A great pitch can open doorways to resources that can help you grow and scale by leaps and bounds. A bad pitch, on the other hand, is a missed opportunity. Pre-empting what could go wrong with your pitch will stop you from derailing your pitch through some very avoidable mistakes. Here are 10 of the biggest and most common mistakes entrepreneurs need to avoid when making pitches plus tips on how to fix them.
1. Not Being Part of a Peer Network
When it comes to pitching, your strength is in the numbers. Build relationships with other entrepreneurs, thought-leaders, and mentors. Leverage these to keep abreast of opportunities and potential challenges in the marketplace. Being part of a peer network will help you gain valuable insider intel for new business ideas and also gain advice and support for your actual pitch. You will get a feel for what works and doesn’t work in your specific niche.
2. Not Doing Your Homework
Coming up with a great business idea and a successful pitch both require extensive groundwork in the form of research. Ask yourself these important questions. If you don’t have answers to any one of them it’s time to go back to the drawing board:
- Have you successfully validated your business idea?
- Do you have market research and competitor analysis that you can provide to support your claims?
- Have you created a solid business plan? This should include a revenue model and a marketing strategy. In other words, how do you plan to make money and how much are you realistically projected to make?
- Have you identified key milestones that you can plug in your pitch? These can be the successes that you’ve had along the way in terms of sales, other buy-ins, and new contracts, for instance.
- Have you researched your potential investor, their approach, and interests so you can adapt your pitch accordingly?
This kind of in-depth research gives you the raw data to form the backbone of a very convincing pitch. Once you have the material, it’s time to put it together.
3. Not Structuring the Pitch
It’s necessary to structure your pitch so that your thoughts are laid out in a lucid, step-by-step, and methodical manner. Without a structure, your presentation can seem haphazard and unplanned, both of which are red-flags for your pitch audience. Ideally, a pitch should consist of the following:
- An introduction about who you are and what your company is about. If you have a powerful or inspiring story that led to the creation of your startup, this would be a good time to talk about it. Also, discuss your team members and how their strengths contribute to your business.
- Talk about the problem that your product solves and how it attempts to do so. Provide specific research and examples to support your case. If you can bring a sample for your audience to look at or conduct a short demo, it can make your pitch a lot stronger.
- Provide a synopsis of your business plan, market research/validation, and competitor analysis.
- Talk about the challenges you foresee and how you plan to work through them.
- Discuss the financials and projections. Always have the right numbers on hand and be able to substantiate them if required.
- Q & A session to address investor questions and concerns.
4. Making Excessively Short or Long Pitches
Your pitch should be short, succinct, and super-focused on the essentials. But it can’t be 5 minutes or less either. Unless you’ve been allocated a specific timeframe, aim for a good 20 minutes for your pitch. Experts agree that this is an ideal timeframe to cover everything you need to but at the same time keep things concise. On another note, having this timeframe in mind when preparing your pitch will also help you narrow down on the absolute essentials to keep in your presentation. Cut anything that doesn’t add value or provide new information.
5. Not Being Able to Pitch on the Fly
You never know when you might be called to pitch. Aside from the usual places where you could bump into them like business meetings and conferences, you could meet potential investors at a coffee shop, or at the airport as you shuttle in and out of destinations. It helps to have a pitch in hand for all of these occasions.
6. Not Effectively Presenting the Pitch
Two of the biggest deal-breakers with pitching, are a sloppy appearance and ineffective presentation skills. Happily, these are easily resolved.
- Appearance is everything in business. But it doesn’t mean that you need to dress expensively. There are plenty of budget-friendly options for formal attire that you can wear instead. It’s a smart idea to rely on classic grooming tips i.e.keep a tidy, easily-maintained hairstyle. Facial hair should be trimmed neatly. Wear fresh, well-pressed clothing free from wrinkles and stains. If in doubt, wear a light, conservative fragrance.
- Practice your pitch in front of the mirror first and then in front of peers. Communication is both visual and verbal. Look at how you can make your presentation better in both aspects. Inc has a comprehensive guide on presentation skills that you can find here.
7. Being too Salesy
The overbearing-salesperson-pitch was, and still is, an investor/partner turn-off. The average consumer is only interested in how your product or service will help them or make their lives faster, better, or easier. The average investor is looking for a great idea backed by a solid plan. When you pitch, always focus on the benefits because aside from a bullet-proof business plan and strong numbers, these are all that count.
8. Being either Overconfident or underconfident
Confidence is tricky to get right. Overconfidence comes across as cockiness, while a lack of confidence makes you look unsure and unable to take up responsibilities. Being confident is simply about having a realistic sense of trust in your abilities without feeling the need to be superior to others. If confidence doesn’t come naturally to you, it’s important to expose yourself to as many situations as possible which require you to speak. Sign up for speaking lessons, if you feel you need a helping hand. Investors need to see a healthy sense of confidence in the pitch, otherwise, you will find it hard to win their trust.
9. Not Being Prepared for Questions or Feedback
Always leave some time in the end for a Q&A session. It shows that you’re transparent and available to address grey areas. If you’ve done the level of preparation outlined earlier in this article, you should be able to confidently address most questions. If there is anything you genuinely cannot answer, it is best, to be honest. Trying to fluff your way out in the presence of seasoned investors will work against you.
10. Inability to Learn from Rejection
Pitches take time to perfect. Even seasoned veterans take the time to prepare no matter how long they’ve been doing it. If your pitch was disastrous, it’s really not about the fact that you fell. It’s about whether you can pick yourself up again. Review what went wrong during the pitch and think about what you can do to make it better the next time around. Speak to your mentors or other veterans for their feedback and guidance. Use this intelligence to refine your next pitch. There isn’t any reason you can’t bounce back from defeat if you’re willing to do the work.
Also read our guide Pitching to Investors: Best Practices During the COVID-19 Crisis for more information that can help you. What is your biggest challenge when creating your pitch? Let us know in the comments below.