The dangers of pitching for the inexperienced entrepreneur

The scene was set. I had given up my job in the corporate sector and I was going to make it big with my new start up. I was a success. I worked long and hard and I’d seen former colleagues leave, taking vast business experience with them, and making a success of their fledgling businesses.

One month into my working hiatus, I just wasn’t confident with my business plan and no matter how much time I spent reading it, it didn’t get any better.

Everybody was telling me to stop procrastinating and get on with it. So, I did. I booked a holiday to Bali to think it over, get some long-deserved sunshine, and resolve the outstanding issues.

One beer led to another and frankly, I found it virtually impossible to concentrate with beech life, beer and gregarious travel-mates.

On returning to grey UK skies, I think I had my plan together for a marketing start up. The business plan was finished. By that I mean I could read it without laughing. Thank heavens for a 12-hour delay at the airport. It would never have been finished, otherwise.

My dad took me to a pitch-fest event where there was a huge buzz. There were people younger than me who had started their own business and already had pitched for funding successfully. What could possibly go wrong?

Good intentions, courage and bravado are not the winning equation, despite all my friends and colleagues telling me to go for it.

The prospect of pitching to investors filled me with horror. I felt sick. I had delivered lots of briefings, updates and technical material, but I’d never asked for money before.

I was told to identify the KPI in the panel. The key person of influence. The one person that I could give considerably more eye contact to as I spoke. This is easier said than done. The first event I observed, there were supposed to be seven dragons and only three turned up. There’s a lot of homework to be done. You have no control over who arrives, but if a few possible investing dragons show, that investment in time is invaluable.

My first pitch was fraught with difficulty. Before I started, I was already in a Q/A situation. Being asked tough questions by a dragon really threw me off guard. All of my planning went out of the window and I felt defeated before I managed to introduce myself to the group.

Key lesson – you have to know exactly what you want to say and back it up with numbers and a credible story.

Starting a business and asking for £50,000 without any personal equity wasn’t a winner either. You have no experience of running a business and you’re asking for a huge sum without risk to yourself? You have to show that you’re all in. Totally committed to the project. It’s not fun standing there on stage while home truths are landed like blows.

Be honest and sensible with revenue projections. Prove that some common sense and science has gone into these numbers. Talking big is great until your entire pitch unravels before you. Investors with lots of money, have lots of money to invest because they can smell a bad deal from a mile away. Don’t embarrass yourself with the ‘I believe in me and I will make my plan work’, against all the odds.

Finally, when challenged by an investor, don’t try to outsmart him or her. Always be respectful. It’s their money, not yours. Yes, you want to look smart, but not at their expense. Remember you want an ongoing relationship with these guys that will progress through the ups and downs of your business development. Pretending to know all the answers when you have little or no experience doesn’t help. Showing humility and not being afraid to ask for help are positive attributes. Humility and ambition based on common sense and what is reasonably achievable set you up as a credible investment.

Is your pitching ability holding you back from selling your products or attracting funding for your business? In the course of just one day, Elaine Powell can help you to deliver a powerful pitch for any context.

Tickets are selling fast, so book your place today!