How to Pitch a Winning Business Idea to Investors
You have a great idea that’s ready to change the world – or at least change your industry. The only thing you need is someone to believe in it, and we’re not talking about Great-Grandma Sally who thinks everything you touch is a marvel.
No; you need to find an investor, one who shares your vision and is willing to put up the money that fuels your idea forward.
If there’s any part of you that feels inclined to make up your pitch on the spot, you’re probably in the wrong business.
Thinking on your feet may be a strong suit of yours, but it’s likely not going to close you any deals.
The best way to win your audience over? Prepare, prepare, prepare.
Opportunities to pitch your idea will come up when you least expect it, and if you’re serious about starting your business, then you need to be ready. Trust me, I’ve been there; as a freelancer, I once got a year’s worth of work by sharing a cab ride with a stranger (don’t tell my mom!) and being able to pitch my worth at just the right moment.
Whether you’re pitching to customers or investors, you need to know how to present your ideas in a way that will make people stop what they’re doing and pay attention.
Here are all the tips you need to pitch your business idea and get people listening.
It goes without saying that you should only be thinking about pitching if your business idea is thought through, and if you have an actionable plan with which to roll out your company. Make sure you’re being honest with yourself about the stage you’re in, because you’ll need to have answers if you want to convince people that you’re a worthwhile investment.
That said, if you’re ready to pitch your business, follow these steps.
Before you craft your actual pitch, you’ll need to know your story inside and out.
People are more likely to remember a story than they are spreadsheets and facts. Storytelling gives us the power to elicit strong emotions in our listeners, and this emotional connection is ultimately what will get an investor to sign on the dotted line.
That isn’t to say that the facts are unimportant – quite the opposite – but your numbers, facts and figures should be framed by the story of what makes them matter.
What problem are you solving in your industry? Where is your audience’s pain points, and how are you addressing them?
Assess the scope of your idea; is it a small tweak to a product that already exists (Beyond Meat veggie burgers), or an entirely new concept that could change the face of an industry (Airbnb)? Bigger changes tend to make for riskier business ideas, so take that into consideration when thinking about how you tell your story.
Once you know what kind of market change you’re looking to introduce, take some time to research others who have done something similar. What kind of success did they have, and which mistakes did they make?
The more prepared you are with this knowledge, the better you’ll be able to craft your own brand story. Try to talk to people who have succeeded in your industry and ask them how they approached their pitch, what the industry expectations were, etc.
Within your storytelling, you’ll also want to position your idea as something that will cater to the motivations and desires of the listener. This brings us to:
We’ve talked about why it’s important to prepare for an investor meeting, and that preparation phase doesn’t just extend to your own numbers and storytelling abilities.
Before you enter a meeting, you should know more about the investors than they do about you. Not only does it show you’ve done your homework, but it also will help you understand how much background knowledge the people listening to your pitch have in your industry, how many other startups they have a stake in, and how successful the companies they’ve worked with have become.
Additionally, every investor is going to have their own interests and motivation, and it’s important to tailor your language to the person you’re speaking to in the room.
For example, some VCs might be looking for the next big tech disruptor, while others focus on companies that can change an aspect of life for people with disabilities, while others still are most interested in the qualifications of the face behind the company (i.e. you!).
This doesn’t mean you have to change your business model in order to fit what you think they’ll like; just make sure to take their perspective into account, and try to communicate in a way that will best reach them. While the basic language of your pitch is going to stay the same, you’ll probably to tweak your approach in order to match their needs and worldviews.
Again, investors have conversations with hundreds of prospective companies; show them that you’re the one they need to stop and consider.
Opportunities to pitch your idea won’t be restricted to round-table meetings with slides in tow, but that means you have to be able to tailor your pitch to every scenario – and every time frame you’re given.
This could mean the classic “elevator pitch,” in which all the time you have to convince your audience of your idea resides in a 30-second elevator ride together.
Or, you may be able to take a potential investor out for an informal coffee, in which case you’ll have time to deliver a longer shpiel.
Either way, you need to be able to structure your pitch to cater to all scenarios and opportunities.
The best way to prepare? Create three versions of your pitch: A 5-second version (what your business does in one sentence), a 30-second version (include two or three significant facts about what happens as a result of your business) and a 5-minute version (include more detail about how, with money and resources, you’ll be able to achieve what you’ve said you’re going to do).
Here’s an example 5-second pitch: “My idea will make air conditioners 5 times more efficient, for one-third of the price.”
The 30-second pitch might add a couple of crucial facts about the impact of this air conditioning efficiency – on the environment, on consumers’ electric bills, etc. – and the 5-minute one can throw some important, concrete facts and figures into the mix.
Here’s the thing: If you can’t explain your business idea in 5 seconds, then you’re not ready to pitch. Practice on friends, family, and colleagues until you can refine your idea into a sentence, and then refine it some more until you really drill down into the essence of the thing. From there, each pitch version should go into one more level of detail than the one before it, but always make sure the 5-second pitch is at the core.
You’ll also use these pitches in your presentation, which leads us to….
This is the core of your presentation; think of your pitch deck as the cue cards to your business’s story.
If you manage to land a meeting with investors, you’ll want your presentation to be professional to the T.
At Tailor Brands, we offer our users business pitch deck templates that are embossed with their logos and brand colors, because we know how important it is to sell the story. Regardless of your stage as a company – whether you’ve been up and running for three years or have yet to find an office space – your presentation should look like it’s coming from a well-established business and brand.
Your pitch deck will range between 10-20 slides (the shorter, the better), and should encompass everything we’ve already discussed – your customers’ pain points, your solution, and compelling reasons why you’re the best person for the job.
When you’re ready to put together your presentation, make sure to include the following:
And, when you’ve finished digesting and assembling all of this information, here are some additional tips for creating your pitch deck:
I know it’s a lot of work, but once you create your business deck, you’ll have an organized plan for how your business will conquer the world – and you’ll be better equipped to convince your investors of that as well. Remember to keep it short and detailed; you’ll be able to elaborate on the points in your slides when you’re face-to-face with your audience.
Investors invest in the person as much as the idea, and you always need to put your best foot forward, regardless if you’re jumping on a phone call or presenting to a room full of people.
At the end of the day, you’re the person that your audience needs to believe in, and you need to invest in yourself as much as you do in your business idea and pitch.
If you want to be a successful CEO – dress like a successful CEO. Do what you have to do to come out swinging and confident, whether that means a ton of research or investing in your personal brand.
And, get informed; be the expert in your field. Know what potential objections your audience may have, and come up with answers to them before they can be voiced. Get feedback from friends and family, and refine your pitch until you can deliver it in your sleep. Practice at home, on friends; keep rehearsing until you’re prepared to talk about your business idea in every scenario, without a second thought.
All you need is one person to believe in you, so do your best to deliver, and you’ll eventually find the perfect investor match.
Remember, a good pitch taps into emotional and business sentiments. It tells a story, gets to the point, and succinctly details the value you will be able to provide the listener.
However, even more important than a good pitch is the person giving it. Invest in your own development, be confident in your idea, and sell the story like it’s already the investor’s obvious choice for a new project.
Ready to create your pitch deck? Download the Tailor Brands business deck template and start telling your business’s story to the world!