The art of selling your ideas to potential investors

03 November 2018 by National Bank

You're preparing to meet with potential investors to promote your SME and introduce its value proposition. You might already have a few punchy sentences in mind, but you need to take full advantage of the short time you'll have.

Making a good first impression

Do you know what an elevator pitch is? It's what you would say if you bumped into a potential client in an elevator, and had 30 seconds to convince him to schedule a meeting. A successful pitch depends on your ability to sell your ideas within a short time frame. You may also have prepared a 60-second presentation to use in your networking activities. To immediately spark the interest of potential investors, you should combine these two approaches. Then, you'll just have to develop arguments for your one-on-one meetings. "You need to capture investors' attention in the first 90 seconds," advises Manon Desmarais, Vice-President – File Selection and Investment Support at Anges Québec. "It's a bit of a cliché, but you never get a second chance to make a good first impression."

You could begin by saying something like this: "Hi, I'm [Name], founder of [Company]. I've often heard people around me complain about [problem], so I came up with an innovative solution. I did market research and obtained feedback to help me improve my prototype. Then, I developed and optimized a business model that enables me to estimate how much your stake would grow if you invest in my business."

Forget about Dragon's Den

Does the idea of speaking to a group of potential investors paralyze you? The better you know your subject, the less intimidated you'll feel. Keep rehearsing your pitch to your family, friends and mentors. Welcome their feedback and advice with openness and humility. And forget what you've seen on Dragon's Den! "It's just a TV show," states Louis-Pierre Charest, start-up advisor at SAJE. "In real life, meetings are generally pretty friendly."

This is not the time to tell the story of your professional life. Investors want to know what problem your innovation could resolve or what need you believe you can address. They want to be sure that you understand the scope of your idea, have researched the market, know your target clients—in short, that you have tested your theory. They also want to learn about your business model, see if you have anticipated the roadblocks you will face and how you will overcome them, and learn how you plan to market your innovation. "Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs are not prepared to pitch their ideas to potential investors. They often underestimate the value of a mentor or an advisory committee, as well as the network of business incubators and accelerators, that can power their business in the start-up and early growth phases," notes Ms. Desmarais.

If you use a slide show during your presentation, make sure each slide is truly relevant and easy to understand. Keep the number of slides to a minimum, and never turn your back on the audience to look at the screen. It's there for them, not for you!

Your presentation is not the most important part of the meeting

Mr. Charest estimates that only a third of the meeting should be dedicated to your presentation. "The rest of the time, you should be answering investors' questions." As you prepare for the meeting, remember that there's no way to know which aspects of your project they will find most interesting. Some may focus on the potential for profit, while others may be in it for the satisfaction of helping a rising entrepreneur.

You must be ready to answer their questions. Memorize the data you will need to reassure investors and show them that you know your subject inside-out. However, if you don't know the answer to a question, it's better to admit it and take note of it so you can provide the information at a later meeting. If you've made a good impression, they're sure to invite you back to continue the discussion!

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