If you’re looking for investors to fund your business, you may feel like a minnow entering a shark tank. Most entrepreneurs become shark bait because they’re unprepared to give an effective investor presentation.
“Investors decide in the first 90 seconds if they’re going to listen and decide in the first 5 minutes if it’s a NO,” warns Karen Rands, founder of LAUNCHfn, a consulting group that accelerates the process of companies creating capital strategy and getting the capital they need.
“Only 12 percent of the companies that qualify to pitch in front of a group of investors actually get all their money,” Rands said. She advises entrepreneurs that when raising capital from angel investors to be aware of the following principles:
- Investors care less about your product and more about how they’ll make money. Entrepreneurs mistakenly rely on a sales presentation that they use to sell their product. Investors care about the opportunity, not the product. Don’t fall in love with your own product. Talk about the business plan.
- Focus on why there is a need and how you intend to meet that need.
- Explain why you’re unique; identify the competition, and the barrier to entry.
- How will you generate revenue? What is the plan to sell your product?
- Investors are looking for your exit strategy because that’s how they make money.
A common mistake is to assume that a deal is on the table just because the investor asked for more information. Rand said, “A yes doesn’t mean you’ll receive a check; it means a willingness to continue the conversation.”
Another mistake is a lack of follow-up by the entrepreneur. Continue to pursue the investor until you get a NO. Joshua Henderson, program director of Springboard Enterprises, agrees. In a general investor pitch, he explains, “your goal is a follow-up meeting, not a check. Many entrepreneurs forget it’s a teaser, a trailer to the business.
To succeed in presenting to investors, follow these guidelines:
Know your audience. Angel investors have different goals from venture capitalists. Banks are interested in cash flow more than future growth. “When you pitch an investor,” cautions Henderson, “know if they understand your space. Know whether they invest in companies in your region, know if they have a technical or scientific background or not. A little due diligence on your audience is a smart strategy and can help you craft a pitch that will resonate.”
Practice. Prepare your message points, rehearse out loud and time yourself. Present first to non-investor groups to make sure they understand your business opportunity. Continue to fine-tune until it’s crystal clear. Do not read from the pitch book.
Passion sells. When speaking to a larger investor group, your platform skills become more important. A dry, dispassionate presentation can cost you the deal. If your skills need polishing, hire a speech coach or assign the most charismatic team member to deliver a major portion of the pitch.
Project confidence and authority. Walk in with confidence. Your presentation begins the moment you walk in the room. Use definitive language. Avoid “ums” and “ahs” and “weak speak” such as “I feel” and “hopefully.” Project energy, but remember to pause. Make direct eye contact with the investor audience.
Get to the point. Don’t get too granular. Investors have a short attention span. Walk them through your business plan and let them ask questions about the technical details. Link back to how they’ll make money.
Talk from the investor’s point of view. Remember that they don’t care about your product. They want to know how it will make them money. Talk about the business opportunity and answer their objections. As Amy Millman, president of Springboard Enterprises explains, “Learn to speak investor.”
Keep slides simple. Busy slides are confusing. Use charts, graphics and a few bullet points. Don’t allow the slides to lead you. They should support your story. Remember: You are the visual, and the slide is the aid.
Tell your story. Know your value proposition and tell a compelling story. Focus on Who, Why and How.