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The art and science of persuasive pitching

entrepreneur
This is part 5 in our series Startup 101
Reading Time: 4 minutes

I have witnessed hundreds upon hundreds of pitches – and have also pitched to investors and customers – through many years practicing persuasive pitching.

As a startup entrepreneur, you must create a convincing argument that will persuade venture capitalists, business owners, potential clients, or other investors to help make your dream a reality.

A business pitch is a persuasive argument that an entrepreneur uses to convince a person or organization to invest in a business idea. There are many business pitches, from an informal “elevator pitch” (a short sales pitch no longer than 20 to 30 seconds or the length of a short elevator ride) to an hour-long slide presentation. A business pitch should be clear, concise, persuasive, and attention-grabbing, highlighting your company’s value and the product or service you sell.

There are many opinions on how to best pitch your startup. There are courses, YouTube videos and pitch competitions designed to help you practice and become more proficient with pitching your idea. The list is foundational in nature, and variations can be found all over the internet. Please note a few things, though.

Know your audience. Don’t be defensive, don’t oversell, don’t lecture, or focus just on the product. Be positive, Be a subject matter expert. The investor is assessing your ability to execute on your plan, so be precise. Always and always practice and seek feedback.

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Before you schedule a meeting with an angel investor, here are a few tips to help you craft the perfect pitch:

  1. Include the correct information
    A business pitch can range from 20 seconds to an hour, which is not a lot of time to convince someone to invest in your business, so you have to make each moment count by sharing all of the necessary information.
  2. Here are some essential elements to include in your pitch: your value proposition, which is a statement that explains the specific benefits your product offers, why your target customers should choose your product over the competition, and how your product resolves their pain points.
  3. If you have more time, include additional details such as your target market demographics, competition, competitive advantage, business plan, revenue model, financial projections, sales strategies, team members, exit strategy, and funding needs.
  4. Consider your investors’ needs
    When creating your pitch, include information that addresses any possible objections investors might raise. Addressing these concerns early in your pitch presentation will keep potential investors from becoming distracted and shows you’ve performed your due diligence and considered their needs.
  5. Tell a story
    Great business pitches are usually framed as a story – either drawing from your own life experience or working on a hypothetical situation with a fictional person. As you develop your pitch, focus on telling a story that addresses the problem and how your small business solves it.
  6. Include contact information
    Even the best investor pitch won’t make a difference if the listener has no way to contact you afterward. Provide your audience with a way to find more information about you and your business idea after your pitch – whether a simple business card, a website URL, or a detailed handout on your business model.
  7. Create pitches for multiple occasions
    There are a wide variety of occasions for a business pitch. While some pitches occur during formal office meetings, others can be brief chats over coffee or impromptu conversations at the gym. You’ll want to create different pitch templates tailored to each audience and situation, incorporating the right information for each context.
  8. Have at least three pitches at your disposal: an elevator pitch, a 10-minute pitch, and an hour-long pitch. Create slide decks (also called “pitch decks”) for your longer-pitch presentations to help keep viewers’ attention and clearly illustrate your business.
  9. Practice
    A successful pitch is delivered with comfort and confidence, so spend some time practicing your presentation and the tone in which you’ll deliver it. You can write a mini-script or jot down a few themes per slide to guide your presentation.
  10. Practice in the mirror, perform the mock presentation for friends and family, or record it and take notes on areas you want to improve upon after reviewing the footage.
  11. Be confident
    You may become nervous when pitching for the first time, but there are a couple of things to do to help you stay calm.
  12. Slow inhalations and exhalations can help soothe your nerves, and it’s acceptable to refer to your index cards or read directly from the slides if your mind begins to race mid-pitch.
  13. Having these resources to back you up and keep you on track during your meeting can bolster your confidence, which is key to showing investors that you are in control and can be trusted to execute.
  14. Be respectful
    During the presentation, questions or concerns may arise that call your business idea into question, and it can be easy to fall into a state of defensiveness, which will not benefit your cause.
  15. They may be overcautious because money is at stake and may poke holes in your idea to see if it is worth their investment and time. The purpose of your presentation is to convince the investor that it’s in their best interest to invest in your business because it can successfully solve a problem and make them money.
  16. Listen carefully to any questions they raise, and be kind and empathetic toward their concerns.
  17. Follow up
    After a pitch, it’s good practice to follow up with the investors within 24 hours of the presentation to see if they have any additional questions or concerns and to receive any feedback they may have to offer you.
  18. A brief email or phone call will help remind them about you and your idea and show them you’re serious, making them more amenable to finally deciding to invest.
  19. Revise
    After each pitch meeting, take note of which elements of your presentation worked and which require improvement. Did the investors ask questions that you covered in your pitch? If so, you may need to reword those slides for clarity.
  20. If you notice the same question comes up after each pitch, add an answer to this question into your presentation. Hone and refine your pitch as you go to make it more and more effective.

Teruel Carrasco is president of Valhalla Private Capital.

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Teruel Carrasco

Teruel Carrasco is a co-founder at Radar Endeavour Group Inc. private equity firm based in Edmonton. He also sits on the advisory board of ez enRoute IOT, serves as an advisor to Aris MD and through Radar Endeavour Group works with G2V Optics, Copperstone Technologies and Lending Assist. He was an executive-in-residence at NABI (Northern Alberta Business Incubator) and participates in the VMS (Venture Mentoring Service) program part of the University of Alberta alumni association. Teruel is a past CRO (Chief Revenue Officer) of dealcloser, a transaction management platform start-up in which his firm Radar Endeavour invested. He is currently CEO of Lending Assist, a commercial lending platform used by lawyers to facilitate commercial lending transactions. He also divides his time as a President of Radar IT Systems Inc.

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