My seven pitching techniques: Part two
Tuesday, May 22, 2012/
In part one of this series, Rebekah Campbell shared her first three sales techniques.
4. Use exciting visuals
Every book you read on presenting will tell you: don’t use boring visuals with lots of words or graphs that people can’t read!
But, almost every entrepreneur does this. PowerPoint or other visual presentations work by helping to give your presentation structure and driving home points.
When I start to build my presentations, I usually write out all the slides first then practice giving the talk.
I work out what each slide should convey, delete every word from every slide, and then replace them with images or visual representations of the concept the words were explaining.
This is a challenge, but you have to get creative. Nothing is more boring than an entrepreneur delivering a PowerPoint loaded with words, graphs and numbers that no one can, or wants to, read.
5. Know your stuff
Two things you must know back-to-front before you start pitching:
- Your competitors
- Your numbers
Build an overview of both of these into your pitch so you can show you’ve thought things through.
You should have scoped out the market for other companies doing similar things to you. Sometimes you won’t have direct competitors, but there’s almost certain to be another product that’s attracting the revenue you intend to take.
What will it cost to switch to you? If your idea is good, you’re likely to be asked about potential future competitors. At almost every investor meeting, someone asks, “What are you going to do when Google, Facebook or Groupon starts to do the same thing as you?
How will you compete?
It’s very hard to come up with an answer for this, but you need to have one.
6. Have a financial model
You need to have a financial model.
Everyone knows it will change as you build your company.
Your cost-base will probably increase and your revenue may come later than you think. But you must demonstrate a clear plan to investors; they’re entitled to know how you’ll spend their money and how you intend to make money in the long run.
Once your model is built, sense check it to ensure your costs are reasonable, your pricing structure is in line with others in the industry, and your projected market share is realistic and profitable.
You need to be confident that the numbers you present work and then you need to learn them.
Investors love asking about your projected profit in two years’ time, how many sales people or how much marketing you’ll require to reach that many customers, what it will cost, the potential for this in five years’ time, what percentage of the total market you anticipate, and is that realistic?
Just watch an episode of Dragons’ Den to see what I mean. Investors sometimes like to ask tricky questions to see how well you’ve prepared for the meeting. Learn your stuff!
Once you’ve built your pitch, go out and deliver it to as many people as you possibly can.
Each person you pitch to will probably recommend that you see someone else (even if they don’t want to invest).
I made sure I followed up each introduction and took every meeting opportunity I could. It takes a long time, but after each meeting you work out how to improve your pitch.
You’ll find yourself rearranging the PowerPoint slides, adding extra information they found exciting, deleting slides that seem irrelevant.
Each potential investor will ask you different questions, which prepares you for when you meet the ones that really count.
Through these meetings you’ll constantly find yourself wanting to add more and more slides as you get more ideas.
You must keep at the top of mind the need to keep your pitch focused and punchy. I try to keep my deck to a maximum of nine slides that appear in approximately this order:
- My team and I
- The problem we’re going to solve
- Our solution
- What we’ve achieved so far
- The market and how big it could be
- The competitors
- My plan, with a timeline
- The financial numbers
- An inspiring summary (so we end on a high)
My first presentation was at Innovation Bay and I was petrified.
We were in a Surry Hills restaurant in a room of about 50 investors, and there was just one other woman in the room!
I was seated with the two other companies who were pitching, and I asked one of them if they’d ever pitched to a group like this before.
He replied that he’d lived in Silicon Valley for the past 10 years and did this all the time.
Now my heart was racing: My first time speaking in public beseeching a roomful of wealthy men to part with their money, and I was up against a 10-year veteran!
In the meal break, we each had 10 minutes to pitch our businesses with a PowerPoint projected onto a big TV screen and then 10 minutes of questions. I was up last.
As the other two groups spoke, I couldn’t believe it. I don’t like to be unkind but they were terrible!
I’m sure their ideas were fine but no one paid any attention, as the speakers had no idea how to present.
The first guy was a techie who was obviously uncomfortable in front of the room. He mumbled, gave a complex description of his product, and then showed some graphs on a PowerPoint that no one could read.
The second guys (the veterans) went as a pair and didn’t bother using PowerPoint – instead they tried to “wing it” by doing an odd, contrived question and answer session between themselves.
It fell flat; by the time they were a minute in the audience had tuned out and were having quiet side conversations.
When I stood up and started telling a story about promoting an Evermore concert, presenting big pictures of music fans and colourful diagrams, I had the room.
Everyone listened and I raised the first $300,000 in my round that night. The others raised nothing.
A few weeks later, I spoke at Tech 23 and got a similar response. For four minutes each throughout the day, 23 entrepreneurs pitched their products. It was my second ever time speaking in public.
As before, I was terrified and had a sleepless night before the event. Once again, thorough preparation made all the difference.
I could move past the fear and engage the room, thanks to my speaking practice at various courses.
My pitch hooked the audience from the first couple of lines, Posse was voted best company of the day and I won an Atlassian award for Best Presentation.
At this stage, I had no product and no team; there were many other companies at Tech 23 with much more going for them, but Posse won best company!
It just shows that it pays to focus on the pitch.
By doing this, what you’re actually saying to potential investors is, “I recognise there are no shortcuts in having a start-up, I’m willing to address my weaknesses head on by learning how to speak, and I can inspire others to join me”.