re a great tennis player.

Likewise, conveying too many ideas shows you lack focus. For instance, saying you’re going to launch product one next year, and then quickly launch products two, three and four, will frighten investors. Why? Because they’ll want to see product one be a massive success before you even consider launching something new.

Investors have two scarce resources: Their time and their money. Avoid the above mistakes when you spend time with investors, and hopefully they’ll reward you with their money.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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