Dragons’ Den is one of the UK’s most successful television programmes – and is itself part of a franchise that originated in Japan (though there, the ferocious investors are called Tigers). Television audiences worldwide, it seems, love to watch people pitch their business ideas.
And it’s a vital skill. Whether you’re looking, like the participants on the show, to secure vital investment for your business, to bring on board a brilliant new customer or even to convince a talented individual that they should join your team, being able to compellingly pitch your idea is an essential element in business success.
So how do you go about it?
Do your research
It’s easy to think that because you’re pitching your business, the information you need is all sitting conveniently in your head. Yet that’s often not the case. Do you really have detailed financial records and projections at your fingertips? Can you name a few key competitors – and why you’re better – at the drop of a hat? Can you explain, in seconds, why your business is the best your audience has come across all day? There is always more research you can do.
Even more importantly, you should always research your audience before you start pitching. If they’re a potential investor, what other businesses have invested in? What’s their background – what do their priorities look like? What qualities or history do you share? There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all business pitch – it should always be tailored precisely to the specific scenario you’re in at the time.
Plan in stages
Business pitches come in different shapes and sizes. We’ve all heard of the 30-second elevator pitch – and this is certainly a crucial part of your arsenal – but you arrive at the elevator pitch by working through longer, more detailed models. Start with your business plan (and click here to read more about why such plans are not just for start-ups), and tighten it from there. Create a half-hour presentation, then a ten-minute one. Finally, you should be able to distil your unique, exciting business proposal into that crucial 30-second statement.
All about you
People buy from people. People invest in people. You – your appearance, voice and body language – are likely to ultimately be the most memorable elements in your business pitch – so you need to get them right. Practice speaking clearly, at the right speed and with the right projection. Ensure you’re wearing clothes that are not only smart but also comfortable. Keep body language open and controlled.
The three Cs
An effective business pitch balances three Cs – completeness, conciseness and clarity.
‘Completeness’ means that all of the essential information is there – your audience should never be left confused about what it is that you do – nor what it is that you want. ‘Conciseness’ means, conversely, that all of the superfluous information is left out – no one wants to sit through an irrelevant description of the dream that gave you the original business idea. ‘Clarity’ is perhaps the trickiest element to nail down. Get rid of any jargon and flowery language. Ensure that your pitch follows a clear narrative structure. Speak clearly, firmly, not too fast and not too slow. The best way of testing clarity is to practice your pitch in front of a person with no prior knowledge of your business.
With all of these elements in place, you should be able to approach a crucial fourth C – and deliver a truly compelling business pitch.