5 Types of Investors and How to Impress Them
Let’s assume your business has a few things going for it--maybe a lot of things. You have your financial projections under control. You know how to tell your story to investors. But when you interact with different investors, you can still get totally different outcomes, even when the facts about your business don’t change. What’s going on here?
Investors often are making logical, merit-based decisions about where to place their capital. But their own personalities, styles of interacting, and other intangibles matter, too.
Broadly speaking, I have found that there are at least five basic investor types. Recognizing them, and figuring out how you might respond to each, can enhance your chances of raising capital. I will exaggerate here to make the point.
You may already know this type of investor. Email and phone calls go into a black hole. You may even run into this investor in person and try to use that connection to get a better response, but nothing happens.
Your strategy: Be professional in your follow-up a handful of times, but take the message. Either your deal has to be better or they just aren’t that into you. Of course, it’s hard to know what you need to improve with no feedback, but come back when your story is stronger or move on to the next potential investor. Your time is valuable too.
Don't market to me
I always think this is the strangest type of investor--an allocator of capital who doesn’t like to be pitched to--but there are a lot of these folks.
Your strategy: Avoid slickness or heavy marketing. In particular, avoid pinning them with the question of whether or not they will invest. This type of investor needs to see you more than once, start to trust you, and see that you have legitimacy in what you are doing. You need to respect that they have a process and try to get deeper into it, step by step. They will buy when they want to buy, not when you need to sell.
Referrals only, please
Some investors only work with referrals, as they believe their network screens out a lot of slush.
Your strategy: You need to figure out how to get into their referral network. Be creative, and do your homework. Find out what companies they have invested in or who they have invested alongside, and use that as a starting point to network your way to them.
This is a particularly frustrating type of investor. They’re always sunny when you meet with them, and seem positive on your ideas, but then nothing comes of it. You still end up at a no. Often someone junior to them on their team follows up with you and runs their process.
Your strategy: With these investors, you need to build trust and legitimacy with the junior team members too--you are only going to advance back up to Smiley if you make it through the other teammates.
When evaluating an opportunity, investors can say yes, say no, or ask for more data. The data type of investor is always chewing on what you provide, but then asking the next set of questions.
Your strategy: This investor lives on the information you provide back to them, so give them what they are asking for. Your best chance with this investor is to “wow” them with how well you do in providing the requested information. Respond quickly with great work, and truly consider what they are asking you.
Companies will get the attention of investors if they can slot into their processes. You should do your own diligence on an investor in advance to figure out their type and then plan out your approach. This preparation can greatly increase your success rate.
ED POWERS | Columnist | Head of Capital Access Funds, Bank of America
Based in New York, Ed Powers is a managing director and head of the Capital Access Funds team at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Capital Access Funds is an experienced, returns-driven private equity fund-of-funds.