The Right Pitch

By Roy Goldenberg
Globes, Tel Aviv, Israel.

One of the biggest challenges of an early-stage start-up is persuasion. It is sometimes necessary to persuade partners to join the ride or to jump ship.

It is sometimes necessary to persuade investors to believe in the vision and the team, and to put quite a bit of money to get the innovation going, and it is sometimes necessary to persuade clientele to gain their trust and try the product or to pick your company in a start-up competition, such as the “Globes”-Bank Hapoalim (TASE: POLI) Smartup2.

The craft of persuasion is not easy. It is necessary to know how to deliver the message, how to tell the story, and how to sell the goods you are offering.

In the world of start-ups, this is called “the pitch”, and behind it there is real work, because the time available for presenting the company’s story is short, usually just a few minutes.

To find out how to do this right, we asked Donna Griffit (Abraham), a leading Israeli expert on making the right pitch. Griffit has worked for over a decade around the world with enterprises on one hand, and new start-ups on the other, helping them build and deliver strong, persuasive messages that achieve results, including raising money.

Griffit is now managing an early-stage start-up Ltd., with the objective of creating a wizard that helps companies write a “one pager”, an executive summary to persuade investors to meet entrepreneurs and companies.

It’s not the product, but the need

“The biggest problem I see in companies coming to me is that the entrepreneurs talk directly about the product: how cool it is and how it will change the world. They don’t bother to cause us to feel the pain and the need for their product. I feel that I am repeating myself, but every time anew, I see that this is the problem. That is why I tell them: ‘Talk about the pain in a way that is relevant to the audience. If you stand before investors, do it in a way that signals more business. If you’re facing an audience, bring something that is more ‘wow’, something that interacts with the audience or the video clip,” says Griffit.

Summarize the solution in one sentence

“You must summarize what your company does in one sentence: we do X for Y by Z. you should present this without going into the details of the technology too much. Everyone should have the sentence ready at the drop of a hat.
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Only afterwards do you go into detail,” says Griffit.

Visual presentation

Griffit adds, “It’s important to have a cool 1-2 minute demo ready, depending on the amount of time you’re scheduled. You can talk for an hour about your solution, or you can show it in a minute. It can be a video clip, screen picture, image, or mock-up. You don’t have to invest a lot in it, just show thinking.

“If you’re in a competition, you should have a live demo. We’ve seen enough cases in the past, where at the moment of truth, when they have shown how the product really works, the internet didn’t work at the venue, and instead of showing a product, they had to reconnect to the internet.

“It is no less important to show the demo from the perspective of the first user. Entrepreneurs often jump in as if we’re supposed to understand how the process works. It doesn’t work that way.

Act as if on your first date

“Think about the first meeting with an investor as a first date,” advises Griffit. “You don’t want to tell too much of your story right away, or about yourself, and where you want to get married, because this will probably drive away the other person and you won’t get a second date. You should give them a tit bit to entice them, so they will ask questions and get them to ask you for a second date. This isn’t the place to brag or go into details. You want to give general numbers and something to attract the other person. If they are interested, they’ll invite you for a second date.”

Talk about the chic, not the market

“When talking about the market, don’t mention obvious things, such as, ‘The mobile market is worth $250 billion,’ and the like. Usually, the people you’re talking with are investors who are smart enough to know the big details. Seek out trends and events in your market. A quote from Gartner or Forrester or a leading light in your industry saying that there is a need for your product, or show that there are mergers and acquisitions in your field to show that there is interest in it,” says Griffit.

“For example, in the case of HopOn, a participant in the smartup2 program, you can show that more and more people are using public transport, or, alternatively, are using less cash. For a company like GreenIQ, another participant in the program, it’s possible to mention that agriculture not only wastes water, but also show how much water is wasted on private gardens.”

Be positive, including about rivals

“Entrepreneurs should know everything about their competitive arena, including small start-ups in Uzbekistan, which are working on a similar project. That fact of competition is not a bad thing. You should know how to differentiate yourself. Most important of all, never say something bad about your rivals. You don’t know who is sitting in the room and if one of them in involved in an investment in competitors or knows someone directly in the company,’ says Griffit. “In general, you should stay positive, because the Americans don’t like hearing negativities.”

Invest in slideshows, not verbiage

Griffit says, “There is no excuse nowadays for slides that look as if they are for academe or the army. A slideshow is a documentary, it’s goal is to present. People who see a lot of verbiage in slides will read the words, but won’t listen to you. Don’t compete with your own words. Visual, aesthetic slides that graphically present your idea complement the verbal part of your presentation. You don’t need a special designer; there are sufficiently good programs, such as Emaze or Canva, which help upgrade slides for free or for just a little money.”

The verbal aspect

“It is very important not to speak in a monotone. You should try reading a book to a three-year old, and if you can’t get a child’s attention, you probably won’t win the attention of an audience with a smartphone in hand,” says Griffit.

Plan for confrontation in advance

“You should think in advance about the questions that you think you’ll be asked, and prepare your answers,” says Griffit. “You don’t have to learn the answers by heart, but at least have it in your head and answer comfortably.”
Body language speaks louder than words

“There is no problem with walking around; you don’t have to stay stuck behind the podium, but you should go only so far and stop, and take care not to wobble from side to side. You should also use clean movements, and not play with your hair, shirt buttons, or pants’ pockets,” concludes Griffit.

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