As a communication coach, one of the top questions entrepreneurs ask me is how to deliver a winning pitch to potential investors. They want to know if there’s a magic formula to get an investor to say yes and buy into their dream and their business.
While there isn’t a “magic” formula, there is a three-step process to building a profitable pitch. Before I walk them through it, though—and before I walk you through it here—I always give a disclaimer: not every business is fundable. There are no guarantees. You can have a brilliant pitch and still not get funded, so there is a bit of luck and a bit of alchemy that goes into the final outcome.
That being said, though, there is a way to significantly increase your chances of landing your pitch and getting funding. It all boils down to identifying the story you want to tell, creating a script for that story, and then nailing your delivery.
#1: Tell the Right Story
The first step in creating a successful pitch is deciding what story you’re telling. This may seem like an obvious step, but a lot of founders get tripped up right off the bat because they want to focus on the story of their product or service.
Investors aren’t interested in focusing on products or services during the pitch, though: they want the story of your business. It’s vital you get out of the “tell-them-all-about-my-product” mindset and instead focus on your vision for the company, both in the short and the long term.
This might seem counterintuitive, but in fact, it makes sense. Investors are looking to put their money into your business. That’s the “product” they’re looking to buy, so that’s what they want to hear about. If you want them to become a subscriber to your SaaS platform or buy your widget, then by all means, spend your time talking about your product or service. But, if you want them to buy into your business, make that the focal point of your pitch.
As you think about the story you want to tell, keep in mind that to be effective, your pitch needs to convey your clear vision about your business. You need to take your audience on your journey, and at some point they must be able to see themselves on that journey with you. Your story must make them feel like insiders to your business, and help them envision your success as their own.
“The purpose of an elevator pitch is to describe a situation or solution so compelling that the person you’re with wants to hear more even after the elevator ride is over.” – Seth Godin
#2: Write the Script
Once you have a clear idea of the story you want to tell, it’s time to write the script. This is where you really start to dig into how you tell the story. How do you word it so your vision is crystal clear? As you write the script, think about the words you’re using: what you choose to include or edit out is key to emphasizing certain ideas. In truth, it’s what makes your pitch so powerful.
The key here is to stay really concise. If you can say it in one sentence, then do that; don’t try to use ten sentences to convey the same idea. Your pitch should be precise and focused, and it should pack a punch.
Look, I get it, editing can be difficult. It’s tempting to try to tell the investor everything. But, they don’t need to know everything you know, especially the first time you meet them. If you don’t take the time to edit, edit, and edit some more, you’ll end up saying too much. You’ll open things up to interpretation, or even run the risk of sounding like you don’t know what you’re talking about.
On the other hand, being really specific and intentional about your words and what you say will show potential investors you have a real handle on your business. They will quickly see that you can communicate your vision effectively, and that you know exactly where you’re going. For an investor who is considering handing over large sums of money, that’s crucial.
#3: Perfect Your Delivery
Telling the right story and perfecting your script are key components of the process, but there’s one more important step you need to take when you’re preparing to deliver a winning pitch: perfecting your delivery. You need to deliver your pitch with enough conviction and confidence that people will want to write you a big fat check with a lot of zeros.
Don’t take this step for granted. You may have a great business story, but unless you know how to tell it really well, you won’t get the desired effect from that meeting. That’s why practice is so important.
If you start going off the cuff, trying to be funny or too personal, it won’t feel authentic. It undermines what would otherwise be an incredibly powerful pitch. So, keep it authentic, and make sure you practice enough that you can nail your delivery every time.
Keep in mind, as you practice your delivery, that you need to pay close attention to how long your pitch takes. If you have a 30-minute meeting with an investor, you shouldn’t pitch them for the entire 30 minutes. You should spend 10 minutes pitching, and then take the next 20 minutes for Q&A, because that’s where the money is.
The Perfect Pitch Gets You More Time
Remember, the purpose of your pitch is strictly to get more time. Most pitches aren’t like what you see on Shark Tank—in the real world, investors aren’t going to give you money after a 30-minute meeting.
So, keep that in mind, you just want them to give you more time. So, your job is to tell them whatever they need to know to help them get to a place where they’re willing to do that.
For investors, time is money, and they aren’t going to waste their time or their money if you don’t wow them with a great pitch. But, by following this three-step process—figuring out your story, writing your script, and practicing your delivery so it’s dynamic and natural—chances are high you’ll impress your investors enough that they take a closer look at you and your business. And, if they like what they see, they’ll invest…and the time you spent preparing your profitable pitch will have been well worth it.