The Effective Business Pitch

Once a week, I go to a meeting where I meet new entrepreneurs and potential clients. Before the meeting begins and again after it is over we have time to mingle and meet. The invariable question sounds simple but it is complicated. My version usually holds a bit of humor.

“So, tell me about your business; what do you do when you’re not attending these meetings?”

This is the same question we begin with when you are pitching your business to a funding “angel” or to a panel in a pitch competition.

The underlying request is simple: you now have three- to five-minutes to impress me.

For some, this is a simple question to answer. If it is a landscaping business, the language is simple and quite direct. However, if you are starting a technology company, the information may be a bit complicated for some to understand.

Here are some rules concerning the Pitch Speech.

1) K.I.S.S. Keep It Short and Simple – Depending on how captive the audience may be, you have between 30 seconds to five minutes to give a pitch speech to a potential “angel” or client.

Do not use jargon or acronyms specific to the industry unless you have defined the terms or they are absolutely necessary for the presentation. The angels or panelists are most likely not in your business, but they are not dummies. Keep the information straight forward and in the simplest terms possible.

2) Know your audience – This is true no matter if this is a five minute or 30 minute presentation. How much does this person already now about your business and the industry? This does not mean to “dumb down” the message, just use simpler language to explain what your business does.

3) Know the problem – If your potential client does not have a definable problem, the first half of your business model is kaput. You do not have to be solving something tremendous; even a small problems needs solutions.

However, the problem must be real, not simply perceived and affects those throughout the industry (ideally more potential clients).

4) Know the solution – This is where many presenters get into trouble, the solution can seem convoluted and confusing. You should be able to talk about the solution in a short, three sentence explanation. Leave out the minor details; go for the over view instead.

Here is where I remind you of Rule #1 – K.I.S.S.

5) Know your market – This should be the simple part of this exercise, but it is not. Exactly who is dealing with this problem? You cannot solve the world’s problems, so focus on the market most suitable to the business. Is your initial market within your city or region? If your market is national, where do you wish to start? The old adage is “Think Global and Act Local.” It is easier to get started in your home territory than in some distant city.

In my own business, my market is actually worldwide for I have clients in Europe and Asia. However, my pitch is usually limited to regional businesses in central U.S.

*If you have gotten this far in your pitch, you have done quite well. It is here that you need to check your timing and the information you still must disseminate during this session.

6) Know the competition – Who else is doing what you are proposing; who will be in direct competition with you? How are you different from these other companies? What do you have that they do not? You will be asked these questions during the Q&A session. Make sure you can answer them without beating around the bush.

7) Know your numbers – Know your expenses and income in realistic terms. Even in a pitch competition where you are not asking for money, the money question will invariably come up. How much does it cost to produce your product and what are you selling it for? What is your profit margin and expected sales for the next 12 months? What is the value of your business?

8) Know how to listen – This may be the most important part of the pitch that many miss. You need to listen critically. That means listening with an open mind. Do not try the devise answers while the question is still being asked. Do not try to out think the “Angel.”

Do listen for key words and ideas that you can incorporate in to your business scheme. One of the best listeners presented recently at a 1 Million Cup Club meeting. When an SME in the audience caught an inflated number, the presenter revised his position in the very next response.

Also, if you do not have an answer, say so. It shows your honestly. Tell the individual that you will get the answer and get back with them as soon as possible. The only reason not to get back to the person is your own death.

9) Know the routine. Watch a few episodes of “Shark Tank” on ABC. Listen to the pitches and the Q&A sessions. This way you can anticipate what questions to expect and how they are answered. Note what happens when an answer seems to be too good to be true, the presenter is usually denied any funding. The successful presenters appear to be those who have done their homework, are specific as to what the moneys are for and have a well-developed product to sell.

This does not mean you need a hard product to sell; your pitch can be for a service or other intangible product. For example, I am in the business of Business Communication Consulting. My product is my knowledge and experience.

Put time into your pitch. Be open to new ideas and constructive criticism. Use the exercise as a growth tool as it is a sales tool. Most importantly, have fun.

About David Rosman

David is the winner of the Missouri Press Foundation's "Best Columnist" in 2013 (First Place) and 2014 (Second Place), the 2016 Harold Riback Award for excellence in writing, and the winner of the 2007 Interactive Media Award for excellence in editing.
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