Excerpt from Harvard Business Review.
By James Caan is a British entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and former panelist of BBC’s Dragons’ Den, on which the US spin-off show Shark Tank is based.
“Certain business presentations have all the elements of a good pitch, which can be condensed down to the following components:
Prepare, prepare, prepare.Before you present, obtain as much background knowledge as possible on prospective investors. Use Google and especially social media as a resource — LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are packed with information on your investor, and (as with any other presentation) if you know your audience you can engage with them on a personal level. Above all, remain observant and always look for opportunities to break the ice when meeting new investors. On one occasion in my business career, I noticed a stack of golfing photos in the investor’s office and proposed discussing the pitch during a round of golf. We ended up closing the deal on the course. At the end of the day, people want to enjoy business relations, and that personal touch can make all the difference.
Create a journey for the investment. Ideally, this journey will demonstrate a persisting problem that will be amended by the new business proposition. Demonstrate why and how you came to develop the idea to solve the problem. As an investor, if I can relate to the problem — and find it compelling enough — I’m more likely to invest.
Convey your enthusiasm. If a person has the drive to make a business work, then their proposal is going to be more appealing. You need to succinctly explain why you are a qualified individual to invest in, and importantly how you plan to execute the idea. I remember a particular entrepreneur on Dragons’ Den who pitched me an idea which — honestly — did not seem particularly innovative. However, his heartfelt account of his life story, passion to succeed, and personal motivations inspired me as an investor. I ended up agreeing on an investment and he went on to develop a seriously successful business.
Back up your pitch with hard data. When it comes to business feasibility, investors are only interested in facts, therefore make sure your numbers make sense. You have to be prepared for in-depth questions on turnover, sales figures, break-even points, gross and net margins (profit), and so on. Investors are very fond of hard facts, so don’t rely on hiding behind technical terms and growth projections.
Leverage your image.Be creative with projecting an established image of yourself and your business. I remember when I started my recruitment company, I could only afford a miniscule office (it was actually a broom cupboard) at a grand office building in London. As a consequence, I would meet my clients in the impressive entrance hall and suggest we nip out for coffee at the Ritz, explaining that the office was far too busy to talk privately. With this gesture, I would maintain the image of an established business, even though the reality was that I was too embarrassed to bring anyone to my “office.”
With a commitment to being completely open about your passion towards the business offering, your pitch has a better chance of being received with that same enthusiasm — even if you’re coming from the humblest of beginnings.”