What to ditch during the business pitch

You’ve finally scored a meeting with the potential investor who has the power to make your cherished business dream a reality. What should – and shouldn’t – your business pitch include?

Don’t say, “There isn’t any competition in this space.” Even in the unlikely event that it’s true, any investor worth his or her salt is going to assume you’re too confident to recognise existing or potential competitive threats, or that you’ve done little research to figure out that the reason there’s no competition is because there’s no money to be made.

Don’t humble brag. For some reason, start-up owners often believe potential investors are won over by falsely modest lines such as, “Of course, all the assumptions in the business plan are incredibly conservative – chances are there will be far greater profits than we’ve allowed for.” In fact, they’ll conclude you have little idea about what will happen when the product or service hits the market and you’re clumsily trying to seduce them into believing they’ll make a handsome return without actually committing to it on paper.

Don’t act like you’re doing the investor a favour by pitching. The person you’re pitching to doesn’t need to be reminded that they’re not the only cashed-up fish in the sea. You’ll look amateurish trying to leverage “other interested parties” to pressure a prospect into making a quick investment decision.

Don’t treat the potential investor as a walking ATM. Yes, they know it’s their cash you’re after but they’d like to believe that you value their experience and know-how as well. You’ll find it easier to convince relative strangers to take the very real risk of funding your business idea if you make it clear you sincerely value their opinion.

Do clarify what problem you’re solving and how you’re solving it differently to everybody else. No matter how much time you’ve been granted to make your pitch, cut to the chase straight away and explain which of your target market’s problems you’re seeking to solve and the unique way you’re going to solve it.

Do explain how it is all going to work. How many widgets are you planning on selling in your first year of operation? How many and what kind of staff will make them? What will the margin be? While investors may not be interested in hearing you recite an entire business plan, a punchy summary of it ready to roll to persuade potential investors to part with their funds will be beneficial.

Do make it clear you’re aware of the sacrifices involved in creating a successful business. You might still be blissfully ignorant of the long hours, setbacks and never-ending worries that are involved in getting a venture off the ground, but your potential investor isn’t. That investor realises you won’t truly appreciate what you’ve signed up for until down the track, but he or she wants to be convinced you’re at least going into things with your eyes open and have the passion to persevere when the going gets tough.

Always remember that no one you’re delivering a business pitch to is under any obligation to give you their money – it’s your obligation to provide them with compelling reasons to do so.

This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.