Having been involved in a handful of ventures, I learned quickly to take advantage of every opportunity I had to practice “the pitch.” For any entrepreneur pitching their business can be a daily routine. Most probably practice their pitch everyday, without even knowing it. Talking to a friend, answering the “how are you” question at work, and making small talk at family gatherings are all opportunities to practice your pitch when the topic surfaces.
I want you to understand the importance of recognizing that these are all opportunities, so learn to PAY ATTENTION and take advantage of them.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?
As an entrepreneur and in business, we should all be aware of how much we use our pitch. Not only in presenting to an investor, but in all sales. You pitch your ideas to your suppliers, partners, coworkers, bosses, clients, customers, everyone. In some form or another, you have to answer their question, “what’s in it for me” and “why should I care?”
Not only do you need to “pitch” everyday, you better get good at it if you want it to be heard. When pitching you will be challenged with a lack of time, distractions, questions, your own nervousness, or the headache you cannot kick. Anything and everything will be clawing at your focus and can kill your effectiveness in appealing to your audience. On the other hand, take every opportunity to practice your pitch, over and over again, until it is programmed deeply into your brain, and you will be able to pitch in your sleep.
THE 15-SECOND PITCH
I recently read an interesting article by the founder of Weebly, in which he describes his experience pitching to the Y Combinator out in Palo Alto, CA. As founder David tells the story, he had about 15 seconds to pitch before being bombarded by questions. The questions escalated to the point where he was actually carrying on two totally different conversations in the same room with different investors.
Wow, it seems you are going to want have this pitch second nature and know your stuff right? Well it sounds like after a 15-minute push and few back-end hours, David ended up with the financing he needed for Weebly (Yay for him). But are you ready to be thrown into the lion’s den?
STEPPING UP TO THE PITCH
Currently, I am preparing to woo investors this year for my startup RentUpdate.com. My partner and I are revamping the business plan and are preparing to start pitching to investors by mid-year. Today, I had stopped by the office quickly to drop off some paperwork and I found an opportunity to practice my pitch.
While at the office, I ran into a co-worker who had asked me if I was still working on RentUpdate. I was busy trying to get out of there and wanted to give him the 10-second spiel (thanks to Scott on the correct spelling for ‘spiel’). Anyway I hesitated for a second, before deciding to take the opportunity to pitch him the business. Pending my upcoming year I thought, “Hell, might as well start practicing.” So I did, and about 10 minutes and a few questions later, he was interested and told me I should pitch the idea to my boss as a possible investor… Interesting.
PITCH TIL IT HURTS
Over the years what I’ve noticed about myself as a salesperson (the same that anyone should notice), is that I get better every time I make my presentation or pitch. Different people, different responses, different environment, different questions, are all things that change with each new prospect. Thus, with each new prospect and every pitch, I become more confident, refined and prepared to answer questions before they become questions.
PITCH TO EVERYONE
Take the opportunity to make your pitch to anyone that will listen. Start with your significant other, your buddy, your parents, coworkers, whomever. And you don’t have to give them the “FULL” presentation with slides, handouts, and special effects, but just give them the raw pitch. Explain to them what you’re working on and why you think or “know”, it will work. Practice changing it up and morphing your pitch to suit your audience. Mom might not be so tech savvy, so dumb it down a bit (sorry Mom) so that she can visualize the concept and see its potential. Your buddy on the other hand might be a techy geek, so get into the sweet Ajax features that you’ve got incorporated into the application. Bump into the marketing guy at work, talk to him about your plan to spread the word and ask him if he’s got any ideas.
- Ask: Ask for questions, feedback and ideas. It’s amazing how outsiders can often see more and tell you more about your business than you can, because there on the outside looking in.
- Embrace Perspective: Perspective is your friend. Someone in a hole can tell you with great detail every aspect of the hole, but it’s probably a good idea to ask other people who are not in the hole what they think the hole looks like.
- Get feedback and Pay Attention: If something is extremely difficult to explain to someone, then perhaps you’ve over-complicated it or perhaps you’re over-complicating the business itself.
Lesson Learned: Take advantage of every chance you get to discuss your business and practice your pitch with others. See them as the small jewels of opportunity that they are. These mini-pitches are helping you get ready for the big game. So when the time comes and you have your 15 seconds to shine for that million-dollar investment, you can knock it out of the park.