You don’t get that many chances to pitch to an investor, so you need to make sure you knock it out of the park when an opportunity arises.
While the goal of pitching is often at odds – you’re trying to prove you’re worth millions, while an investor is often trying to show you’re worth much less – the focus should be on establishing mutual respect to help pave the way for a solid, powerful and mutually beneficial alliance.
As we mark Tuesday’s start of the third season of the KCB Lions’ Den show on KTN, here are eight rules that differentiate a pitch that will get the lions prowling from one that will see you exit the stage without a bite.
1. Do your research
Yes, it sounds obvious, but research is one of those things you can’t do too much off. You don’t have the luxury of leaving any gaps.
Back all your claims with factual, empirical data. Know your target audience, what the competitive landscape is like, and how feasible your business idea really is – and be able to prove it.
Help the due diligence process along – it takes most investors three months to carry out due diligence on your idea, so make sure it isn’t a waste of their time.
2. The rule of three
Many investors will ask you to summarise your idea into just a few words. They don’t often have time to go into a long discussion with everyone they talk to.
That’s where the rule of three comes in – as well as the fact that studies have shown the human brain can pretty much remember anything it’s told in groups of three.
Work on coming up with three things an investor can remember about your business. It can be the reasons your business will make them money, or the reasons they should support it or even its brand promise.
3. Start with the problem
Rehearse your narrative. Be compelling, and hone in on an emotional connection with your personal story, why you and your co-founders started this project and why you care about solving this problem.
Don’t just rattle off numbers, as important as they are, but also tell a story about what you’re trying to achieve.
However, keep in mind entrepreneur, angel investor and mentor Rick Marini’s caution: “As entrepreneurs, we’re all super optimistic, thinking that we can change the world. But we often need to be realistic about how big of a problem it really is.”
4. The 10-second rule
Timing is critical. The less time your pitch takes, the better. A brilliant idea means little if you can’t distil it into a few powerful thoughts. The more concise you are, the more effective you’re likely to be.
If you say that you’ll take ‘only five minutes’, take at least one minute less. If you’re told, ‘you have five minutes to pitch’, take at least one minute less. If you say, ‘one last thing’, let it truly be the last thing.
And try to summarise the message on each of your slides in 10 seconds, unless you’re asked for details.
5. Push the numbers
Numbers make logical sense to people. If you’re pitching to investors, explain how they’re going to make money from you. If you’re pitching to potential clients, explain why you’re good value.
However, as a rule of thumb, don’t have more than seven lines of financial information on your presentation – you can leave the detailed break-down for later.
6. Show passion
As Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec puts it: “You have to be passionate about one thing. Be great at one thing. The world will reward your knowledge of a very narrow field. Tom Brady gets paid $25 million (Sh2.5 billion) a year to throw the ball. He doesn’t get paid to block, he doesn’t get paid to tackle. Be Tom Brady. Be world class at one thing.”
Pitching to investors is all about developing a bond or connection with them. Let them see your drive and passion.
Investors might not like your product or service, but they might like your confidence and belief in the business. They’ll be confident about someone who’s confident about their business.
And even if you don’t get the money you’re after, you may still get their mentorship and support.
7. Have a negotiation strategy
The negotiation tends to be the hardest and scariest part of a business pitch. You must be able to make the right offers and counter-offers to get the best deals. Otherwise, you risk selling a large chunk of your business for much less than it’s actually worth.
You must also keep the negotiation from getting too contentious, as this can make partnership difficult down the road.
Always know your limit. Know exactly how much equity you’re willing to give up. And be realistic – don’t try to talk your way into a valuation you can’t prove.
8. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
And then rehearse again. Preparation is key to any investor pitch. Don’t wing it. Do a complete dry run as many times as you can. Try your pitch out on your colleagues, your friends and your family. Try it out even on your pastor.
This way, you’ll smoothen the information flow and have an idea of the questions you’ll be asked and the details you need to add. Get your physical posture right, and ask for feedback on your presentation.