5 Lessons You Can Learn From Trump About Pitching to VCs
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
As part of last month's RNC and DNC festivities, Americans tuned in by the millions to watch hours of television related to the upcoming presidential election. Speakers from all walks of life presented the case for their parties and respective political candidates. From public officials to family members and even comedians-turned-politicians, their messages ranged from inspiring to polarizing. Since then, the speech I've been thinking about the most is the one made by Donald Trump.
My reasons have nothing to do with politics. In fact, I'll leave my own political leanings out of this. I didn't think Trump's speech even was the best of the lot. But Trump did effectively use several tactics to sell himself while he tried to convert American voters. These methods are relevant to entrepreneurs, particularly in terms of pitching to investors. Given Trump's background as a businessman, this isn't all that shocking. He's certainly made his fair share of pitches during his career. After a video rewind of Trump's performance, I've outlined five presentation takeaways you can use to convey your points to investors.
Trump has mastered the art of providing good answers to questions that aren't asked. Whether he's responding to a question or initiating the dialogue, he sets his own narrative.
Framing the market opportunity is an important part of raising money. Most investors will shy away if they believe your product's market potential is too narrow. Proper positioning can be the difference between generating excitement and eliciting a yawn. Which description of the Uber app is more engaging? One that "offers an alternative to taxis" or one that "can facilitate the transport of people and goods all over the world?"
Trump's rhetoric tends to repeat messages time and again. While it's true redundancy is one of the oldest tricks in the book, Trump shamelessly hammers home certain themes and words. Anyone listening not only remembers his key points but might be more likely to believe them, given the sheer number of times they're highlighted.
It's often suggested that what you say first and last matters the most -- and everything in-between is filler. It's understandable for active investors to feel this way as they listen to dozens of pitches a week. For the greatest impact, entrepreneurs should craft powerful introductions and endings that reinforce their overall message.
Like him or not, what you see is what you get with Trump. He's unfiltered in his language, opinions and tone. His authenticity makes him human and accessible to a segment of the population. In this way, a billionaire somehow has convinced members of the voting public that he feels their pain and stands for them. Why? He keys in to basic emotions. People relate to his unequivocal feelings about international relations, economic issues and national security.
When investors listen to pitches, they often look for personal stories. They want to know what led you to create your product or company. Saying you hope to be rich and famous just doesn't cut it -- but connecting to an issue on a personal level can go a long way. It demonstrates your understanding of the problem and your passion for fixing it.
Related: The Death of the Pitch Deck
No one ever will accuse Trump of showing humility, and many people view him as downright arrogant. His supporters see something else: a person who's highly confident in his own abilities to get things done. Trump's bravado has enabled him to skirt issues and speak as an authority figure on topics where the supporting facts are tenuous.
While this might seem to contradict the notion of being genuine, these two characteristics can coexist in a delicate balance. In the context of fundraising, venture capitalists seek entrepreneurs who believe they can disrupt the status quo, go against all odds and build something substantial. Does anyone really know? Of course not. But the ability to infect others with a can-do attitude and help them visualize success is key to minimize perceived risk.
It's hard not to notice the visual cues Trump uses to reinforce the perception he wishes to create. Whether it's the red tie (power), camera shots of his beautiful wife (popular ladies' man) or the panoramic view of his children and their spouses (a family man, too), Trump and his strategists choose these visuals to tell a larger story.
Incorporating appropriate props during your pitch meetings can be equally useful. If you've built a product based on delivering a great user experience, show screen shots or a prototype. If you've developed a more tangible product, bring a few samples with you. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.
As you prepare for your next investor meeting, keep in mind it's not only what you say but also how you say it. The right combination can make the difference to secure an investor's vote.