Watch: Why Even Prepared People Don't Always Get a 'Yes' From a Pitch
On the new streaming show Entrepreneur Elevator Pitch, founders step into the Entrepreneur Elevator and have just 60 seconds to present their idea, product or business to a panel of investors. Whether an entrepreneur gets invited into the boardroom or sent back to the ground floor depends on what our experts think in that first minute. Here, we break down the lessons aspiring business owners can take away from each episode's pitches.
A successful entrepreneur can pitch his or her business at a moment's notice, offering a short, concise description that immediately captures attention. If your brand specializes in products, that pitch can be even more powerful if you can show it and demonstrate it to anyone who asks. This is especially true as you walk into a pitch meeting, where venture capitalists are waiting to hear more about your business.
On the fourth episode of Entrepreneur's Elevator Pitch, we got a firsthand look at how crucial visuals are to success in pitching potential investors and clients. Whether they were successful in their pitches or not, those visuals were key to intriguing the panel enough to want to hear more. Here's some of what we learned directly from the new streaming pitch show that can help you boost your product pitches.
Even prepared people don't get to the board room.
Each episode includes entrepreneurs who never make it beyond the elevator ride. In the 60 seconds provided, they know they have to pique the panel's curiosity in order to be invited to go into detail on their business. In episode four, one of those entrepreneurs was Amanda Zielinski, founder of Nanedi Valles, a retailer that sells handcrafted jewelry and handbags.
Zielinski's knowledge of her target seemed impressive, but at the end of her pitch, the panel still didn't really know what she was offering. They sent her back down. Her failure to get an invitation to the boardroom reminds us that the product should always be first in any business pitch. She didn't reveal what her service was right off the bat, and had no pictures or product with her on the elevator. Therefore, she had nothing that hooked investors. Don't fall into the same trap. Show VCs what they would be buying into. Once you hook them, there will be plenty of time to discuss market research and marketing plans.
Visuals make a huge difference.
Some of the most successful pitches involve fun, easy-to-demonstrate products. This was readily apparent when Jordan and Ian Kay of Rally Flip Cap appeared before the investors. This happened because they showed up with their product literally on their heads and a compelling story on how they started out. They captured the investors' attention, and won the opportunity to talk about their product.
Earlier in the show, a rather disheveled entrepreneur with perhaps the worst elevator pitch ever earned the chance to talk to investors solely on the merits of his fascinating product -- a futuristic fire extinguisher device. He fell flat though because he showed up with no way to visually demonstrate the product and no prototype. Jordan and Ian avoided his fate and were successful in securing funding.
So, other than the very elementary concept that you should show up prepared, there's one key takeaway here. Keep your product front and center. A powerful presentation starts with a product that customers immediately see as valuable to their own lives. If you can't use a prototype of your product as part of your pitch, create a presentation or video that you can use to demonstrate it. This same visual can also be used on your website or crowdfunding pages to immediately engage anyone interested in learning more.
Don't bait and switch.
David Henry's elevator pitch was an example of what a product pitch should be. His T-REX multi-flex driver wowed investors, prompting them to enthusiastically invite him in to tell more. Unfortunately, he didn't actually want investment in that tool, because it was already a successful business. In fact, what he really wanted was to get money for an expansion to medical and other applications for the tool. This bait and switch didn't go over well with investors, who booted him out of the boardroom shortly after learning this.
This type of thing is a pet peeve for pretty much every investor. No one wants to be deceived. Put yourself in the VC's shoes. Are you spending the majority of your pitch talking about a product you don't actually want investment for, in an attempt to spark interest in something you haven't mentioned yet? Who would want to work with someone like that? An investor is taking your pitch because they want to take stock, not only of your product, but of you. Showing that you are deceitful is one of the quickest ways to drive an investor away.
As episode four of Elevator Pitch shows, visuals make a big difference when trying to sell a product to investors. This same technique can be applied to other sales pitches, as well. It's important to be as up front and honest as possible when showing a product as part of the sales process. If a product is one that demonstrates well, often it will intrigue prospects even if the presentation is less than perfect.