We just wrapped up our Deal Flow Summit in NYC and it got me thinking about how pitches go wrong. Here are 7 ways to bomb a pitch:
1) Dear Sir/Madam: If I read Dear Sir/Madam or similar generic greetings, it’s an instant-archive. It’s not because I think so much of myself that I need you to spell my name right but I do need you to address it to me. Dear Sir/Madam is the clearest possible signal you could send that you are blasting your pitch to anyone and everyone.
2) Buy Now! and other used-car tricks: investing in or acquiring a business is a serious, long-term investment decision. Pressure tactics and hard sells are not only inappropriate, they’re often counter-productive. Respect the process and don’t pressure the investor the way a used-car salesman would.
3) Fail to follow-up: You can make the best pitch of your life and have the investor on the edge of his/her seat, but if you don’t follow up it could all be for naught. Remember that your pitch settles in somewhere between the other 20 meetings, phone calls, and pitches that a busy executive will have any given day.
4) Cheap Out on Presentation: It is inexcusable today to have a cut-rate presentation. Whether you’re using PowerPoint or Indesign or a top-end software, make sure that you take the time to edit your presentation and make it look professional. Send it around to friends and family. An executive that we’re partnered with recently sent his presentation to his mother for review and guess what? She caught more mistakes than I or anyone else who reviewed it did. Lesson: it only costs you time to edit your presentation and it can cost you millions to skip this step.
5) Talk about everything but the main event: You’re meeting with the prospect to talk about your company or deal and you want to build rapport so you talk about your kids, what sports you both enjoy, and every other topic of conversation EXCEPT what you’re both there to discuss. I don’t know how many meetings I’ve thoroughly enjoyed but left without any idea what the company did, what they were seeking, or how I could participate. When you’re meeting with a busy executive you’re working in a set time window and if you spend 50% or more of your time building rapport, you don’t get any extra time or brownie points for knowing that he likes fishing or has a cousin who lives in your hometown.
6) Forget the financials: When I’m meeting with a potential acquisition target or a company seeking funding, I’m zeroing in on the financials. Too often, I attend what I expect to be a formal, serious meeting to discuss a potential investment but the other party is ill-prepared to discuss the numbers. Not only is this a sign that you’re unprepared, it’s a waste of everyone’s time. I and a lot of other potential investors will likely reschedule the meeting for a time when you have the necessary details to have a real discussion. Some investors, though, won’t give you a second shot.
7) Meet with the wrong person: I recently scheduled a call to introduce a company we’re invested in with what would be a huge account. The team prepared for the meeting and when I jumped on the conference call we quickly learned that my contact wasn’t the decision-maker and was unfamiliar with the company’s sector. The lesson I took away is to make sure that the person you’re meeting with is A) qualified to make the decision B) familiar enough with the sector and C) taking the meeting seriously. In my case, the person we were meeting with was a principal at the firm (meeting criteria A) but a friend and thus willing to take any meeting I set up (violating criteria C) and unfamiliar with the sector (violating criteria B).
I hope that these lessons I shared help you craft an amazing pitch.
The Private Equity Investment Group
Key Biscayne, FL