We are often asked to assist our SME clients in preparing a “pitch” for major new business or for a new equity investment and it’s an area where our approach surprises the client as we strongly believe that the key to a winning pitch is “less is more” but the content and presentation must be perfect!
If you’re pitching your SME, whether for major new clients or investment, it’s crucial to present in the best possible way.
If you are regular followers of our SME articles you know that we liken the SME operator or CEO to the conductor of an orchestra as he brings his team together at the exact moment to create great harmony and success.
Open with impact – a pitch is like a performance and first impressions are crucial.
Pitching to major potential clients or investors is critical to any growing SME. Yet it is a changing environment the more sophisticated buyer or investor is returning to the time tested value of looking at and listening to the individual and placing less emphasis on or even discounting lengthy PowerPoint presentations and the use of props.
Respect your potential buyer or investor and show that respect from within. If you believe in your pitch and truly respect the potential buyer or investor it will shine through. Smile and be human small points matter.
The Objective: Without a pre developed written objective you won’t know your true criteria for success, so don’t pitch without one. Try and establish before the pitch exactly what the client really wants both in terms of specification and service and as importantly what the client needs. This may be different to what they want. If pitching for investment always use a third party to identify the investor’s guidelines and “hot spots” before you meet. Finally include in your written objective exactly what you want to achieve in the meeting, ask yourself would I buy this? Ask your mentors what they think, rehearse your pitch, the first time you do it you may feel embarrassed but it pays off so stick with it.
Your team: Take the team that is most appropriate. The CEO doesn’t have to be involved, though they can confer valuable status if you’re pitching to a larger organisation. But do make sure your team includes the person who will be doing the work if you win the bid. If pitching for investment have the SME’s “engine drivers” present, investors are usually going to back the people ahead of the figures. Allow time for each team member to shine. An investor will look closely at your team dynamics and how well you relate. That said don’t take a football team if you are pitching to an individual.
Their team: It’s reasonable to ask who is on the panel and evaluating the bids, though you probably won’t be told. If you do find out, do your research and match your team by having people who complement their skills. If their finance director will be present, make sure your team includes someone who can answer financial questions. If the investor brings along his lawyer or accountant be aware they will ask questions if only to justify their fee, so be prepared.
First impressions: Be yourself and relax, this is your pitch and you are proud of it. Allow five minutes of small talk – it’s all part of getting to know one another. Then open with impact. Really plan and rehearse this opening. A presentation is like a performance, so be sure to entertain as you inform. Be anything but boring. Do something at the front end that gets everyone’s attention.
If you’re pitching a game-changer for your SME, say so; or find a great quote or an arresting image. If pitching for investment it’s probably because you have already invested every cent you can. Say so, demonstrate your passion and commitment, tell the investor why you are going to make this business work. Again seek out a winning quote or image to imprint in their mind. Mentally invite and bring them on board as stakeholders from that very first meeting, show you like them.
There’s a lot you can do beyond PowerPoint, samples brochures etc – but if you must use them, use just one word on each slide. Hand out the presentation at the end, or everyone will just leaf through it and jump directly to the price. If pitching for investment show only headline figures and be prepared to leave the detailed figures with the investor at the conclusion of the meeting. Don’t just leave printed figures leave a USB with the work sheets open so that an investor can “work” the figures, show trust.
Finally don’t ask the investor to sign a CA, if a regular investor they probably see several opportunities a week, if they wanted to replicate your business they would already be out building it. By definition they are not interested in running a business any more – their USP is now their capital.
Observe: Have an ‘observer’ on your team who watches and notes how people respond and takes detailed notes. If meeting an investor at night say up front “I know you must be tired we will only take 30 minutes of your time”. Let the investor relax.
The Q&A: When do you take questions? Do you let people interrupt as you go or ask evaluators to hold questions till the end? Allowing interruptions can completely hijack a presentation. I like to ask that they save the questions, as they may well be addressed during the presentation. But if it’s really burning, deal with it quickly and don’t get side-tracked.
How did we do? You don’t want to walk out without feedback on how you’ve done. So ask: “Has this addressed your needs? Did we drop any clangers? Is there any further information you need?” If the feedback is that you didn’t answer something sufficiently, you can always follow up with supplementary information.
The goodbye: The most revealing moment of all. When all the formalities are done and the performance is over – that’s often the most telling moment. You’re walking out to the lift, shoulders are relaxed, guards are down, and you’ll get nuggets of feedback via body language, a smile, a comment such as “‘you did really well” (a big thumbs up) or “you might want to go back and sharpen your pencil” (lower your price).
Listen and observe that chemistry. At that moment, you will know whether or not you’re in with a chance.