By James Caan,Guardian Professional
Five simple steps: research your investor, prepare your patter, pay attention to detail, hold your focus and be passionate
If you want to succeed in business, you will have to master the art of pitching. Whether you are trying to win a new contract or need to bring in extra investment it is vital you know how to sell your business - it can be the difference between success and failure.
During my career, I have had to pitch hundreds of business ideas. And innumerable aspiring startups have pitched to me, not only during my time on Dragons’ Den but through my other ventures as well. I’ve recently reopened applications for my Recruitment Entrepreneur initiative, where I offer funding and mentoring to people who want to start a recruitment business. This year alone, I’ve seen 200 pitches through this initiative – some brilliant, some awful and some downright bizarre.
Use these five simple steps to help your pitch succeed:
1. Research – I cannot emphasise enough how vital it is to do your research. You need to find out about the investor or client you are pitching to. Thanks to the Internet, information has never been more accessible, so use tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. You will appear so much more credible and if you know your audience you will be able to relate with them on a much more personal level. It is much more appealing to do business with people you have made a connection with. I truly believe that people buy people before they buy a product or service. Just being able to talk about a previous deal that person has done gives you so much credibility, so having as much information as possible is key.
2. Preparation is key – Before making any pitch it is vital you spend time preparing; it shouldn’t be something you do last-minute. If you don’t spend time thinking about the purpose of your pitch and what you want to say, you are far more likely to trip in the heat of the moment and make mistakes. By preparing and knowing your patter inside and out you will feel more confident and do a much better job of selling your idea. Make sure you know all your figures, as you have to be prepared for in-depth questions. If you are asked a question and you aren’t sure of the answer, tell them you will find out and email them later that day. It is better to give the correct answer later than try to blag or bluff your way through.
3. Attention to detail – Make sure you dress appropriately - as the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. If you turn up in scuffed shoes looking scruffy, an investor or client won’t take you seriously. When I’m meeting someone who is pitching to me, I always think to myself, “How much effort did you make when coming to see me today?” Make sure you send the right message and show just how serious you are.
4. Keep things focused – Never lose sight of what you are pitching; your pitch has a very specific purpose which must never get lost in the details. PowerPoint can make you look professional if it is done well, but remember not to overdo the number of slides you have: five or six is a good rule of thumb. The content of your pitch is far more important than an all-singing, all-dancing presentation.
5. Be passionate – Remember you have to believe in your business if you want others to back you. Investors and customers want to see someone who really cares. You know your product better than anyone else and this should come across in your pitch. You have to believe in yourself before anyone else will.>>>