There's never been a better time to be an entrepreneur.
Corporate venture groups invested nearly a billion dollars in U.S.-based companies in the third quarter of 2014 alone. The competition for investment is stiff, which means aspiring leaders must work exceptionally hard to inspire and educate investors to gain access to growth-fueling funding.
The same is true of sales. Just as an entrepreneur inspires investors with a bold vision and a detailed plan to capture market share, a sales rep must do the same to provide prospects compelling reasons to buy a product or service.
While the outcomes of both pitches are very different, there are many lessons sales leaders can learn from their entrepreneurial brethren.
A well-architected pitch transforms big ideas into actionable steps and identifies through words and images how a product, service or a company is uniquely appropriate for the buyer.
And the simpler, the better. Take buyers on a journey that establishes credibility, defines a challenge and describes how your unique solution will help them become more successful.
Here, five essentials for your perfect pitch.
1. Know your audience
Creating a pitch without knowing your audience is like choosing which side of the road to drive on without knowing which country you're in. Your slide deck should be tailor-made for the people to whom you're presenting, and it should provide more than information.
Research the audience and present ideas that speak directly to them: personalize slides with their branding, offer relevant statistics and other engaging material.
2. Make each slide self-contained
Every slide in your deck is an opportunity to make the audience experience extraordinary. Your presentation should tell a story, but each slide needs to be digestible on its own. Build each slide so that it's easily understood -- at a glance -- and helps advance your story from slide to slide. Make titles the takeaways, and ensure they appropriately build to a compelling call-to-action.
3. Show. Don't tell
There are few things worse than a slide full of dense paragraphs, so turn to visuals whenever possible. Telling your story effectively requires you to paint a picture that helps your audience visualize how you can make them more successful.
A slide with a bullet point about your company's rapid expansion won't have the same impact as a bar graph showing year-over-year growth. Ensure your slides illustrate a story and that you can match the illustration with supporting anecdotes.
4. Tell a story that doesn't need narration
Design a pitch deck that conveys your message and tells your full story, even if you're not in the room to guide your audience through it. To do this, seed your slides with stand-out phrases and images that will stick with your audience both during and after your presentation.
Creating memorable moments throughout a presentation also gives you a chance to connect with your audience on a more personal level. When your audience reviews your leave-behind material, they'll remember which moments resonated with them most -- and they'll remember why your message had such impact.
5. Use smart tools
Building a great pitch takes time, but smart sales tools can make light work of assembling the best assets, information and insights in a highly personalized way. These tools can help you glean valuable insight into how people are reviewing and reacting to your material long after you've packed up your presentation. Great tools exist that unlock the power of data and analytics to transform a pitch from an antiquated PowerPoint into a true sales asset. Leveraging these tools makes it possible to deliver an effective presentation anywhere, from any device.
A well-crafted pitch is your best chance to present your vision for a better business, whether you're selling your ideas or your venture. It's more than just a slide deck: it represents your company, what you stand for and what you can do for your audience.
Treat your pitch -- and your audience -- with the respect they deserve.