Pitch Tips for Entrepreneurs
Well, 2020 is underway and I’ve just coached another group of budding entrepreneurs through the business planning process. Somehow, while I wasn’t looking, I passed the 20 year mark for training, coaching, and most importantly encouraging entrepreneurs, and I couldn’t be happier.
The business world has changed over the years. Technology and a web presence are “must haves” for almost everyone now. The long, type-written, paper, business plan has been joined by other tools (I had students using the Lean Canvas this time around), and entrepreneurial thought is now the norm instead of an outlier. Yet, one thing remains constant – budding business owners need to be able to talk about their idea and stir enthusiasm. And that means mastering the pitch. Whole books and workshops are dedicated to getting the pitch right, but here are a few tips to get you going:
Dress like you mean it: Whether we intend to or not, people make judgments based on first impressions and appearances. Does this mean every business pitch needs to involve $2000 suits? No. I do however recommend people overdress a bit. You can always take your tie or jacket off, but you can’t knit one out of thin air. Unless your business involves health and fitness, athletic clothes are a no. And beware of decking yourself and your team in a lot of branded stuff, especially if you haven’t made any money and you intend to ask for a loan. After all, why are you spending money you don’t have on merch?
Tell (limited) stories: Nothing connects with people like a funny, shocking, or meaningful story. Nothing makes people uncomfortable (and causes them to start searching for an exit) like a rambling, pointless, or disconnected story. Potential investors want to hear how you came up with your idea. They don’t want to hear your entire life’s story.
Have a point: Why are you making a pitch? Looking for partners, investors, or a loan? Trying to check off all the boxes to get a grade? When you are absolutely clear about what you want and need from your listeners, your pitch can be focused, and you can highlight elements that move you toward your goals.
Know your numbers: First your numbers must be real. Don’t guess; do your research. Be able to explain your financial assumptions, and plan on answering what we consider the basic questions of a startup.
1. How much will it cost to start this business?
2. Do you need a loan/investment, and how much?
3. When will you start making a profit?
4. How much does it cost to produce one item or service one client?
You can learn to give a good business pitch – even if you’re introverted or working your second language. It just takes planning, practice, and confidence.