At the start of my career, I spent a lot of time pitching products in hopes of catching a decision-maker’s attention. Today, I’m usually on the receiving end, listening to a budding entrepreneur looking to partner with us, or to a team member hoping to green-light a project.
In that role, I see certain mistakes being made again and again. So, from here on the other side of the table, I've compiled a list of seven mistakes you should avoid with your next big pitch:
1. Lacks a structure.
Many sales pitches I’ve heard are difficult to follow. I’ll find myself halfway through a presentation still wrestling with the central idea, or with what the impact might be. A lack of structure or too loose a presentation only raises more questions than answers. Your job as presenter is to construct a clear-cut, logical message, leaving no room for misinterpretation. If you get a “no,” the reason should be that the decision-maker has decided to take a pass on your concept, not because he or she couldn’t figure out what you envisioned.
2. Too heavy on details.
If you’re fortunate enough to get in front of a potential investor or high influencer, that person is likely on a strict time limit. Providing an over-abundance of information only jeopardizes clarity and may obscure your major points. Make sure you give yourself time to arrive at your key arguments, and avoid the temptation to get sidetracked by minutiae.
3. A lack of knowledge about your audience
With the abundance of information available through social media and or other online sources, you have no excuse for not knowing whom you’re meeting with. Arm yourself with information about the decision-maker’s role and background to demonstrate that you do your homework. This can come in handy when the dialogue turns serious.
4. Lack of adherence to a time frame
If audience members are looking at their watches or phones during your presentation, you’ve got a major problem. Know how much time they have allotted for you and always prepare to come in under that time. Brevity will help keep their attention and allow them the freedom to ask questions, which often has the most impact.
5. Inability to deliver an impromptu pitch
Some of the most significant meetings you’ll ever have won’t be planned. You never know whom you’ll run into at the coffee shop or airport, so always be ready for a quick presentation or “elevator pitch,” at the drop of a hat.
6. No anticipation of the tough questions
Entrepreneurs are sometimes too close to their projects to see them from an outsider’s perspective. You envision investors immediately falling head over heels in love with your business model, asking, “Where can I sign?” But, most of the time, you’ll more likely face a barrage of questions geared to finding vulnerable spots in your plan. This is where you most often make or lose the sale, depending on the quality and clarity of your responses. Prior to your pitch, anticipate the questions you’ll get and prepare a game plan for each one.
7. No determination to not let rejection stop you
A quick Google search will pull up countless stories of entrepreneurs who got plenty of rejection letters before ultimately getting a “yes.” The difference between those who make it and those who don’t often comes down to one thing: persistence. Remember, all it takes is one person to believe in you. Don’t let someone who doesn’t get your idea stop you in your tracks. Keep moving forward.