Investors can get a little jaded. You are one of three they've seen that day, or a dozen they've seen that week. What can you do to stand out, to get their attention, to have them take you seriously?
Here are nine tips I've learned from years of leading an angel investor network and coaching first-time entrepreneurs:
1. Your number one goal is to get another meeting
Most likely, it will take you weeks to secure an investment. Meeting investors for the first time is like a first dance. It's exciting but a little awkward, so you have to tease a little, seduce a little to get asked to dance again.
2. Think numbers, not words
Fill your presentation with data--believable projections, recent (!) market sizing and trends, actual customer interactions, numbers of customers needed to reach breakeven, and so forth.
3. Verbs work; adjectives suck
Avoid generalities, deep technical dives, jargon, and "We're the leading provider of securing cloud-based information" (you haven't even launched your product yet, right?).
Tell us instead who your top 30 customer candidates are and what you are doing to ensure that they buy your product or service.
4. WIIFM ("what's in it for me")
The first time they meet you, investors don't really care about how to fulfill your passion or meet your personal life goals or help you keep your doors open. You have to ignite their passion, meet their needs, and help them reach their financial objectives first.
5. Why you? Why this? Why now?
Angel investors (who invest their own money) can invest--or they can go on a European vacation, or redo their kitchen, or buy a new summer (or winter) property, or simply invest their money elsewhere. You have to offer them something so compelling that they can't not invest in your company.
6. The investor is more important than your slide deck
Go in with a presentation, but be flexible. Answer their questions directly. Welcome the interaction. You are dead in the water if they don't engage with you.
I remember one entrepreneur for whom I made a personal introduction to a wealthy investor. The investor breezed in and said he had only ten or 15 minutes.
The entrepreneur launched his presentation. Twice the investor interrupted with a question. Twice the entrepreneur said he would get to that later in his presentation and carried on.
Ten minutes in, the investor excused himself. The entrepreneur never took the chance to answer what was interesting to him. Needless to say, no investment materialized.
7. Expect good investors to make you sweat
They will ask tough (maybe even unreasonable) questions to see how you respond under pressure.
Because it will not be close to the pressure you experience in the business itself. A good investor will get you off your canned/practiced presentation to see what's really there.
If you can't stand the heat, go work for someone else.
8. What have you put into the company?
Did you quit a job to start this company? Are you leveraging your 401-K? Have you maxed out your credit cards?
Why should they risk their capital on you if you haven't risked yours on you? Besides, it is cheaper to invest your own money in your company than to pay an investor for theirs.
9. X marks the spot
Making the other party put their number on the table first is a good negotiating tactic, right? But that doesn't happen when you are seeking your first investor.
You need to make the ask: We are seeking $X at $X valuation to meet X objectives over X period of time. Know those 4 Xs and you have a good chance to get another meeting.
Making investor presentations is a lot like becoming a good baseball pitcher: You have to get your mechanics down. These nine tips should help you get your investor pitch mechanics down.
Oh, and it really helps if you have a 95 MPH fastball, too.