Sell, don’t tell: 5 ways to improve your business plan pitch.

1.) Understand your audience. One of the first rules of selling is that you’ve got to know where your customers are coming from. If pitching to investors, find out how much they typically invest, what they’ve invested in before (e.g. stage, industry) and how those investments have worked out. Probe to determine their turn-ons and turn-offs, and tailor your pitch accordingly.

2.) Share your story. Explain how you came up with the idea. Take your audience through the process that led you to your “aha” moment, and you’ll increase the chance they’ll catch the fever.

3.) Appeal to both reason and emotion. In the early part of your pitch, focus on tight logic. Explain why the environment is attractive (e.g. big, growing market, trends in your favor), who the customers are, what they need but can’t get today, and why your product or service will satisfy those customer needs. Then, switch gears for a moment. Step away from your slides, and bring your product to life. Ramp up the energy level in the room. Show your audience a quick demo, profile a customer before and after they use your product, or share a short video with music.

4.) Be humble. It’s great to be confident about your idea. But don’t forget humility. Be honest about the risks involved, the theories yet to be proven, and the hurdles to be overcome. Show that you are aware of what lies ahead, including a degree of uncertainty. More “here’s a key challenge, and how we’ll approach it”, and less “we’ve got all the answers”. You’ll be more likely to have audience members pulling for you to succeed, instead of trying to find fault.

5.) Ask for the sale. If you are raising capital, avoid ending your pitch with a fizzle. Don’t just say thanks for your time. Ask if they’d like to invest. Request introductions for advice, capital, or customers. Remember your ABCs – always be closing.

Got other advice on how to make sure you’re selling, not just telling?

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