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Pitch Perfect: what you need to know about speaking with investors

  • Article

Pitching your business to investors can be an incredibly nerve-wracking process. Hear from an expert on how you can create a standout pitch and improve your chance of success.

Nicole Denholder – Founder of Next Chapter Raise, which seeks to redefine collaboration between female entrepreneurs, investors and partners – offers her top tips on the art of pitching.

Tip 1: A clear path ahead

"Even if you’re looking at non-equity solutions, everyone is going to want to see a pitch deck and know what the plan is for your business. As such, you need to be very clear about your own roadmap and you need to make sure that everything you're doing is aligned to that. You need to be able to sell your whole growth story. Many investors will be asking, ‘If you take funds now, what does the next stage look like?’, or, ‘What will you do with this money and will you raise more?’. You’ll need to be adequately prepared to answer questions like these."

Tip 2: The ability to execute

“Investors see a lot of pitches, and there might be other people working on the same idea as you. Ultimately, what we are looking to see is whether you personally can turn this into a viable business. Your credibility as a founder and your team is really important. You need to make sure you’re bringing that to the table when you're talking to investors and that you have the necessary confidence in yourself and your product. They will be looking for passion, resilience and grit in a founder and confirmation that you’ll be able to tackle any problems that arise.”

Tip 3: Conviction is key

“If investors feel you have any self-doubt about your business and where you're going, they will sense it. They’ll think, ‘If you don't believe in your business, why should I?’. It’s your job to let them see that you’re the right person to launch and scale this product, and that they should invest in you, not the five others they’ve seen today.”

Tip 4: Don't get stuck on the origin story

“If you only have 10 minutes to pitch, don’t spend four or five of those on the idea behind your journey. The investors are interested but they want to hear the whole story. Talking about the problem and the solution is great, but you need to peel back the onion a bit and show market product fit – why are people going to pay for this solution, how are you going to make money? It’s about demonstrating that you’ve taken your thinking to the next level. The same goes for business models – don’t get hung up on these. Explain yours briefly and move along."

Tip 5: Be laser focused

“If you have too much going on, investors will think you're not really focused on how you're going to make this business financially viable. So be sure to remove a lot of the noise."

“As founders, we try to do so much, we’re mad! We probably have ten new ideas every day. But you need to constantly bring everything back to a KPI. There's this great story about Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. They were asked what word is the most important one to them as businesspeople. They wrote their chosen word down and exchanged them. And for both, it was ‘focused’. This is easier said than done, though, and it’s something that I personally have worked on a lot.”

Tip 6: Know when to say, ‘I don’t know’

“You need to make sure that you feel comfortable talking about what you've included in your deck. Because if you don't understand the numbers in there, that will create a problem in terms of your credibility. If they ask you a question that requires a figure as an answer, and you don’t have it, just say, ‘I don’t know, let me come back to you. I'll email you later to share the information’ and move on. You can't, and won’t be expected to, have everything at your fingertips.”

Tip 7: A two-way street

“The best way to engage with investors is to give them the time to ask you questions. Don't be nervous or worried about this part of the pitch. Try and understand from them what level of involvement they would have and what their expectations are in terms of the relationship. What do they want from you when it comes to financial reporting? How do they want to give strategic advice?”

Tip 8: Gather and analyse feedback

“Make the most of the position that you’re in – don't just let them say no and walk away. And don’t get discouraged. After every meeting, write down all of the feedback that you received. Analyse these after five meetings and see if there’s a consistent message and what actions you could potentially take. These bits of feedback don’t mean that your organisation should be shut down or that you’re a failure. Building a business is very complex – there are so many moving parts. Feedback should be helping you to create more of a vision. And once you’ve implemented changes, you can go back to those investors and say, ‘This is what you told me, here’s what I did, what are your thoughts now?’. Hearing a ‘no’ at a pitch doesn’t mean you have to go into full shutdown, it’s an opportunity.”

While creating a winning pitch may feel a bit like magic, preparation can help keep you grounded and allow you to feel prepared for the process. And, like so many things, practice makes perfect!

Please contact us to find out how we can help you grow your business.

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