How to Sell an Idea to Investors to Fund Your Startup
The business of selling ideas is almost as big as entrepreneurs hope their ideas will become. Multiple TV shows, like Shark Tank and Dragon’s Den, are dedicated to this very task, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Venture capital firms have cropped up around the world working to fund startups. Online platforms, like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, are also becoming increasingly popular to secure investments from consumers. Despite the increasing opportunities for acquiring funding, there is also a rapidly growing number of businesses competing for that funding. That makes it more important than ever to stand out from the crowd to wow investors. Take a look at these tips to learn how to sell an idea:
- Write your business plan
- Tailor your pitch to investors
- Start with an elevator pitch
- Break the pitch into three parts
- Develop emotion
- Create a stunning visual presentation
- Pitch to a five-year-old
- Practice, don’t memorize
- Be an expert but don’t be perfect
- End with a question-and-answer session
Write Your Business Plan
Successfully pitching a concept takes a lot more than just putting together a flashy presentation. Before an investor is going to offer you and your business money, they need to know that your idea isn’t half-baked and impossible to carry out. That’s where the business plan comes in. This written document outlines every aspect of your business, from its name to its marketing plan. It examines the industry, lists the assets required for success, and predicts the future of the company. Starting with a business plan will help to ensure you know every detail that an investor will inevitably want to learn from your pitch.
How to Sell an Idea by Tailoring Your Pitch
The best way to secure an investment for your startup is to tailor your pitch to the people you want to invest. This level of tailoring can be done through the language you use, the length of the pitch, and the content you include in your presentation. For example, if an investor is unfamiliar with the industry in which your business operates, using jargon and technical terms is likely to confuse rather than impress them. Meanwhile, campaigns on platforms like Kickstarter benefit from having lots of high-quality video content because videos are often better at getting concepts across than massive blocks of text. By understanding what your audience wants from a pitch and creating it specifically for them, you’re more likely to achieve the results you want.
Start With an Elevator Pitch
When it comes to knowing how to sell an idea, there’s some debate about how long a presenter has to get their point across before the audience’s attention wanes. Some estimates suggest that entrepreneurs have three minutes, while others estimate that they only have a minute and a half to capture audience attention. In either case, that’s an especially short amount of time to present and explain an entire business concept. That’s why you should begin your presentation with an “elevator pitch.” To explain it simply, an elevator pitch is a short introduction of your business that could be delivered in the time it takes an elevator to move from one floor to another. It should explain the overall concept of your idea so your audience knows the most important details about your business, even if their attention drifts after the elevator pitch.
Break the Pitch into Three Parts
So your presentation starts with an elevator pitch. But it’s going to need a lot more information than that in order to be successful. When figuring out how to sell an idea, you can begin writing a presentation by breaking it up into the following three parts:
- The Opportunity: Start by explaining the opportunity in the market that will allow your startup to succeed. Discuss not just what the opportunity is, but how your business plans to capitalize on it, how your business will improve the lives of customers, and what your vision for your business growth is.
- The Market: Once you’ve explained the opportunity, you need to reinforce your pitch by proving that your business is going to succeed. The best way to do this is to explain the existing market industry. How does your idea fill a gap in the market? Is the industry sparsely populated or is it already over-saturated? What’s your plan for competing against stiff competition? Who are the customers you intend to serve? How will the market grow and evolve to benefit your startup? The more you put potential investors at ease regarding the likelihood of success in the market, the more likely they are to feel comfortable funding your project.
- The Business Model: By this point, your audience should have a good grasp on your overall concept and how that concept fits in the industry. Now you can start explaining the nitty-gritty details that investors want to know but don’t want to be immediately bored with. This section of your presentation should especially focus on explaining how you intend to make money (and, thus, provide a return on any investment given to you). Explain your pricing structure, your method of manufacturing and distributing your product, the costs associated with running your business (rent, shipping, employee wages, etc.), and your projections for how much of the market share you will be able to capture.
Persuasion is an art that all entrepreneurs should practice when learning how to sell an idea. The main goal of persuasion is to get your audience to take a desired action. In the case of pitching your business idea, that action is for the audience to invest in your business. One of the best ways to achieve this outcome is to use the power of emotion. Emotion is a better decision-making driver than logic and reasoning. In the case of a business pitch, some especially effective emotions include urgency, nostalgia, awe, and anger (perhaps over the fact that your product hasn’t been thought up before).
Create a Stunning Visual Presentation
When delivering a presentation, you want to deliver it in a way that appeals to all audience members. In most cases, that means using mixed mediums. If a person doesn’t respond well to strictly-verbal speeches, including visual cues can help them pay attention for longer. That’s why creating an eye-catching visual presentation to go along with your oral presentation is a must. Good visual presentations include high-quality images and videos that correlate with what you’re saying as you’re saying it. For example, when discussing the features of a product, images displaying those features should be shown at the same time. One thing to avoid is a text-heavy visual presentation. If you include a multitude of text (even in the form of bullet-points), your audience will begin to read the text which will detract from your verbal presentation. The visual cues you use should compliment your speech without eclipsing it.
Pitch to a Five-Year Old
Before pitching your idea to a group of important investors, test your presentation on a five-year-old (or a child of similar age). After your presentation, quiz them on it. Although a child might not be able to explain financial projections and market share to you, they should be able to tell you what the concept at the heart of your presentation is. This test, if conducted successfully, shows that you’ve explained your concept so clearly that anyone and everyone can understand it.
Practice, Don’t Memorize
You should practice your presentation. You should know the stats and research about your business idea like the back of your hand. But you should not memorize your entire presentation. Memorizing a speech word-for-word most often results in something stiff and lacklustre that will guarantee lost attention and a bored audience. If you’re worried about losing your place in your presentation or forgetting a tricky stat, write down easy-to-read bullet points to guide you through flow, but let the actual words of your speech come naturally to you. This tactic will make you more personable and increase the chances that an investor will want to work with you.
Be an Expert but Don’t Be Perfect
Knowing every detail about your business is an incredibly important part of any pitch. That includes knowing the flaws and weak points of your idea (or at least recognizing that they exist). No business is 100 percent perfect and showing awareness of that fact tells potential investors that you’re business-savvy and humble, rather than arrogant and of the belief that you don’t need to improve. Understanding that your business has room for improvement also makes an investor more willing to work with you because they know you’ll listen to their ideas and the expertise they bring to the table in order to make your business better, and their investment worth it.
End With a Question and Answer Session
No matter how thorough your idea pitch is, your audience is likely to have questions about your business (especially if they see something worth investing in). Giving them the opportunity to ask those questions, instead of immediately jumping to a money demand, displays that you’re interested in a partnership of honesty and trust rather than a cash grab. It also further demonstrates your knowledge, which is sure to impress.
Many startups rely on investments to get off the ground and succeed. Make sure you acquire those investments with these tips.
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