No matter how good your tech or service may be, if you can’t pitch it extremely well — in a simple yet powerful way — your business will fail. Selling your idea is as important as the idea itself…
Founders everywhere, from all types of startups, often have the ‘field of dreams attitude’ that if they just build it, people will come. It’s an entitlement attitude. The classic line in the tech startup world is, “this is something Google will want to buy.” You know how many founders have said that and ended up going broke?
FYI, Google doesn’t give a shit about you. You have to make them care, and it starts with learning how to pitch your deal in the sexiest way possible.
I’ve been extremely fortunate in my career as an entrepreneur. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing presenters and innovators, thus learning various ways to close a deal via the pitch. In fact, one of my business partners right now is probably the very best presenter I’ve ever had the good fortune to work with. It’s a huge reason we are partners.
In recent months we were invited to present to two Fortune 100 companies in very intense settings. One of the presentations consisted of us pitching approximately 20 C-Suite execs and the other was a pitch day, but with a twist. We had to present in a timed 20-minute slot, sandwiched between four other companies. There was literally a time clock at the back of the boardroom (no joke – just like a shot clock in basketball) so we knew when our 20 minutes ended!
I’ll use these two Fortune 100 presentations we gave to break down how you can successfully pitch the big fish on your company.
1. It’s about them, not you: Most entrepreneurs have a go-to pitch that explains how great their service is and all the wonderful features (“I’m the best and here’s why…”). Just so you know, this is generic and even slightly egotistical. If you want to be authentic, explain how your tech/service is a solution to their current problems. Prior to the pitch, complete an insane amount of due diligence on the group you are presenting to. The key is to find out what projects they are working on, and see if your company can help with those projects.
If you want to make a lot of money, make other people’s lives easier. By providing a solution to a Fortune 100 company’s problems, you are on the path to potential riches. Of course, the hard part is figuring out what those pains are. Learn their business and industry inside out. Base your pitch almost entirely around their pains.
2. Be a human, not a robot: If you are pitching to a full boardroom, as is typically the case for Fortune 100 companies, make sure you at least get an intro from everyone. Ask people for their name and role and thank them for their time before jumping into your pitch. This is the polite thing to do, but it also reveals exactly what each individual’s area of expertise is. By learning their formal title/role, you’ll know what kind of language to use in your pitch. President of Marketing likely needs much different verbiage than an engineer. Know your audience.
3. Find a way to elicit a modest amount of fear: Let the audience know that you have done your homework on their competition. If you are in talks with their competition, let them know. If you aren’t, let them know how your service/tech can give them a leg up. Fear is the greatest motivator.
4. 40% Rule: When pitching to big shots, be respectful of their time. Therefore, don’t tell them your life story. They only have time for 40% of your company story, so make sure you hit them with the best stuff and not the boring details. If you can’t pitch your company in 5-7 minutes, your pitch sucks and is way too complicated.
5. Instigate questions: By making sure to only give them the best information about your company and how it can help with their pains (40% rule), you’ll likely provoke follow-up questions. But you have to ask for the questions…
Although your audience may work for a huge multi-national, even they can be shy. My partner is great at opening up questions. He phrases it with something like this: “The floor is yours. Any questions or feedback on how we may be able to improve your company?” This encourages responses and gets the momentum going. It’s a subtlety with huge returns. Of course, how you answer their questions will determine the outcome of your pitch. So be prepared for all potential rebuttals.
Get your audience to ask questions!
Pitching your company is the salt of business. Learn to master the pitch. Revel in the opportunity, and know that whoever you’re pitching is there for a reason… they think you may be able to help them. Keep that front and centre when preparing, and use these five tips to knock your presentation out of the park.
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