The Art of the Business Pitch
Here are our tips for getting to "yes" with your business pitch. Pitch (almost) perfectly, no matter the situation.
Any major league baseball pitcher will tell you that perfection is untenable; even the pros don’t have a 100% success rate with every pitch. Take that to heart when pitching your business. Each pitch is a chance to practice, refine your message, and better yourself for the next one. Building your business takes time, and learning to pitch does, too. It’s a learned skill and over time, you’ll get better at communicating your message and progressing one step closer to hearing a “YES!”
There are two types of pitches. One type is the more casual pitch, commonly known as the elevator pitch (because it should be short and sweet – just long enough to share while riding the elevator with a business prospect). The second type of pitch is a formal meeting with potential investors or partners; obviously, this type of pitch requires more preparation and polish. Both pitches share the common goal of piquing someone’s interest and getting them excited to learn more.
Here are our tips for getting to “yes” with both types of business pitches. We’ll give you the steps to pitch (almost) perfectly, no matter the situation.
Scenario One: You’re at a trade show, business meeting, or airport. You meet someone who might be interested in your business. What’s next? Here’s when you want to use your well-rehearsed elevator pitch to open the door to new opportunities.
Remember these three magic words when crafting your elevator pitch: Less is more. You need to be able to share what your business can do in a very short time. In fact, thirty seconds is all you need.
Open Strong. According to Bert Martinez, “Eighty percent of your success will depend on your opening line.” Intrigue with your opening words. Think of your first statement as a written headline. Your goal is to grab your audience’s attention so they want to learn more.
Next, share what your business does. Focus on explaining the concept behind your business as clearly as you can. Use layman terms so even people outside the industry can relate. Explain why your business is unique and how it helps the customer.
Stay conversational. There’s a time and place for formality (we’re getting to that), but this isn’t that time. You want to engage in a dialogue about your business, not robotically spew facts and figures. A good way to do this is to ask a question of your audience.
Close as strongly as you opened. Shake hands and thank your new contact for their interest. Suggest a follow-up; exchange cards or get an email address. If you’re feeling bold and you think the timing is right, ask to continue the conversation and suggest setting up a proper meeting.
Afterward, evaluate the exchange. Think about what went well and what didn’t and use this knowledge to hone your pitch for the next time. Each face-to-face meeting is a chance for you to share your passion for your business and expand your base of potential contacts and supporters.
Investor Business Pitch
Scenario Two: You’ve been called up to the Big Leagues. Congratulations, you’ve generated enough interest in your business that it’s time to meet with potential investors or supporters. This is the time where you’ll need to be rehearsed and polished. You’ll also need to prepare some visuals in the form of a PowerPoint presentation and some samples or product demos.
A Perfect PowerPoint Presentation
A common tendency when preparing for this kind of formal meeting is to share all the information you have. That’s understandable; you’ve been living, breathing, and sleeping your business, but restraint is truly more effective.
Entrepreneur recommends keeping it short and simple. According to their research, more than ten slides dilute the message and loses the audience. But, but, but “¦ you have so much information, how do you know what’s critical to share? You’ve worked so hard to get to this point, and you don’t want to leave out anything vital.
The pros have you covered. Below are the only ten slides Entrepreneur says are crucial to a professional formal pitch:
THE ONLY TEN SLIDES YOU NEED TO PITCH YOUR BUSINESS
- Title. Share your title, your company name, and contact info.
- Problem/Opportunity. What problem are you solving for them? Mashable suggests sharing the story of your start-up in a way that shows you’re alleviating a pain point. “The problem is X, so we are helping by doing Y.” Sharing stories helps to connect with your audience while conveying the viability of your business ideas.
- Value Proposition. What is the value that your solution provides?
- Underlying Magic. What’s your demo? Now’s the time to share and wow the crowd via visuals of what your business idea can do.
- Business Model. Where’s the money coming from? You’ve crafted a business plan, now share it succinctly, focusing on key elements of who your customer is and how they are going to pay you.
- Market Plan. How will you reach your customer? Describe concrete plans for marketing and summarize what you expect the costs to be.
- Competitive Analysis. Suss out the competition. What does the current market for your product or business idea look like? Be confident, yet realistic. You’ll have better luck emphasizing the strength of the current market and how your business will boom there than you will with astronomical (best guess) projections of dominating your competitors.
- Management Team. This includes the Board of Directors, advisors, and major investors. Emphasize any big names you have on your team, but avoid bullet pointing resumes, which can be boring and come across as bragging. Instead, focus on what your team can do to turn the business into a success. Investors want to see that there’s a competent team in place to move the business out of the start-up stage.
- Financial Projections and Key Metrics. What is your three-year forecast? Now is the time for facts and figures. Provide a best case, moderate case, and worst-case scenario. This shows your investors that you have a real grasp on the subjective nature of business and you’re being factual with them. Investors appreciate honesty, not impractical projections.
- Current Status, Accomplishments to Date, Timeline, and Use of Funds. What’s the current status, and how will the future of your business unfold? What can you do with investors’ money to benefit them?
Now that you’ve shared the most important pieces of information about your business with potential backers, open up the floor and take time for Q&A. Don’t be discouraged if your audience has questions; this means they’re engaged. Listen closely to each question and participate in a constructive dialogue.
Each pitch is a chance to better your business and build relationships, so don’t get discouraged if it takes time to perfect this skill. Practice makes perfect, so keep swinging for the fences and soon you’ll hit it out of the park.