By Paul Lantsbury
There’s no point in beating around the bush; pitching can be terrifying. No matter how many years’ experience you’ve got under your belt, seeking investment can be hard work and high stress. Because - and there’s no gentle way to put this – it’s not just your business plan that investors will be judging. From the first impression through to your closing statement, everything can help or hinder your chances. So keep calm and prepare for a perfect pitch with our five top tips:
1. Know your audience
You need to make sure that the investors you are pitching to are people who invest in businesses like yours. Research what they are looking for. Check that they are a good match for the size, stage of growth, industry and the amount of investment you are looking for. Also look at the individuals and see what you can discover about their interests – is your business something they would take an interest in? There’s a secondary benefit to be gained here once you’re actually in the pitch; you may uncover some common ground which you can use to help break the tension and build rapport.
2. Keep your story simple
Think how easily you can summarise a lot of films or stories very quickly. For example, orphan discovers he’s a wizard and must defeat the man who killed his parents. Can you do the same for your business? Take a step back from the detail and think about what is most likely to be easily understood by your audience. Jargon and technical details are unlikely to impress in the same way that simply stated outcomes are. Another example: Avoid impersonal hotels by booking someone’s apartment – or rent out your spare room to make some extra cash. If you can grab your investor’s attention with your summary, there’ll be plenty scope for you to get into the business nitty gritty later on.
3. Establish credibility
If you can’t go bold when pitching, then when can you? But remember that investors will expect to see evidence to back up each of those big claims. So think about where you can bring in the numbers, press releases and examples to back up your points on why investors should part with their cash for you. Credibility also comes from being upfront and confident at those times when you might not have the evidence or answer. Don’t be afraid to admit if you can’t answer a question you’re posed, or if the pressure has led to the answer temporarily slipping from your mind – but remember to find out the answer and get back to them afterwards.
4. Look at your business through an investor’s eyes
If you want to keep your investor’s attention and interest high, then focus on the aspects they’re most likely to be interested in. So start with what’s in it for them. That usually means starting with the money. What’s the anticipated return on investment, where are the risks (and what steps have you taken to reduce or mitigate them), and what is your plan for exit? Focus on why you would be a great investment – and what is it about you and your business that will convince them to pick you over someone else.
5. Own your business plan
Having confidence in both your product and your numbers is the best foundation for a successful pitch. It might be tempting to outsource the business plan to someone else, but don’t give in. You need to know your business plan inside out and back to front because you are highly likely to be quizzed on it. So don’t just memorise the high level stats and numbers, take the time to work through the story behind them. What’s happening operationally to drive those numbers and how do they influence each other? Get help from an expert if you need it, but if you can commit the time to understanding the drivers behind your projections, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to answer (almost) any question an investor is likely to throw at you.
Paul Lantsbury is a Senior Financepartner for PwC’s outsourced accounting and business advisory service, My Financepartner. Drawing on more than 25 years’ experience working in industry – including a role as the FD of Moonpig.com – Paul supports ambitious businesses with their growth plans.
This blog is part of a series from My Financepartner. My Financepartneris a new accounting service for small and medium-sized businesses that puts you in control. You choose the services that you need, module by module, and we'll deliver them. Contact us at email@example.com