The standard business pitch has not changed in decades.
The process usually entails face-to-face interaction at the offices of one of the companies. The company that is seeking a partnership will create a presentation, a.k.a. "pitch deck,'' containing relevant and concise information about the business. During the presentation, the person delivering it will be peppered with questions from the listeners looking for holes in the arguments. Most presenters will steer the conversation back to the deck and conclude with a specific request to the company.
Over time and with more confidence, you can begin to deviate from the classic slide-by-slide method. Indeed, most classic pitches seem outdated and often are receive a tepid response. There is a proper way to approach pitching in the modern environment.
1. Pitching materials.There are a few schools of thought about using materials when pitching. Some professionals prefer to have a short deck to guide them through the discussion of the product, the offering and, finally, the request. Other people opt for longer, more extensive presentations with handouts. Our preference is to not use any materials at all, opting to just converse with the other side. We simply ask questions, talk and listen.
Most companies, no matter how small, have some form of canned deck. Even if you are the founder of a company, it is your responsibility to put together a concise yet comprehensive deck that includes information about your product, your business plan (or strategy), your team and everything else noteworthy. The first deck may help you secure an initial round of funding but, when it comes to seeking partnerships, your deck must be tweaked to focus on the partnership itself.
2. Making the pitch. Anyone can pitch. Pitching is just the act of attempting to convince other people to do something that you want them to do. We all pitch frequently, whether we realize it or not.
You’ve pitched to your spouse to see the movie that you want to see rather than the one that he wants to see. You’ve pitched to your parents for gifts around the holidays. You’ve pitched to your friends about what to do on a Saturday night. Pitching your business, product or offering is not much different. Your pitch needs to convince the other side to do what you want them to do rather than sticking with what they think they need or want to do.
Your pitch deck needs slides on your product or service offering, the basic features, the benefits of working together, a screen shot of the product or service offering, a screen shot of what a potential partnership looks like, a slide listing all the companies that are working with you already (if applicable) and a slide listing the next steps. Each slide is important and helps tell a great story.
3. Product/service/offering slide. This slide includes a high-level overview of what your product does, usually one or two sentences at most, in big, bold type.
4. Features slide. This slide describes and elaborates on the capabilities of your product. You can either give each feature its own slide with explanation bullet points under each one or include all the features on one slide, giving all bullet points and then expound on each feature when you are presenting.
5. Benefits slide. This slide is where you jump into why your offering is going to help the company you are pitching. Pinpoint the specific benefits you offer and set proper expectations.
6. Screen shot of your product or service offering. To fully explain your product or offering, include a screen shot of what you have created. People respond favorably to visuals. Showing is always better than simply telling.
If applicable, jump into a demonstration of your offering at this stage of the pitch but only if you have a viable product that looks impressive and is ready to be shown to a captivated audience.
7. Screen shot of what a potential partnership looks like. If you don’t sidestep into a product demonstration, the next logical slide is a screen shot of what a partnership could potentially look like. This usually makes most sense for product partnerships, particularly if there is a product or feature integration to look at. When dealing with other types of partnerships, sometimes you put your logo and the other firm’s logo on the same page with some other graphics.
8. Partners slide. This slide helps to validate your operation. It usually includes the logos of all the companies already partnering with you or using your product.
If you are an enterprise company, include your major paying customers. Displaying the logos of known entities that patronize your product or service offering adds credibility to your pitch. If you are pitching to an e-commerce company and you have Amazon on your partner slide, the e-commerce company will be more likely to partner with you, as well.
9. Next steps slide. Always end your pitch deck with a next steps slide. You’ve done a killer job of pitching your offering, the company is interested in working with you; now what?
What you list here could be the next steps from a business perspective, a technology vantage point or even a legal or logistical point of view. The next steps slide brings that discussion to light and also leaves the audience with a taste of the future. It makes you and your team appear forward-thinking, organized and committed to the partnership. It also is the next step to actually closing the deal.
Truly, there is no better way to pitch a product then to show it! Regardless of the type of partnership you are proposing, show how your product works and what it does. Show how the other company can use it. If your demonstration touches on something that the company cares about, you should be on track to closing a deal.