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It’s Not About You

I was working with a client to help him develop a client presentation.  His pitch was “we do this”, “our services provide”, etc.  What was missing was what’s in it for the client.  What are their needs and how was he going to meet them.  So, I asked him how this pitch had worked so far, and he admitted not so great.

Then I asked him, “You’ve been on the buying side, what were your needs?”

“I wanted a reliable provider who would deliver a consistent product on time at the price quoted.  No last-minute changes, delays or excuses.  And if there was a problem, would answer my calls and make it right.”

He quickly realized that his pitch wouldn’t have sold him either.  It was time to change his approach.

It's Not About You

Too often our pitches are simply about what we offer.  Whereas, it is about understanding the client’s needs and conveying how you can help.  Simply pitching a service without first identifying a need is like a putting a “Square peg in a round hole.” Yeah, you might be able to make it fit, but you have to force it.  That’s not how you win new customers.

Instead, ask a few questions –

“What’s your biggest challenge?”

“What’s working and what’s not?”

“How can I help you?”

Once you understand what the client needs, then you offer a solution.  It doesn’t feel like a pitch anymore, now you are helping them out.  And your prospect will see you as a partner, not a salesperson.

Honestly, no one wants to hear you talk about yourself or your company. Your clients are focused on themselves, their needs, and finding someone to offer the best solution. Your job is to figure out how to meet their needs.

Thoughtful, provocative, and probing questioning demonstrates that you are looking to address the client’s needs, not just simply pitch a service to make a sale.

Remember, it’s not about you.

 

It’s Not About You

You’ve gotta send the CEO

Recently, I was sitting on a panel that was tasked with deciding the recipient of 1 million euro grant to grow their businesses. I was one of five and we all came from an investor business backgrounds. We were provided the respective business plans in advance and each came to the table with our respective questions and concerns. Each company was provided 10 minutes to present the projects followed by a 20 minute Q&A.

One of the companies was represented by the founder/CEO, while the other chose to send the lead project manager of the research team. Neither presentation did. Much to move the needle and offered little beyond the business plan already submitted. Both presentations focused heavily on their respective technologies and were light on the business details of execution.

It was up to us to glean these details through the Q&A.

The CEO was forthright and acknowledged the weaknesses of his financial projections (his plan offered a 10-year projection with a hockey stick recently revenue curve). When pressed, he was confident in the first 24 months but beyond that was anyone’s guess. One of the other evaluators commented, “at least he’s honest….” He did demonstrate a command of the economics of his go to market strategy and provided a convincing argument for his approach. Further, when asked about why he was doing this, he offered a passionate reply that made me want to write him a check myself (OK, I wasn’t really going to write a check for a million euros, but you get my point). Needless to say, he got my vote, as well as, the vote of my fellow evaluators.

The second presentation did not go so well. To be honest, when a company CEO fails to present, the evaluators are already put off.  We were told he was very busy – yeah me too, but I made time to be here. At this point, even the best presentation would be facing an uphill battle to win us over.

As the discussion shifted from technology to execution, the presenter was challenged to justify the business strategy and the underlying financial assumptions.  Clearly, this was beyond her scope as a researcher. She offered that the financial details were produced by another department. The takeaway for the evaluators was that the company had sent the wrong person.

I do not know if in reality that the CEO would have done a better job, maybe it was just a flawed plan. But I do know in the first case, we were able to discuss with the principal our concerns proving him an opportunity to address and assuage them. In the second scenario, the presenter simply raised more concerns than she resolved.

Ultimately, we want to get it directly from the horse’s – and that means the CEO needs to be there. I get that you’re busy and it may not always be feasible to be at every meeting.  But I can tell then your absence is the elephant in the room and will be a challenge to overcome with a PowerPoint, regardless of how good it is.

You’ve gotta send the CEO

How Important is a Pitch Deck?

A few years ago, I joined Toastmasters. I joined because I honestly believe that 1) Public Speaking is one of the most compelling marketing tools in a entrepreneur’s bag of tricks and 2) Almost all of our public speaking could use a little work and outside guidance.  Don’t believe me? Set up you cam to capture your most profound thoughts and after 5 minutes play it back. I hate to say “I told you,” – oh, who am I kidding? – See, I  told you!

Your pitch is your one big chance to get that ever elusive “angel” to become interested in you next Uber like business that’s a guaranteed Unicorn. Are you really going to go it alone?

I was commiserating with a long time friend of mine, Troy Norcross, about sitting through yet another batch of bad pitches.  “You know we can help those startups? They should talk to us.” Yup, he’s got a startup and it specifically helps perfect your pitch – Startup Business Review. He also work with you to get in front of the right investors.

How important is a pitch deck?

It’s a great question – and a terrible question all at once. I think that one of the biggest issues that people face when pitching is that there isn’t just a single pitch deck that they need. There’s the pitch deck that you send when you can’t present the business yourself, the 20 minute stand up pitch deck, the 5 minute pitch deck, the pitch deck you use to pitch your business and the pitch deck you use to pitch your product.

How important is your pitch deck? How important is it for you to convince people to think and act differently?

What should you lead with?

Empathy and Curiosity. In the first slide you have to communicate to your audience that you have a shared view of the world – and that you might have something new to share with them.

Some pitch decks lead with explaining the problem. Some lead with describing the size of the opportunity. Some lead with their amazing team. The most important thing is that you lead with a message that your audience is going to immediately relate to and then want to learn more about.

What are the key messages that you need to convey?

This all depends on who you are pitching – but if we’re assuming that you’re pitch deck is for investors the most important message you can convey is that you are “investable”. The pitch deck needs to leave business angel the feeling that you genuinely understand your market, your customers pain, your solution and your teams ability to deliver.

Can you explain what “Go to Market” entails?

“Go To Market” – In earlier times Go To Market meant putting your products (eggs, spices, garments, etc.) into a cart and walking to the market. The market was where all the people would come and walk in and out and through the stalls looking at everyone’s goods. You would arrange your products to look as attractive as possible in the hopes of selling as much as you could.

Go To Market in the digital world is much the same, but instead of taking your cart to a centralized market, you have to come up with a strategy that allows you to reach those people who might want to buy your product or service and to get them to come to your website (your stall) and then make sure that your product presents in as attractive way as possible.

Put more simply – a go to market strategy describes how you are going to make sure that as many potential customers as possible come to you.

Another nuance of a good Go To Market strategy is that you want the “right” customers – not just “lots” of customers. You want to reach people who are looking for a solution to a problem that you solve – and who have the money and ability to pay for it.

What about the Revenue Hockey Stick?

Ah – the hockey stick. It’s that part of the graph that shows you growing from meager numbers of customers and revenue – and suddenly shooting to the stratosphere. The hockey stick has become a bad cliché. Most investors just let out a “sigh” when they see a hockey stick forecast.

If you’re going to put a hockey stick in your pitch deck, be ready. investors will grill you on all the assumptions that you have made to create the rapid growth.

Some US-based investors don’t even want to see the hockey stick – they know you have one in the deck. Some UK investors actually rate you as being “naïve” if you have a hockey stick – unless you can back it up.

The best time to put a hockey stick in your deck is when you’ve had the initial traction and you can show real data that you’ve crossed the bend in the hockey stick – when the graph looks more like a boomerang – with the potential  to become a hockey stick – now that’s interesting.

What should you avoid?

Here’s a list of things that I think everyone should avoid:

  • Never create a deck without answering each of these questions:
    • Who is my audience
    • How much time do I have to present / does my audience have to read?
    • After seeing my deck, what do I want my audience to think?
    • After seeing my deck, what do I want my audience to do?
    • At the end of the deck is there a clear, simple and reasonable call to action? (Call me for more info. Invest £500K for 20% today. etc.)
  • Too much text – and text that is so small you can’t read it. If you’re presenting the deck use the Guy Kawasaki idea of no font smaller than 30 point. If you’re not going to present – but only mailing the deck – no font smaller than 20 point.
  • Too many slides: Really you should aim for 10 – 20 slides. You can have a further 10 slides in the back of the deck to answer specific questions – but remember,  the first 10-15 slides need are a stand alone complete presentation.

What do investors really look at?

Pitching is selling – and your vision and your ability to lead a team to deliver that vision is what investors are looking at. You could have the best idea and team in the world – and if the investor doesn’t connect with you – it’s not going to happen.

Do I need an exit strategy?

The Exit Strategy is another one of those “almost a cliché” things. Most business plans say: “And then we’ll be bought out by Google, Facebook,Amazon or someone else.” – What an investor wants to know is not what is “your” exit strategy – but what is “their” exit strategy. When will the business be at a point where they can take their money back and what returns are you hoping to offer? Are you going to go public? Are you going for acquisition? Of is this a business that you want to run for the rest of your life? ( A lifestyle business )

How can you help?

Your pitch is a critical part of the success of your business. I can help you look not just at the pictures and text on your slides – but with the pitch itself. I do this by asking you questions and helping you to see your pitch from the viewpoint of the audience.

Right now, I’m offering a review of your pitch deck against 25 key points. After reviewing the deck, I’ll spend 30 minutes with you 1 on 1 sharing my ideas on where you’ve nailed it – and where you can improve.

After you’ve had a personal pitch review with me – you’ll look at your business differently, your audience differently – and your pitch differently.

Register at www.startupbusinessreview.co.uk for your pitch review today.

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