When I hear that someone is seeking advice about how to pitch to investors, the first thing I want to say is, “congratulations!” You have reached a significant milestone, and you are ready to grow and scale. However, I realize that even seasoned executives get anxious when asking investors for money. And, let me assure you – this is normal, even expected, because your company’s future is at stake, and people are counting on you.
Fortunately, having worked on dozens of pitches for potential investors over the years, both for my own companies and my client companies, I’ve learned that there is plenty you can do to avoid mistakes. So, in the following post, I will share my tips for delivering a successful pitch, even if doing so means you must step way out of your comfort zone.
A Word About Preparation
For the sake of this post, I will assume that you and your team have prepared for this moment. In other words, you have a business plan and a water-tight set of reports and financial projections to share during due diligence. You also have a killer pitch deck ready to go.
If that is not the case, I recommend that you bookmark this page, download our Capital Raise Roadmap, and read the following articles first:
- How to Increase Company Valuation: 8 Ways to Impress Potential Buyers
- What is a Capital Raising Strategy, and Why Do You Need One?
- 7 Sources of Capital and How to Evaluate Them
- What is a Pitch Deck, and How Can You Create One?
Then, when you believe you are ready to start filling your calendar with pitch meetings, come back to learn how to pitch to investors with confidence.
Scheduling, Equipment, Choreography, and Practice
Before you even start scheduling meetings, it is vital to think through the entire process. After all, you have invested a tremendous amount of time, money, and energy preparing – why rush things now, potentially squandering a great opportunity? The items below will ensure that you will have thought of everything before the big moment comes.
In preparation for scheduling, review your list of potential investors. Categorize them based on strategic importance, then aim to book your most desirable investors late in the process. That will allow you to conduct less important meetings first and refine your technique before engaging further.
It is also wise to leave room for flexibility. Investors sometimes show up late, cut meetings short, or arrive with a long list of questions and extra participants. So, allow space for the unknown. Plan on about 30 minutes for each session (5 minutes for greetings, 15 for the presentation, and 10 to answer questions and wrap up). But know which information is essential and where you can cut corners.
Most pitch meetings today take place virtually, which will likely continue due to the convenience. Therefore, before you meet with anyone (even for a practice round), decide where you will be when conducting your meetings. Consider what that space is like, then purchase and set up whatever technology you need to optimize the environment. For example, a quick Google search for “best equipment for zoom” will yield plenty of recommendations for cameras, lighting, tripods, noise-canceling headphones, etc.
While we are on the subject, I would recommend that you run these meetings on Zoom vs. WebEx, Teams, or something else. Nearly everyone is familiar with Zoom. That reduces the possibility of last-minute downloads or plugin installations that consume valuable time and annoy participants. And go ahead and invest in a license to avoid the embarrassing limitations of the free version.
Make a checklist of everything you will do before, during, and after each meeting, and I mean everything. The idea here is to avoid surprises, distractions, and unprofessional snags so you and your participants can focus on the goal. You may have some ideas of your own, but here are a few things I recommend for that list.
- Appearance Checks
When running virtual meetings, you must assume that your image might appear large on your participants’ screens. So, just as you would if you were heading to an in-person event, set aside some time to check your mirror and take any necessary precautions. For instance, it may be sensible to:
- Apply makeup to hide dark shadows, blemishes, or shine.
- Give yourself a last-minute shave.
- Fix your hair.
- Put on professional clothing (including pants in case you need to stand up).
- Clean remnants of lunch from your face or between your teeth.
- Environment Checks
Make plans with family members or roommates to keep things quiet during your meetings. If possible, set up an “office” space where you can close a door. Or, at the very least, put off any housekeeping activities (like vacuuming), and ask someone to take your pets, kids, or both to the park. Then, be mindful of any open windows where unexpected noises (like the roar of someone’s lawnmower) can filter through.
- Desktop and Technology Checks
Before each meeting, turn off everything on your desktop, including email, Slack, Teams, etc. Nothing should be running that you don’t need. Such precautions keep you focused and speed up critical applications, but they can also prevent the embarrassment of an unprofessional notification appearing while you are sharing your screen.
Finally, skip the fancy but distracting backgrounds. Instead, simply show your natural habitat or blur what is behind you (if necessary). Then, turn off your cell phone. Your participant’s time is precious, so pay them the courtesy of being 100% present.
- Presentation Flow
Write down everything you will do and say during your presentation. For instance, I recommend that you record every session, even your practice ones. So, write down that you will ask for permission before launching into your greetings.
If you plan to involve a partner when delivering your pitch, work them into your script, leaning into each person’s relative strengths. For example, if you expect to run through a deck, decide whether you or your partner will share the appropriate window (not your entire screen) and who will deliver the pitch. And if you are planning on showing investors something else on your screen, like a demonstration of your product or services, have it set up and ready to go.
Anticipating each step will ensure that you are ready to tell a compelling story, comfortable with any transitions, and can keep the presentation running smoothly. Ideally, there will be no variation in your flow. Going down an unfamiliar path during a critical meeting leaves you open to mistakes. So, while there is no need to be robotic, you must appear practiced and confident.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice!
When you feel that you are ready, organize several rehearsal sessions. Start with some friendlies first, like family members, friends, or co-workers. Notice any awkwardness in your flow, like transitions from one app to another, and adjust until everything runs smoothly.
Then, move on to practice meetings with people who have more skin in the game, like your existing investors. Ask them to be critical and to pose the same tough questions a potential investor might ask. You can even ask them to interrupt you so you can experiment with how to handle these situations to avoid interrupting your flow. Depending on your style, you might say “good question,” but let me get back to that, then ensure that you do. Or, if you are comfortable answering questions on the fly (and time is on your side), you might address things on the spot.
Again, be sure to record each session and do a post-mortem later in search of ways to improve. Better yet, ask someone else to review a session or two and provide you with feedback. That will help you understand where your blind spots are.
Finally, do not limit your practice sessions to Zoom. There is always an outlier who insists on meeting in person. So, practice until you feel confident that you can deliver your perfect pitch regardless of whether you are on camera or in person.
Hitting the Road: How to Ask Investors for Money
So, you and your team are finally ready, with an impressive lineup of meetings on the calendar. What else do you need to do as you move through this process? Plenty!
When you are learning how to pitch to investors, it is helpful to remember that each meeting is essentially a sales pitch where the goal is to get to the next step. Therefore, traditional sales best practices will come in handy here.
5. Meeting Preparation
Ahead of each meeting, do your homework. First, visit the company’s website to gain insight into its history, mission, culture, and people. Then, review the LinkedIn profiles of the call participants.
Take your time and really get to know them so you can tailor your pitch and present the information from their viewpoint. In other words, help them understand what they will gain from investing in your business by connecting the dots between their goals and what you offer. That will make it easier for them to develop relevant questions and decide what they want to do. For example, if you could expand your addressable market by tapping into their distribution network, that will capture their attention.
Finally, consider who you are meeting and what they might expect from you. For instance, if you are a startup founder and plan to meet with angel investors from a makeshift office in your garage, it would be disingenuous to appear on screen in a coat and tie. However, if you run a 150-person company with a SaaS business model and you are asking venture capitalists for a 100-million-dollar investment, it would be prudent to dress the part.
6. Tips for Presenting Your Pitch
When you kick off each meeting, aim to establish rapport as quickly as possible and instill a sense of trust and credibility so your audience will be more receptive to your message. Perhaps you have friends in common, share an interest in sports, or spent time in the same city. Establish a connection and aim to set a friendly but professional tone. Go ahead and smile, laugh, and bond with your participants on a personal level so you are no longer strangers.
Then, before you get into the pitch, ask the investors to confirm how much time you have. That communicates respect for their constraints and helps you decide how to move through your materials. It also empowers you to watch the clock, stay focused, and avoid going down wormholes when questions arise. If a critical topic warrants a deeper discussion, mention the time and suggest a follow-up meeting.
Once you get into the pitch, avoid speaking from a script. Instead, use your executive summary slide to provide an overview of your business strategy (your elevator pitch per se), then passionately tell your story. Explain how your vision and team came about and how your products or services fulfill a real need for your target market. Then, describe how you can do great things with their help.
There is plenty of money out there, so you’re not just looking for a check. You need a strategic partner who can help you deliver a better experience for your target customers and take your company to the next level. Whether through the sharing of strategic advice, access to their network, an exit strategy, or the addition of team members, it must be a fit for both parties. So, engage with your audience, ask what they think of your plans, then listen so you can build the trusting relationship both parties want.
7. Wrapping It Up with Style
As each meeting ends, set expectations for the next steps and timing, stating who will do what and when. Then, presuming the investor is interested, the goal is to set up another meeting.
Then, send a thank you email restating what you agreed to and what will happen next. Include a link to the recording, a copy of your presentation, and any supplemental materials. Then be sure to follow through. That will ensure that you continue building trust and credibility as you move to the next stage.
If one of these investors says no, don’t hesitate to ask them to walk you through their thought process. It is perfectly acceptable to ask for advice and counsel to improve your game. There may have been nothing you could have done in some cases, but most investors are receptive to questions and willing to help. And, if you are comfortable doing so, ask who in their network of other investors may be a better fit.
How to Pitch to Investors: The Bottom Line
Pitching to investors is exciting! It is the culmination of many months of hard work and the start of a thrilling new chapter in your company’s evolution. So, lean into your anxiety and let it be the fuel for this final stretch of preparation and execution. Then, let your passion and confidence take you over the finish line.
At The CEO’s Right Hand, we partner with companies to build efficiencies and pave the way to their next growth stage. Check out our capital raising services to learn more.