As an entrepreneur, the ability to clearly articulate what it is your business does in layman’s terms is a critical skill every entrepreneur needs in their toolbox. While some might say the ultimate expression of this is the investor pitch, I would say that as an entrepreneur, you are always pitching your business. Every sales call, networking introduction, employee interview, and really any first-contact communication is a type of pitch. If you can do those things well, you can probably pitch well, and conversely, if you improve your pitch, you probably improve your ability to communicate about your business in those other scenarios.
Coincidentally, Bunker Labs has joined forces with USAA to support their 100th Anniversary Pitch Contest, which is accepting applications in various cities through July 2022. So there’s never been a better time to review your current pitch.
We Can Help!
So, what we’ve done here at Bunker is build a series of articles to get you up to speed and ready to hone and give that pitch:
- Pitching 101: The Pitch Lengths and Vocabulary
- Pitching 102: What Goes in the Pitch?
- Pitching 103: The Leave Behinds
- Pitching Pro Tips from Pitching Coach
For more advice on pitching and building that all-important pitch deck, check in with the Transition Podcast Episode 31, where host Mike Steadman interviews William Lutz on the subject.
Upping Your Post-Pitch Game
So, you’ve given your pitch, and everything delivered smoothly. You’ve impressed potential investors with your preparation, you’ve said all the right things that show you’re professional, easy to work with, and are running with a viable plan. Now it’s time to focus on the post-pitch, which is easily the most overlooked phase of pitch preparation.
The post-pitch is everything that happens between the final word of your prepared pitch and getting a final yes or no from an investor, or a ruling from the judges. The post-pitch phase might just last a few minutes after the end of your pitch, or it might stretch out for weeks as you follow-up with investors to answer questions. The post-pitch generally encompasses two things, fielding questions about your pitch, and figuring out your leave-behind strategy.
You’ve finished the pitch! Congrats! Now you can field any questions. Below is a list of tips to prepare for a Q&A.
Let Them Ask The Question: There is nothing more off-putting than being interrupted. Let them get the entire question out before you cut them off with an answer.
Know Your Business: You are the expert. You should know your own business inside and out before you start pitching.
Anticipate Questions: Have a separate note page or note card in hand that has a list of relevant numbers in easy-to-read large font. Questions might be about cost per unit, last year’s revenue, labor overhead, or profit, number of units shipped, etc. These are numbers you might not be able to rattle accurately off the top of your head. A simple, well-organized list can help.
Don’t Make Things Up: If you don’t know the answer to a question, offer to get back to them with that information. In certain pitching venues, it’s perfectly acceptable to have a pitching partner to the side that can access information via their phone, a laptop, or the business plan and provide precise answers while you move on to fielding other questions.
Own Up to Problems: Don’t mislead anyone. If you get asked about a real issue in your business, don’t get evasive or defensive. Investors are looking for open and honest partners. Admit the issue, detail the steps already taken or being taken to address it moving forward.
Exit Strategy: Once there aren’t any more questions, remember to thank the audience for their time, hand-off or remind them of any leave-behinds, and surrender the stage (or the venue equivalent).
What’s a Leave Behind?
Leave-behinds encompass any physical or digital assets you might leave with your audience when your pitch ends. Perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of the pitch, you should have some well-considered leave behinds to put in the hands of your audience. The main job of a leave behind is to give the audience a way to follow up afterwards, so they can reach out to do business with you. You might give the best pitch they hear all weekend, but if they don’t have a way to get in touch with you on Monday, it doesn’t matter.
You should also remember that your leave behinds, while they have a great capacity to help your cause, can also hurt it. If your leave behinds aren’t professional, the investor might assume other aspects of your business aren’t professional, either. So, get multiple sets of eyes on your leave behinds to ensure there aren’t any typos, spelling, or grammar errors.
Leave Behind Branding
In general, the leave behinds should be designed and branded in such a way that they can immediately connect what they remember of your pitch to the contact information on the leave behind. Have you ever gotten home from a business conference and just had a stack of business cards you’ve collected over the event? How many of those cards can you still look at and remember which business or contact gave it to you? You don’t want that to happen to your leave behind materials.
A good design philosophy for this is the one they use to name episodes of the TV show “Friends”. Each episode is called “The one with…”, “The one where…”, or “The one about….” Etc. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience. They’ve sat in a room with maybe one fellow investor, and they’ve heard anywhere from 5-20 pitches that day of varying lengths. After all of that, when they’re at dinner, how would they refer to your company? The one with the dog walking app? The one with the smart dog leashes? Whatever. What “three-words or less” identity do you think they’ll assign your business hours later to differentiate you from the rest of the companies that day?
Give that some thought. Order some custom folders with your logo and some verbiage on the cover to house your physical leave behinds, so they’re potentially easier for investors to pick out of a pile. And, when you make branding choices for your business cards, business plan, executive summary, or slide deck, make sure it’s very, very easy to connect the branding and imagery to that “the one with…” identity you’re likely to get from investors.
The Business Card
The standard leave-behind, these are particularly great for elevator pitches, as you’re likely to have a few tucked into your wallet. Unfortunately, investors might get handed a hundred business cards, especially at large networking events. The main thing to avoid here, is the investor getting to their home or office, taking out the card, and having no memory of you or your interaction with them. So instead of remembering your pitch, they pitch the card in the trash. This can happen with plain black and white or glossy embossed cards alike.
Take extra care to ensure your business card not only has your best contact information, but also clearly reminds them of your elevator pitch. If you can use similar language from your pitch and work in some sort of slogan or subtitle on the card, that’s ideal. You might even print your entire elevator pitch on the back of the card. Images can also help. The goal is that when they look at the card, they immediately remember your pitch for your business, even if it was several days ago.
The Executive Summary
An executive summary is the first 1-2 pages of content in your business plan. Usually, it’s a simple summary of the entire business plan, giving the major points and headlines. If the business plan was math homework, the executive summary would just show a list of your answers, while the full business plan shows all the work for each problem.
Leaving behind an executive summary, perhaps bound in a folder with a business card attached, is a great leave-behind. Again, like the business card, ensure the opening words serve to trigger memories of your pitch and your business. You can even go so far as to repeat memorable soundbites from your pitch in the summary.
Another leave behind option gaining popularity is a printed version of your slide deck, or a link to the actual slide deck (particularly if you have a digital business card or QR code on it and your investor uses that technology). Handing over the slide deck empowers the investor follow along with your pitch and take notes or write down questions in the moment during your pitch. It can also serve as a fantastic backup in the event of technology problems, just make sure you have an extra copy for yourself and that the printout pages are numbered for easy reference.
That said, you probably don’t want to leave behind the same version of your slide deck that you present with. If your slide deck has built-in notes or answers to FAQs, you want to make sure you have a version of those notes that is polished and ready for consumption by an investor. Note that these might look different than the bulleted shorthand you might use for reference while presenting.
If you need more instruction about slide decks, Episode 31 of Bunker Labs’ The Transition Podcast with guest, William Lutz is a great start.
The Business Plan
If you’re in a formal pitch setting for investors, it’s a good idea to have a business plan. The business plan should have a lot of the same details about your business as the full pitch. Most contain marketing analysis and strategy, the products and services offered, budgeting, financial projections, and more. These documents can range from 10-50 pages, depending on if you’re creating a traditional long-form business plan, or a more modern, lean-style plan.
Printing out your full business plan as a leave-behind is a great idea, particularly when meeting with professional investors who know how to extract information from them. But this is only going to help you if your business plan is put together well. Poor writing, grammatical errors, inconsistent formatting, logical fallacies, and misunderstanding your market in the business plan can turn investors away rather than convince them you’re a good bet.
Because of the risk, it’s become much more popular to instead leave behind the executive summary of the business plan or your pitch slide deck rather than the full business plan, or use a more modern style 10 page business plan format to reduce unforced errors. That said, some investors are going to ask for your full business plan if they’re on the fence, and you’ll want to have one ready to send that is accurate, reads well, and looks professional.
You’ve handed out your leave behinds, answered all the questions you can, and taken note of those you need to follow up on, shaken all the hands, and thanked everyone for their time and attention. Your goal should always be to leave with the “next yes” that moves the process forward toward an investment or partnership. Sometimes, that might just be a future contact date. If not, it can be good to have one question you couldn’t quite answer, or that you promise to elaborate on to build in a future meeting to inch you along toward the next step!
With your pitch and post-pitch fully polished, you’re ready to get out there and get investors excited about partnering with you and your business! Don’t forget to check out the USAA 100th Anniversary Pitch Competition, which still has opportunities to pitch in Chicago, Seattle, and Charlotte!