Thursday, May 20, 2021

How to cut through the fog and deliver a winning pitch

This week I was asked by an entrepreneur friend to review a recording of his pitch, along with his PowerPoint deck. I thought his presentation was terrific. But it could have been better.

 When you’re pitching to raise funds or attract customers and supporters to your dream business – one that can benefit many, many people – only the best will do.

So I thought I would share my comments with you. I don't have the entrepreneur’s permission to disclose his details, so I revised my notes to speak to generalities rather than specifics. I hope you will find them useful the next time you go out on a limb to present your dream offer, venture or opportunity.

1.    You rushed right into the presentation without introducing yourself properly. Don't just give us your first name – give us your full name. (Maybe someone in the audience will know your cousin. Bingo! You have a new contact.)

 2.    Most important, tell me more about you. Why are you here, why do you identify with this business or opportunity? Start telling a story. And the story should start with why this project is the most important thing in the world to you right now.

3.    Start early to build your audience’s confidence and trust. As part of your intro, let us know a little more about your background, skills and experiences. Keep it short – but prove to me why you are the ideal person to be promoting the product/project.

4. Be very clear about the problem you're solving. Who will benefit from your solution, and how will it benefit ME? (My friend was actually very good at this. I just added this note now, because it’s such a common problem. 

5.    Can you explain your revenue model better? What is your price point, and how many customers/how much market share will it take for you to break even, or start making a profit?

6.   You mention some quite diverse customer segments. How have you tested these markets to suss out their potential? If you haven't done those tests yet, why do you think this will work? Are there similar products/solutions that your target market already supports? There should be no untested theses in a pitch like this! No one cares about your guesses.

7.    You mention you will be launching in a specific test market. Please explain why you chose this market, and what makes it the best place to start. I want to know you’ve put a lot of thought into this plan.

8.    What is your plan for expanding beyond that first-mover market? When, where, how? (This demonstrates your confidence, as well as good planning skills.)

9.    You briefly mentioned the names of some potential partners. The names alone mean nothing to me, and likely nothing to most of the people you are pitching to. Please give us a few words about each of them to explain why they would be such valuable partners.

10. Plus, tell us how these talks are going. Even if it’s just, “They seem very eager to work with us, as they see that we have the same goals and offer very complementary services.” Not telling us something like this makes me think your negotiations are not going well – or haven't even started. If you haven't begun talking with these partners yet, why are you pitching now? Start building those relationships, then pitch – when you have something other than hopes to go on!

11. You mentioned the names of some important advisors/supporters. You didn’t have time to tell us who they are and why they matter – so why tell us at all? Every aspect of your pitch should add value or position you as a winner who works with other winners. Please give us a few words that show why these people deserve my respect.

12. I think I get what you do and why you're doing it. But I sure would like to have heard a short, punchy mission statement that sums it all up in 10 words or less. Not only does it demonstrate your marketing savvy, it will cut through the clutter like a hot knife through butter.

13. You communicated a lot of good information in just a few minutes. But one thing I missed was “the voice of the customer.” Give us some idea of the feedback you've received so far. (It turns out my entrepreneur friend has done lots of interviews and collected some great quotes. Hopefully he will incorporate them into his next pitch. A solid testimonial is gold. Commitments to buy are even better.

14. (The presentation I saw was recorded on video, with a voice-over by the entrepreneur. Because Covid presents us from meeting in person. But it also puts an additional barrier between you and your audience. So this was my final note:)

Finally: in future videos or presentations, please work on putting more animation into your voice. You're a strong, passionate person, with a big heart. This video is very good, but it doesn't reveal the real you. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! And smile more often while you’re speaking. Even if people can't see you, they can still hear your smile.

Feel free to share your best pitching tips in the comments below.