You’ve struck stones together and you’ve finally seen a spark. You’ve worked hard to develop your ideas and build something worthy of faith and investment. But finding natural ways to pitch your startup may still seem like the most daunting task you’ve faced yet.
Your elevator pitch, for all that it can be perfected, can come off as rehearsed, and too straightforward, or too brief. It doesn’t always fit seamlessly into conversation, and might even break the awkward scale if whipped out during a casual meeting or lunch rendezvous.
Unless you are the most charismatic person to ever have an entrepreneurial idea, perfecting a natural-sounding pitch can be a challenge. But learning how to communicate with potential investors in your everyday life will make pitching your startup a more comfortable process, that will ultimately earn your business the resources it needs to move forward.
1. Adapt your pitch to the platform
Networking is the key to finding investors. While conventions and seminars are the perfect opportunity to share your “rehearsed without sounding rehearsed” pitch, you may encounter unexpected opportunities to discuss your ideas in a more conversational way. Even though most people prefer a little distance between their work and personal lives, you will be surprised how many are open to holding an organic, engaging, business-related conversation at a neighborhood gathering or sports event.
While these perfect occasions may present themselves every once in a while, you can’t expect investors to walk through your front door. Go to events, parties, and even small get-togethers, and never leave the house without your business cards. Think of unconventional (but socially acceptable) ways to get an investor’s attention and when an opportunity opens up, take advantage of it.
Alex Moore, co-founder and CEO of Baydin, jumped on the chance to be a chauffeur for Dave McClure of 500 Startups. He secured a $100,000 investment in the time it took to drive McClure to his mechanic.
Ask your friends and family members if they have any contacts to whom they would be willing to introduce you. Rather than reciting your 30 to 40 second pitch, memorize just a few key points to hit on and wait for an appropriate window in a conversation to open up the topic.
2. Personalize your pitch
“Remember that people invest in other people. Even if your new contact likes your ideas, they need to have a sense of who you are and whether you can be trusted.”
Ask the investor about their own life and business ventures, so that you can frame a potential investment in your business as something that will interest and benefit them personally. Lay the groundwork so that you can discuss details later, and spend this time forging a relationship.
Remember that people invest in other people. Even if your new contact likes your ideas, they need to have a sense of who you are and whether you can be trusted. Are you the kind of person who is going to eat, sleep and breathe this company? Are you a strong advocate for it? Do you have the unwavering passion and drive to be number one in your industry? Are you confident, yet teachable? These attributes are as important as your plan.
3. Don’t hesitate to name drop
Just because you’ve adapted your pitch to sound natural against the backdrop of your daughter’s soccer game doesn’t mean you should shy away from sharing impressive facts. Talk about who you know, who you’ve worked with, who has invested in your previous ventures, and who is currently investing with you. The first investor is the hardest to get. After you get one on board, other investors are more likely to follow suit.
Because name dropping can be an off-putting practice, think of discussing your contacts and partners as “leveraging relationships.” To avoid sounding boastful, talk about the positive attributes that make that person great to work with. But don’t go overboard in praising their good qualities—you don’t want to make yourself sound like anything other than equal to the people involved in making your venture a success.
4. Speak to vision rather than tactics
Passion for your vision is the most valuable tool in your belt when it comes to sharing your ideas with others. It’s what captures attention and builds excitement. But, people like to talk about what they care about—which, unfortunately, can lead to an overabundance of information when it comes to pitching.
When you’ve given your sweat, time, and emotions to a project, it can be difficult to objectively narrow down your goals, accomplishments, and vision for the future into just a few main ideas. But this is the essence of a pitch, and a conversational pitch should be no less to the point.
Leave out the technical minutiae. There’s no need to show your private placement memorandum or month to month revenue growth projects. Did you build an app? Don’t get into the details of how you coded it. Are you providing a business service? Don’t discuss your bonding or dive deep into individual marketing channels. Speak to plain points, and the problems your products or services will solve. Back up the alleged problems with numbers, and emphasize your strategy for solving them and helping your clients grow. Use your time wisely by only touching on big points.
5. Pave the way for a follow up
Know when to end the conversation. If you have made a good impression, exchanged business cards, and built the beginnings of a friendly rapport, there’s no reason to stick around. Save the more in-depth discussions for the follow up meeting, including the actual talk about money.
“Ask for advice on your ideas or your pitch itself, further reinforcing the relationship aspect over the financial one. “
If the investor does not end the conversation with an invitation to meet again, request one. If they seem impressed but uninterested, politely ask for a referral to someone who might be. The investor may need time to mull over what you’ve presented before showing interest. Ask for advice on your ideas or your pitch itself, further reinforcing the relationship aspect over the financial one.
Whether or not they seemed interested, follow up the conversation with a friendly email that lets the investor know you enjoyed speaking with them. If all goes well, you may be able to meet again.