How to Pitch Your Business Idea to Potential Investors
These four simple tips can help you find funding for your new business or product.
- Pitching a business idea is like telling an engaging story that will capture your audience’s attention.
- Your idea should show the importance of solving a problem for your potential market.
- Avoid making presentation mistakes such as coming to the pitch meeting late or dressing inappropriately.
- This article is for entrepreneurs and others who want to launch a new business or product.
After you’ve drawn up your business idea and crafted your business plan, you need funding to turn your entrepreneurial dream into a reality. When your ability to secure funds comes down to a 10- to 20-minute pitch to potential investors, it’s easy to feel nervous. It’s a pressure-packed moment, and you need to be at your best.
So how can you erase your anxiety and impress potential investors? Business News Daily spoke with a handful of experts, including a former participant on ABC’s Shark Tank , about how to nail a pitch to potential investors.
How to present a business idea to investors
1. tell a story..
A common topic among experts was the need to be personable and create a narrative. While facts and figures go a long way, it’s important to use those numbers to tell a meaningful story. Framing your business idea as a story also helps you explain your passion for your business.
Erin Beck, the CEO of Komae, a cooperative childcare app, believes storytelling sets her presentations apart from those of her peers. She creates an emotional appeal with an engaging pitch. “Make the story more important than what you’re selling because once the market numbers speak for themselves, they don’t connect with you for what you’re doing, but why you’re doing it,” said Beck.
Telling a story can be a great way to connect with your audience and to capture and keep their attention.
2. Define the problem.
You might be head over heels about your business concept. Your prototypes for the product are all stellar, and you’re thrilled about your business plan. Unfortunately, if your product doesn’t solve a problem or fill a need for customers, investors aren’t going to share your excitement.
“Start off with the problem,” said Donna Griffit, a corporate storyteller for startups. “Do you understand the need that’s in the market today? Do you have the facts to back that up?”
It is critical that you can answer these questions when heading into a meeting with investors. Thorough market research , along with customer surveys and interviews, can show if your product is needed. If you lack the data to prove that your idea addresses a problem, it’s difficult to engage the audience and even more difficult to get funding from investors.
“I’ve seen startups try to take shortcuts on this and end up with glazed-over eyes in their audience,” Griffit said.
3. Practice as much as you can.
The weeks and days leading up to your pitch to potential investors is no time to be shy. Give your pitch to friends, family, neighbors or anyone else willing to listen. Not only does practicing help take the nerves off, but it also allows you to learn where you can improve your presentation.
“You’ve likely told your origin story dozens of times and have it down,” said David Ciccarelli, the founder and CEO of Voices.com. “Now, get ready to tell it possibly hundreds more. During our capital raise, I told our founding story 200 times. While it’s old news to you, it’s new for the investor, so keep it upbeat and tell it with enthusiasm.”
Don’t hesitate to pitch to multiple potential investors. Ciccarelli went with his team to cities across the country and met with a few investors in each city. This gave his group practice and put his business idea in front of more eyes.
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with your pitch, start focusing on the little details.
“Use the privacy of your home or office to talk through your pitch and work on making it flow well,” Ciccarelli said. “Don’t be afraid to record your pitch, both audio and video, and review it with a critical eye to make sure you nail every sentence.”
Demonstrating proper body language and tightening up speaking mistakes can be the difference between successful and unsuccessful pitches. When you go over the minor details, Ciccarelli recommends planning your pauses. By doing this, you can make a perfectly rehearsed speech sound spontaneous.
Your body language conveys as much, if not more, as the words you speak. Be attentive to the signals you may be sending.
“To make your pitch sound more natural, plan your dramatic pauses out,” he said. “The pause gives the impression that you’re coming up with the material on the fly. Plus, you’ll have a moment to collect your thoughts for what you’re going to say next.”
4. Be realistic.
While practicing the pitch is a must, very rarely will your pitch go exactly as planned. Having realistic expectations will help when you’re preparing. It’s important to practice for a realistic presentation experience, which may include interruptions by investors asking questions.
In addition to expecting disruptions, it’s important to view the presentation from the audience’s perspective. Brian Lim, an entrepreneur who owns three e-commerce businesses (EmazingLights, iHeartRaves and INTO THE AM) that collectively earn more than $20 million annually, pitched one of his businesses on Shark Tank in 2015. He received offers from all five judges on the show and made a deal with Mark Cuban and Daymond John. Lim credits his success to proof of concept: He entered the show with $13 million in sales to date, and his ability to view his business from a different vantage point set him apart.
“I had to imagine myself as an investor and check off boxes that I would want to see if I were going to invest money into a company,” Lim said.
Presentation mistakes to avoid
There are also some important things not to do when making a pitch:
- Be late for the meeting.
- Dress inappropriately. What’s appropriate will depend on your audience and your company/product brand.
- Fail to convey clear benefits for your intended target market .
- Use terminology, lingo or acronyms your audience may not recognize.
- Talk over or interrupt those in your audience.
- Be self-congratulatory; e.g., “This is a great idea/product!”
- Argue with your potential investors.
- Bring up deal details, like pricing, too early.
Move forward with confidence
It takes time and tenacity to make and close a business deal. Following the ideas above about what to do and what not to do can help you ensure that you’re prepared to make the pitch.
While immigrants and women entrepreneurs can face additional challenges , these stories of successful young entrepreneurs can provide inspiration to push onward.
Maintaining your confidence and conveying your belief in your business or product idea, without being arrogant, is key to making a positive impact and getting the funding you want.
Additional reporting by Linda Pophal.
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How to Write a Winning Business Plan
- Stanley R. Rich
- David E. Gumpert
The business plan admits the entrepreneur to the investment process. Without a plan furnished in advance, many investor groups won’t even grant an interview. And the plan must be outstanding if it is to win investment funds. Too many entrepreneurs, though, continue to believe that if they build a better mousetrap, the world will beat […]
The Idea in Brief
You’ve got a great idea for a new product or service—how can you persuade investors to support it? Flashy PowerPoint slides aren’t enough; you need a winning business plan. A compelling plan accurately reflects the viewpoints of your three key constituencies: the market , potential investors , and the producer (the entrepreneur or inventor of the new offering).
But too many plans are written solely from the perspective of the producer. The problem is that, unless you’ve got your own capital to finance your venture, the only way you’ll get the funding you need is to satisfy the market’s and investors’ needs.
Here’s how to grab their attention.
The Idea in Practice
Emphasize Market Needs
To make a convincing case that a substantial market exists, establish market interest and document your claims.
Establish market interest. Provide evidence that customers are intrigued by your claims about the benefits of the new product or service:
- Let some customers use a product prototype; then get written evaluations.
- Offer the product to a few potential customers at a deep discount if they pay part of the production cost. This lets you determine whether potential buyers even exist.
- Use “reference installations”—statements from initial users, sales reps, distributors, and would-be customers who have seen the product demonstrated.
Document your claims. You’ve established market interest. Now use data to support your assertions about potential growth rates of sales and profits.
- Specify the number of potential customers, the size of their businesses, and the size that is most appropriate to your offering. Remember: Bigger isn’t necessarily better; e.g., saving $10,000 per year in chemical use may mean a lot to a modest company but not to a Du Pont.
- Show the nature of the industry; e.g., franchised weight-loss clinics might grow fast, but they can decline rapidly when competition stiffens. State how you will continually innovate to survive.
- Project realistic growth rates at which customers will accept—and buy—your offering. From there, assemble a credible sales plan and project plant and staffing needs.
Address Investor Needs
Cashing out. Show when and how investors may liquidate their holdings. Venture capital firms usually want to cash out in three to seven years; professional investors look for a large capital appreciation.
Making sound projections. Give realistic, five-year forecasts of profitability. Don’t skimp on the numbers, get overly optimistic about them, or blanket your plan with a smog of figures covering every possible variation.
The price. To figure out how much to invest in your offering, investors calculate your company’s value on the basis of results expected five years after they invest. They’ll want a 35 to 40% return for mature companies—up to 60% for less mature ventures. To make a convincing case for a rich return, get a product in the hands of representative customers—and demonstrate substantial market interest.
The business plan admits the entrepreneur to the investment process. Without a plan furnished in advance, many investor groups won’t even grant an interview. And the plan must be outstanding if it is to win investment funds.
Too many entrepreneurs, though, continue to believe that if they build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to their door. A good mousetrap is important, but it’s only part of meeting the challenge. Also important is satisfying the needs of marketers and investors. Marketers want to see evidence of customer interest and a viable market. Investors want to know when they can cash out and how good the financial projections are. Drawing on their own experiences and those of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Enterprise Forum, the authors show entrepreneurs how to write convincing and winning business plans.
A comprehensive, carefully thought-out business plan is essential to the success of entrepreneurs and corporate managers. Whether you are starting up a new business, seeking additional capital for existing product lines, or proposing a new activity in a corporate division, you will never face a more challenging writing assignment than the preparation of a business plan.
Only a well-conceived and well-packaged plan can win the necessary investment and support for your idea. It must describe the company or proposed project accurately and attractively. Even though its subject is a moving target, the plan must detail the company’s or the project’s present status, current needs, and expected future. You must present and justify ongoing and changing resource requirements, marketing decisions, financial projections, production demands, and personnel needs in logical and convincing fashion.
Because they struggle so hard to assemble, organize, describe, and document so much, it is not surprising that managers sometimes overlook the fundamentals. We have found that the most important one is the accurate reflection of the viewpoints of three constituencies.
1. The market, including both existing and prospective clients, customers, and users of the planned product or service.
2. The investors, whether of financial or other resources.
3. The producer, whether the entrepreneur or the inventor.
Too many business plans are written solely from the viewpoint of the third constituency—the producer. They describe the underlying technology or creativity of the proposed product or service in glowing terms and at great length. They neglect the constituencies that give the venture its financial viability—the market and the investor.
Take the case of five executives seeking financing to establish their own engineering consulting firm. In their business plan, they listed a dozen types of specialized engineering services and estimated their annual sales and profit growth at 20%. But the executives did not determine which of the proposed dozen services their potential clients really needed and which would be most profitable. By neglecting to examine these issues closely, they ignored the possibility that the marketplace might want some services not among the dozen listed.
Moreover, they failed to indicate the price of new shares or the percentage available to investors. Dealing with the investor’s perspective was important because—for a new venture, at least—backers seek a return of 40% to 60% on their capital, compounded annually. The expected sales and profit growth rates of 20% could not provide the necessary return unless the founders gave up a substantial share of the company.
In fact, the executives had only considered their own perspective—including the new company’s services, organization, and projected results. Because they had not convincingly demonstrated why potential customers would buy the services or how investors would make an adequate return (or when and how they could cash out), their business plan lacked the credibility necessary for raising the investment funds needed.
We have had experience in both evaluating business plans and organizing and observing presentations and investor responses at sessions of the MIT Enterprise Forum. We believe that business plans must deal convincingly with marketing and investor considerations. This reading identifies and evaluates those considerations and explains how business plans can be written to satisfy them.
The MIT Enterprise Forum
Organized under the auspices of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Alumni Association in 1978, the MIT Enterprise Forum offers businesses at a critical stage of development an opportunity to obtain counsel from a panel of experts on steps to take to achieve their goals.
In monthly evening sessions the forum evaluates the business plans of companies accepted for presentation during 60- to 90-minute segments in which no holds are barred. The format allows each presenter 20 minutes to summarize a business plan orally. Each panelist reviews the written business plan in advance of the sessions. Then each of four panelists—who are venture capitalists, bankers, marketing specialists, successful entrepreneurs, MIT professors, or other experts—spends five to ten minutes assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the plan and the enterprise and suggesting improvements.
In some cases, the panelists suggest a completely new direction. In others, they advise more effective implementation of existing policies. Their comments range over the spectrum of business issues.
Sessions are open to the public and usually draw about 300 people, most of them financiers, business executives, accountants, lawyers, consultants, and others with special interest in emerging companies. Following the panelists’ evaluations, audience members can ask questions and offer comments.
Presenters have the opportunity to respond to the evaluations and suggestions offered. They also receive written evaluations of the oral presentation from audience members. (The entrepreneur doesn’t make the written plan available to the audience.) These monthly sessions are held primarily for companies that have advanced beyond the start-up stage. They tend to be from one to ten years old and in need of expansion capital.
The MIT Enterprise Forum’s success at its home base in Cambridge, Massachusetts has led MIT alumni to establish forums in New York, Washington, Houston, Chicago, and Amsterdam, among other cities.
Emphasize the Market
Investors want to put their money into market-driven rather than technology-driven or service-driven companies. The potential of the product’s markets, sales, and profit is far more important than its attractiveness or technical features.
You can make a convincing case for the existence of a good market by demonstrating user benefit, identifying marketplace interest, and documenting market claims.
Show the User’s Benefit
It’s easy even for experts to overlook this basic notion. At an MIT Enterprise Forum session an entrepreneur spent the bulk of his 20-minute presentation period extolling the virtues of his company’s product—an instrument to control certain aspects of the production process in the textile industry. He concluded with some financial projections looking five years down the road.
The first panelist to react to the business plan—a partner in a venture capital firm—was completely negative about the company’s prospects for obtaining investment funds because, he stated, its market was in a depressed industry.
Another panelist asked, “How long does it take your product to pay for itself in decreased production costs?” The presenter immediately responded, “Six months.” The second panelist replied, “That’s the most important thing you’ve said tonight.”
The venture capitalist quickly reversed his original opinion. He said he would back a company in almost any industry if it could prove such an important user benefit—and emphasize it in its sales approach. After all, if it paid back the customer’s cost in six months, the product would after that time essentially “print money.”
The venture capitalist knew that instruments, machinery, and services that pay for themselves in less than one year are mandatory purchases for many potential customers. If this payback period is less than two years, it is a probable purchase; beyond three years, they do not back the product.
The MIT panel advised the entrepreneur to recast his business plan so that it emphasized the short payback period and played down the self-serving discussion about product innovation. The executive took the advice and rewrote the plan in easily understandable terms. His company is doing very well and has made the transition from a technology-driven to a market-driven company.
Find out the Market’s Interest
Calculating the user’s benefit is only the first step. An entrepreneur must also give evidence that customers are intrigued with the user’s benefit claims and that they like the product or service. The business plan must reflect clear positive responses of customer prospects to the question “Having heard our pitch, will you buy?” Without them, an investment usually won’t be made.
How can start-up businesses—some of which may have only a prototype product or an idea for a service—appropriately gauge market reaction? One executive of a smaller company had put together a prototype of a device that enables personal computers to handle telephone messages. He needed to demonstrate that customers would buy the product, but the company had exhausted its cash resources and was thus unable to build and sell the item in quantity.
The executives wondered how to get around the problem. The MIT panel offered two possible responses. First, the founders might allow a few customers to use the prototype and obtain written evaluations of the product and the extent of their interest when it became available.
Second, the founders might offer the product to a few potential customers at a substantial price discount if they paid part of the cost—say one-third—up front so that the company could build it. The company could not only find out whether potential buyers existed but also demonstrate the product to potential investors in real-life installations.
In the same way, an entrepreneur might offer a proposed new service at a discount to initial customers as a prototype if the customers agreed to serve as references in marketing the service to others.
For a new product, nothing succeeds as well as letters of support and appreciation from some significant potential customers, along with “reference installations.” You can use such third-party statements—from would-be customers to whom you have demonstrated the product, initial users, sales representatives, or distributors—to show that you have indeed discovered a sound market that needs your product or service.
You can obtain letters from users even if the product is only in prototype form. You can install it experimentally with a potential user to whom you will sell it at or below cost in return for information on its benefits and an agreement to talk to sales prospects or investors. In an appendix to the business plan or in a separate volume, you can include letters attesting to the value of the product from experimental customers.
Document Your Claims
Having established a market interest, you must use carefully analyzed data to support your assertions about the market and the growth rate of sales and profits. Too often, executives think “If we’re smart, we’ll be able to get about 10% of the market” and “Even if we only get 1% of such a huge market, we’ll be in good shape.”
Investors know that there’s no guarantee a new company will get any business, regardless of market size. Even if the company makes such claims based on fact—as borne out, for example, by evidence of customer interest—they can quickly crumble if the company does not carefully gather and analyze supporting data.
One example of this danger surfaced in a business plan that came before the MIT Enterprise Forum. An entrepreneur wanted to sell a service to small businesses. He reasoned that he could have 170,000 customers if he penetrated even 1% of the market of 17 million small enterprises in the United States. The panel pointed out that anywhere from 11 million to 14 million of such so-called small businesses were really sole proprietorships or part-time businesses. The total number of full-time small businesses with employees was actually between 3 million and 6 million and represented a real potential market far beneath the company’s original projections—and prospects.
Similarly, in a business plan relating to the sale of certain equipment to apple growers, you must have U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics to discover the number of growers who could use the equipment. If your equipment is useful only to growers with 50 acres or more, then you need to determine how many growers have farms of that size, that is, how many are minor producers with only an acre or two of apple trees.
A realistic business plan needs to specify the number of potential customers, the size of their businesses, and which size is most appropriate to the offered products or services. Sometimes bigger is not better. For example, a saving of $10,000 per year in chemical use may be significant to a modest company but unimportant to a Du Pont or a Monsanto.
Such marketing research should also show the nature of the industry. Few industries are more conservative than banking and public utilities. The number of potential customers is relatively small, and industry acceptance of new products or services is painfully slow, no matter how good the products and services have proven to be. Even so, most of the customers are well known and while they may act slowly, they have the buying power that makes the wait worthwhile.
At the other end of the industrial spectrum are extremely fast-growing and fast-changing operations such as franchised weight-loss clinics and computer software companies. Here the problem is reversed. While some companies have achieved multi-million-dollar sales in just a few years, they are vulnerable to declines of similar proportions from competitors. These companies must innovate constantly so that potential competitors will be discouraged from entering the marketplace.
You must convincingly project the rate of acceptance for the product or service—and the rate at which it is likely to be sold. From this marketing research data, you can begin assembling a credible sales plan and projecting your plant and staff needs.
Address Investors’ Needs
The marketing issues are tied to the satisfaction of investors. Once executives make a convincing case for their market penetration, they can make the financial projections that help determine whether investors will be interested in evaluating the venture and how much they will commit and at what price.
Before considering investors’ concerns in evaluating business plans, you will find it worth your while to gauge who your potential investors might be. Most of us know that for new and growing private companies, investors may be professional venture capitalists and wealthy individuals. For corporate ventures, they are the corporation itself. When a company offers shares to the public, individuals of all means become investors along with various institutions.
But one part of the investor constituency is often overlooked in the planning process—the founders of new and growing enterprises. By deciding to start and manage a business, they are committed to years of hard work and personal sacrifice. They must try to stand back and evaluate their own businesses in order to decide whether the opportunity for reward some years down the road truly justifies the risk early on.
When an entrepreneur looks at an idea objectively rather than through rose-colored glasses, the decision whether to invest may change. One entrepreneur who believed in the promise of his scientific-instruments company faced difficult marketing problems because the product was highly specialized and had, at best, few customers. Because of the entrepreneur’s heavy debt, the venture’s chance of eventual success and financial return was quite slim.
The panelists concluded that the entrepreneur would earn only as much financial return as he would have had holding a job during the next three to seven years. On the downside, he might wind up with much less in exchange for larger headaches. When he viewed the project in such dispassionate terms, the entrepreneur finally agreed and gave it up.
Investors’ primary considerations are:
Entrepreneurs frequently do not understand why investors have a short attention span. Many who see their ventures in terms of a lifetime commitment expect that anyone else who gets involved will feel the same. When investors evaluate a business plan, they consider not only whether to get in but also how and when to get out.
Because small, fast-growing companies have little cash available for dividends, the main way investors can profit is from the sale of their holdings, either when the company goes public or is sold to another business. (Large corporations that invest in new enterprises may not sell their holdings if they’re committed to integrating the venture into their organizations and realizing long-term gains from income.)
Venture capital firms usually wish to liquidate their investments in small companies in three to seven years so as to pay gains while they generate funds for investment in new ventures. The professional investor wants to cash out with a large capital appreciation.
Investors want to know that entrepreneurs have thought about how to comply with this desire. Do they expect to go public, sell the company, or buy the investors out in three to seven years? Will the proceeds provide investors with a return on invested capital commensurate with the investment risk—in the range of 35% to 60%, compounded and adjusted for inflation?
Business plans often do not show when and how investors may liquidate their holdings. For example, one entrepreneur’s software company sought $1.5 million to expand. But a panelist calculated that, to satisfy their goals, the investors “would need to own the entire company and then some.”
Making Sound Projections
Five-year forecasts of profitability help lay the groundwork for negotiating the amount investors will receive in return for their money. Investors see such financial forecasts as yardsticks against which to judge future performance.
Too often, entrepreneurs go to extremes with their numbers. In some cases, they don’t do enough work on their financials and rely on figures that are so skimpy or overoptimistic that anyone who has read more than a dozen business plans quickly sees through them.
In one MIT Enterprise Forum presentation, a management team proposing to manufacture and market scientific instruments forecast a net income after taxes of 25% of sales during the fourth and fifth years following investment. While a few industries such as computer software average such high profits, the scientific instruments business is so competitive, panelists noted, that expecting such margins is unrealistic.
In fact, the managers had grossly—and carelessly—understated some important costs. The panelists advised them to take their financial estimates back to the drawing board and before approaching investors to consult financial professionals.
Some entrepreneurs think that the financials are the business plan. They may cover the plan with a smog of numbers. Such “spreadsheet merchants,” with their pages of computer printouts covering every business variation possible and analyzing product sensitivity, completely turn off many investors.
Investors are wary even when financial projections are solidly based on realistic marketing data because fledgling companies nearly always fail to achieve their rosy profit forecasts. Officials of five major venture capital firms we surveyed said they are satisfied when new ventures reach 50% of their financial goals. They agreed that the negotiations that determine the percentage of the company purchased by the investment dollars are affected by this “projection discount factor.”
The Development Stage
All investors wish to reduce their risk. In evaluating the risk of a new and growing venture, they assess the status of the product and the management team. The farther along an enterprise is in each area, the lower the risk.
At one extreme is a single entrepreneur with an unproven idea. Unless the founder has a magnificent track record, such a venture has little chance of obtaining investment funds.
At the more desirable extreme is a venture that has an accepted product in a proven market and a competent and fully staffed management team. This business is most likely to win investment funds at the lowest costs.
Entrepreneurs who become aware of their status with investors and think it inadequate can improve it. Take the case of a young MIT engineering graduate who appeared at an MIT Enterprise Forum session with written schematics for the improvement of semiconductor-equipment production. He had documented interest by several producers and was looking for money to complete development and begin production.
The panelists advised him to concentrate first on making a prototype and assembling a management team with marketing and financial know-how to complement his product-development expertise. They explained that because he had never before started a company, he needed to show a great deal of visible progress in building his venture to allay investors’ concern about his inexperience.
Once investors understand a company qualitatively, they can begin to do some quantitative analysis. One customary way is to calculate the company’s value on the basis of the results expected in the fifth year following investment. Because risk and reward are closely related, investors believe companies with fully developed products and proven management teams should yield between 35% and 40% on their investment, while those with incomplete products and management teams are expected to bring in 60% annual compounded returns.
Investors calculate the potential worth of a company after five years to determine what percentage they must own to realize their return. Take the hypothetical case of a well-developed company expected to yield 35% annually. Investors would want to earn 4.5 times their original investment, before inflation, over a five-year period.
After allowing for the projection discount factor, investors may postulate that a company will have $20 million annual revenues after five years and a net profit of $1.5 million. Based on a conventional multiple for acquisitions of ten times earnings, the company would be worth $15 million in five years.
If the company wants $1 million of financing, it should grow to $4.5 million after five years to satisfy investors. To realize that return from a company worth $15 million, the investors would need to own a bit less than one-third. If inflation is expected to average 7.5% a year during the five-year period, however, investors would look for a value of $6.46 million as a reasonable return over five years, or 43% of the company.
For a less mature venture—from which investors would be seeking 60% annually, net of inflation—a $1 million investment would have to bring in close to $15 million in five years, with inflation figured at 7.5% annually. But few businesses can make a convincing case for such a rich return if they do not already have a product in the hands of some representative customers.
The final percentage of the company acquired by the investors is, of course, subject to some negotiation, depending on projected earnings and expected inflation.
Make It Happen
The only way to tend to your needs is to satisfy those of the market and the investors—unless you are wealthy enough to furnish your own capital to finance the venture and test out the pet product or service.
Of course, you must confront other issues before you can convince investors that the enterprise will succeed. For example, what proprietary aspects are there to the product or service? How will you provide quality control? Have you focused the venture toward a particular market segment, or are you trying to do too much? If this is answered in the context of the market and investors, the result will be more effective than if you deal with them in terms of your own wishes.
An example helps illustrate the potential conflicts. An entrepreneur at an MIT Enterprise Forum session projected R&D spending of about half of gross sales revenues for his specialty chemical venture. A panelist who had analyzed comparable organic chemical suppliers asked why the company’s R&D spending was so much higher than the industry average of 5% of gross revenues.
The entrepreneur explained that he wanted to continually develop new products in his field. While admitting his purpose was admirable, the panel unanimously advised him to bring his spending into line with the industry’s. The presenter ignored the advice; he failed to obtain the needed financing and eventually went out of business.
Once you accept the idea that you should satisfy the market and the investors, you face the challenge of organizing your data into a convincing document so that you can sell your venture to investors and customers. We have provided some presentation guidelines in the insert called “Packaging Is Important.”
Packaging Is Important
A business plan gives financiers their first impressions of a company and its principals.
Potential investors expect the plan to look good, but not too good; to be the right length; to clearly and cisely explain early on all aspects of the company’s business; and not to contain bad grammar and typographical or spelling errors.
Investors are looking for evidence that the principals treat their own property with care—and will likewise treat the investment carefully. In other words, form as well as content is important, and investors know that good form reflects good content and vice versa.
Among the format issues we think most important are the following:
The binding and printing must not be sloppy; neither should the presentation be too lavish. A stapled compilation of photocopied pages usually looks amateurish, while bookbinding with typeset pages may arouse concern about excessive and inappropriate spending. A plastic spiral binding holding together a pair of cover sheets of a single color provides both a neat appearance and sufficient strength to withstand the handling of a number of people without damage.
A business plan should be no more than 40 pages long. The first draft will likely exceed that, but editing should produce a final version that fits within the 40-page ideal. Adherence to this length forces entrepreneurs to sharpen their ideas and results in a document likely to hold investors’ attention.
Background details can be included in an additional volume. Entrepreneurs can make this material available to investors during the investigative period after the initial expression of interest.
The Cover and Title Page
The cover should bear the name of the company, its address and phone number, and the month and year in which the plan is issued. Surprisingly, a large number of business plans are submitted to potential investors without return addresses or phone numbers. An interested investor wants to be able to contact a company easily and to request further information or express an interest, either in the company or in some aspect of the plan.
Inside the front cover should be a well-designed title page on which the cover information is repeated and, in an upper or a lower corner, the legend “Copy number______” provided. Besides helping entrepreneurs keep track of plans in circulation, holding down the number of copies outstanding—usually to no more than 20—has a psychological advantage. After all, no investor likes to think that the prospective investment is shopworn.
The Executive Summary
The two pages immediately following the title page should concisely explain the company’s current status, its products or services, the benefits to customers, the financial forecasts, the venture’s objectives in three to seven years, the amount of financing needed, and how investors will benefit.
This is a tall order for a two-page summary, but it will either sell investors on reading the rest of the plan or convince them to forget the whole thing.
The Table of Contents
After the executive summary include a well-designed table of contents. List each of the business plan’s sections and mark the pages for each section.
Even though we might wish it were not so, writing effective business plans is as much an art as it is a science. The idea of a master document whose blanks executives can merely fill in—much in the way lawyers use sample wills or real estate agreements—is appealing but unrealistic.
Businesses differ in key marketing, production, and financial issues. Their plans must reflect such differences and must emphasize appropriate areas and deemphasize minor issues. Remember that investors view a plan as a distillation of the objectives and character of the business and its executives. A cookie-cutter, fill-in-the-blanks plan or, worse yet, a computer-generated package, will turn them off.
Write your business plans by looking outward to your key constituencies rather than by looking inward at what suits you best. You will save valuable time and energy this way and improve your chances of winning investors and customers.
- SR Mr. Rich has helped found seven technologically based businesses, the most recent being Advanced Energy Dynamics Inc. of Natick, Massachusetts. He is also a cofounder and has been chairman of the MIT Enterprise forum, which assists emerging growth companies.
- DG Mr. Gumpert is an associate editor of HBR, where he specializes in small business and marketing. He has written several HBR articles, the most recent of which was “The Heart of Entrepreneurship,” coauthored by Howard. H. Stevenson (March–April 1985). This article is adapted from Business Plans That Win $$$ : Lessons from the MIT Enterprise Forum, by Messrs. Rich and Gumpert (Harper & Row, 1985). The authors are also founders of Venture Resource Associates of Grantham, New Hampshire, which provides planning and strategic services to growing enterprises.
How to Develop a Killer Business Plan Presentation [with Template]
Written by Dave Lavinsky
On This Page:
What is a Business Plan Presentation?
How to create a business plan presentation, free business plan presentation templates to download, when should you create a business plan presentation, business plan presentation mistakes to avoid [& how to do it right].
Before they meet you to discuss the possibility of funding you, investors will frequently want to read your business plan or at least your executive summary. If they like what they see, then you’ll have to present your business plan/concept to them.
You will use your written business plan to create a presentation or pitch deck to show your audience, which may include potential business partners, angel investors, venture capitalists, lenders and others. Whether you are starting a new business or growing an existing venture, if you need to raise funding, you need to nail this presentation!
A business plan presentation is a summary of your business idea which highlights the company’s purpose, business model, funding requirements, development status, and other business essentials.
A presentation template typically includes the following:
- Product and/or Service Demo
- Business Model
- Go-To-Market Strategy
- Financial Projections
- Funds Being Raised
Investors want to know more about your business and how you’ll make them money before they invest their money in your company. Make sure you provide the necessary information in your presentation to meet their needs.
Most business plan presentations are in the form of a pitch deck, or slide deck, however, there are some options in terms of the platform you use to present your business plan presentation. This may include Microsoft Powerpoint, Google Slides, Prezi, Canva, etc.
To create a business plan presentation, often referred to as a pitch deck, you will need to go through the business plan itself and highlight the key points that investors need to know.
Start with a title slide with the basic information about you, any business partners you may have, and your company.
Then, follow the steps below for each essential slide in your business plan presentation:
On this slide, describe the major problems that your target customers are experiencing. Try to express the problem in simple language so that investors can grasp it quickly, especially if they aren’t within your target customer segments.
For example, if you have a website development business, you may want to express the problem as:
“Many business owners waste valuable time, energy, and money trying to create a business website on their own. This is because they lack technical knowledge of business website design and business development.”
Once you’ve successfully convinced the audience that there’s a problem, it’s time to present them with your company’s product or service. So on this slide, explain how your firm intends to address the issue you highlighted. Emphasize how scalable your solution is. Scalability refers to a business’s ability to expand as demand for its services grows.
Continuing with the website development company as an example, your solution might be:
“Our business provides website development services to business owners who lack the technical knowledge of business website design and business development.”
3. Product and/or Service Demo
On this slide, you’ll detail your product(s) and/or service(s). If you have a working prototype of your invention, it should be shown here. If a prototype isn’t feasible, attempt to convey your offering to the investors as best as possible. Offer pictures or screenshots of your product/service in use from customers.
For example, in a website development business presentation, you may want to show your business’s working product as follows:
“We provide website development services including business website design, business hosting, and business email setup. Our clients are able to manage their business websites independently without having to rely on external IT support.”
Describe the real or predicted size of your target market in this slide to back up your claims about the scale of the problem and your company’s scalability.
This section of your presentation will pique the interest of potential investors. They want to know if the market is big enough and whether you can grow big enough to pay them a good return on their investment if you achieve a significant share of the industry.
So, describe the size of your market, key trends, and how big your business may develop if it achieves a major market share. This slide will be highly data-driven and is frequently evaluated by investors. Make sure your data is from trustworthy, verifiable sources and that all of your estimates are accurate.
For a website development company, this section may be as follows:
“There are over 25 million business owners in the United States alone. There were an estimated 32.4 million business websites worldwide by 2016 and this is expected to grow exponentially as business computing takes root across the globe. In fact, research from developer Gartner forecasts that business’s digital business models would generate more than $340 billion of business value by 2020, leading them to estimate that more than three out of four business processes will involve digital technology by 2018.”
5. Business Model
On this slide, you need to describe how your business generates revenues. You can include things like your business’s pricing plan, how much it costs to acquire each customer, the business channels you’ll use, etc.
Your target audience must find your business credible and pricing feasible. If you’re targeting large enterprises with big budgets, mention that in this slide.
For example, in a website development company, you might say something like this:
“Our business provides business owners with website development services. We provide business hosting and business email setup, both of which are paid services. Our business also offers business website design as a free service.”
On this slide, you’ll describe your rivals — those firms or solutions that are currently addressing the issues you described above. Clearly show how various options to your company exist in the market.
Competition is generally a good thing. Investors frequently believe a market or issue does not exist if there are no competitors.
Perform a SWOT Analysis for similar organizations and emphasize their distinct qualities. How does your firm distinguish itself from the competition? What makes your product or service stand out? What is it about your company that gives it an edge over the competition? State what gave you a competitive advantage.
Competitors for a website development company might include business website builders, business email providers, and business hosting services.
“Our company provides business owners with website development services. We provide business hosting and business email setup, both of which are paid services. Our business also offers business website design as a free service.”
Your business plan presentation should include the specific benefits that your business brings to customers. Financing demand is not enough; you need to show the compelling reasons why people will buy your product or service rather than someone else’s.
7. Go-To-Market Strategy
The goal of the Go-To-Market approach is for your company to communicate its unique value proposition to specific target consumers.
On this slide, you’ll explain how you intend to attract consumers to your product or service. If some aspects of your marketing plan are already in place, note them and the outcomes. The goal of this presentation deck’s slide is to demonstrate to investors that you have the capacity to expand your business into a global market.
As a website development business, your go-to-market approach may include business networking events, business trade shows, and business partnering opportunities.
“Our business networking events provide us with the opportunity to market our business by meeting potential clients. Businesses that are interested in finding out more about what we do attend these business networking events.”
On this slide, name the individuals on your management team. To demonstrate how and why they are the ideal individuals to manage your project, describe their skills and prior accomplishments.
Investors will be particularly interested to learn who will be in charge of executing the company ideas outlined in the presentation. Due to bad execution, a lot of wonderful business ideas never get off the ground because there are not enough competent individuals in the correct positions.
The term “traction” refers to evidence or proof that consumers desire your firm’s goods or services.
On this slide, you should include the following information: annual growth rates for your business based on relevant measurements such as sales, website traffic, users, sign-ups, downloads, and so on.
If your business is growing at a consistent rate, add a graph to the slide. Include indicators that are most easily measurable in your company’s success and expansion.
For a website development business, the indication of traction may be the business website traffic count.
“Our business has more than 10,000 business websites on our hosting service plan.”
10. Financial Projections
Here you’ll include a three to five-year projected income statement for your company. If you’re a startup, make sure your estimates are reasonable since you won’t have any prior data.
Investors will use your projections to determine the potential future scale of your business and whether it may satisfy their desired ROI.
On this slide, indicate when you anticipate breaking even and begin generating profits. Also note where additional fundraising is required, which advances to the following slide.
11. Funds Being Raised
The final slide of your business plan presentation should detail the amount of money you’ll require to reach your objectives. Rather than providing a fixed figure, you may wish to provide a range and demonstrate what you can accomplish with various amounts of money.
Importantly, emphasize the core benefits of the funding. Is it for staffing, product development, marketing strategy, or something else? To grow your company, where and how will the investor’s money be utilized?
An example of funding requests for a website development company may look like the following:
Business Plan Presentation Template – Google Slides Format Business Plan Presentation Template – Microsoft PowerPoint Format Business Plan Presentation Template – PDF Format
Investors want to know more about your business and how you’ll make them money before they invest their money in your company. Make sure you are providing the necessary information in your presentation to meet their needs.
Also, be sure to make your presentation deck well in advance leaving you enough time to rehearse your pitch, so that you feel confident during the actual presentation.
No matter what platform you choose to design your presentation there are common mistakes business owners make when developing the presentation. If you avoid these pitfalls, you will have a much higher chance of success.
Focusing on Non-Essential Information in the Presentation
One of the most common mistakes when creating presentations is including the entire business plan into the deck instead of just the main points your recipients want to see. Most investors do not have time to read hundreds of pages of non-essential information.
How To Do It Right:
Before you start crafting your presentation deck, create an outline highlighting the main points necessary for presenting to your potential investor. Be sure to answer the following questions when designing your pitch deck:
- How is this company different from others?
- Why should I invest in your business when there are other funding options available to me?
- Who is the target market for this company?
- What measurable outcomes do you hope to achieve in the next 3 years?
- What will be your biggest obstacles to success in achieving these business goals?
Not Timing Your Presentation
If you have thirty minutes (or ten minutes or five) to present, you simply must time your presentation to use the time available – no more and no less. If you go over the time allotted you might not be cut off, but they will keep in mind that you could not follow directions when they consider starting an investing relationship with you. If you do not use the entire time available, you will lose a valuable opportunity to explain your concepts further and they may, again, consider you somewhat incompetent.
Practice, practice, practice! Building a beautifully designed deck is only part of the presentation. Practicing is the single most critical part of the presentation. Rehearsal is especially important if you are pitching to a new company or people with specific expertise who will be looking for every detail in your presentation. Remember, timing is not just about how long your pitch deck should be but also about getting up and walking around to keep your audience’s attention. As you become more comfortable with your presentation, your confidence will also grow which will initiate a more memorable experience for your investor.
Obsessing Over Graphics and Animation
You should spend time on your presentation deck because it is a reflection of you, not because you want to use cool animations or graphics. If an animation needs explaining, don’t do it – just go with plain pictures that are easy to understand. Animated slides that are not used sparingly can lose their effect and be distracting.
How to Do It Right:
Your slides should be easily understood by individuals who have little background in your industry – just like the investors you are pitching to. If an animation or graphic is necessary to illustrate a concept, keep it simple and to a minimum so as not to distract the intended listeners.
Presenting Poorly Designed Slides
Avoid using too much text on the slides by including all the information from your business plan. The problem with too much text on slides is that the investor will attempt to read rather than listen to what you are saying. And if there is too much text, it will become more and more difficult to read the font size.
Quality slide design takes practice and is a topic in and of itself. To develop presentations with quality slide design, entrepreneurs should either hire a designer or become trained on the proper presentation software – most likely PowerPoint, Prezi, or KeyNote – so they can do it themselves.
Each slide should be focused on graphics or a few bullet points. Paragraphs or lists of text should be narrated by the presenter rather than written on the slides. Double-check all slides for spelling and grammatical errors. Having another set of eyes on the presentation will help to get another perspective.
The investment owners make to improve their presentation delivery will be well worth it as prospective investors are often turned off by owners who do not have professional slide designs and mistakes throughout the presentation.
Giving the Full Financials
Presenting the complete pro forma financial statements on slides is another serious mistake. In a short presentation, an investor does not have the time to take in all of this data and all you will convey is that a) you have a financial plan and b) you don’t know how to present.
Financials should be presented in summary format with just a few key metrics and numbers on each slide. Presenting these numbers in chart or graph format is an even better idea. If the numbers you show interest the investors, they will have time to peruse the complete financial projections and statements within your business plan at a later time.
Lack of Clarity and Confidence
Remember that these presentations may be the first, and only, impression with your prospective investors. If you seem ill-prepared or muddled when presenting the deck, investors will not get an accurate picture of what your business is about.
Rehearse your pitch multiple times until you can deliver it in a way that is clear and confident. You need to know what you want to convey in each slide and how this information compliments your business. Practice your pitch with family members or friends who will provide constructive feedback to help you prepare.
Failing to Deliver the Message
Business plan presentations are not meant to be a reiteration of a business plan. While you may think that you should convey all aspects of your plans, remember you are really marketing yourself and your business idea.
A successful presentation is about your ability to execute your business idea or concept by highlighting the following pieces of important information: who you are, what you want to accomplish, why this will succeed, and how you plan to do it.
This means that while there should be enough content in the slides for investors to conduct more research on your company on their own, your mission is not just to slide through hundreds of pages but convey a specific pitch in just a few slides.
The business plan presentation is your opportunity to show investors what you have planned for the future of your business. If you want to create a perfect business plan presentation, utilize the information in this article and remember these quick tips:
- Keep it simple and focused on one or two key points.
- Make sure that your business slides are easily understood by those who don’t know much about business, especially your industry.
- Present the numbers in charts and graphs rather than as full financial statements.
- Practice! Rehearse until you feel confident and clear before taking on any potential investors.
You’ll be able to make an excellent first impression with them if you do all of this right – now go out there and ace those presentations!
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How to present a business plan to potential investors
Table of Contents
Specify the problem your business solves
Tell a story in your presentation, do your homework, have confidence and rehearse your presentation, save time on your business finances with countingup.
Presenting your business plan can be a scary prospect for business owners. Laying your hard work bare to be examined by someone who doesn’t know you or your business can feel intimidating.
This article will help to prepare you to present a business plan to potential investors, through the following steps:
- Share the problem your business solves
When writing your business plan you should have identified a gap in the market that your products/services occupy. This proves there is a viable market and audience who need your business to fix an issue they have.
Investors will be unlikely to be interested in the business if you cannot prove that your company fulfils a need for customers. When you only have between ten to twenty minutes to sell them on your business, investors want to see quickly that a business is sustainable and will be viable long term.
When planning your presentation, lead with the pain point for the target customer, and how your business solves it.
Next, illustrate the problem through statistics on the current market. What products or services are out there currently? Show how your business has the edge over your competitors, or what benefits your company can offer a customer when they buy from you over somewhere else.
To help you prepare, read our guides on how to write up a competitor analysis as well as the market trends part of your business plan.
No one is as passionate about your business as you are. You need to convey that to your potential investors.
You may have told people the story of how you started your business a hundred times over, but these investors will be hearing it for the first time. Be personable, and make them excited to work with you through the passion you have for your venture.
The numbers you’ve gathered in your business plan will speak for themselves but you need to tell a story with them. Create your presentation around why you want to achieve certain goals, not just the how . This is where your enthusiasm and expertise can shine through, for investors to see why you care so much about what you’re doing. They need to buy into you as a business owner and operator, as well as the business idea itself.
How many times have you seen someone fumble their numbers on Dragons Den? This is where entrepreneurs get caught out, and investors will be unlikely to want to work with a business owner that doesn’t know their figures well enough.
Do your homework before you present the business plan to any potential investors. Learn your market analysis and your financial figures inside out and back to front, because investors are likely to question you on these during the presentation.
Leave your financial figures until near the end of your presentation because the numbers need context. Include your past performance, your current performance, seasonal trends (is your business more popular at certain times of the year), and your projections for the future.
Be realistic about your sales projections and forecasting figures. Don’t be tempted to overpromise to impress your potential investors, because the truth will come to light when they do their due diligence before you receive any capital.
If you have not started trading yet you can find out more about forecasting in our other blogs . If you already have sales figure to hand, here is how to create a very basic projection for a product-based business:
- Calculate how many units of a product you sell each month.
- Understand if you have seasonal dips or peaks and adjust the monthly figure appropriately for these months.
- Then add up the total for the year.
If you provide services, then you can do the same by showing how much money will be coming in from contracts or clients you have already won. Calculate how much you’ll be making from each client over the year. Do the same for any customers that are in the pipeline for your business (clients that you are in the process of trying to win). This will also help you find out how many clients/projects you need to win to keep a good amount of cash flow .
Be modest when it comes to your predictions. Set realistic goals that you will be able to sustain because the worst thing you can do is promise an investor that you can make them ‘X amount by next year’ and not be able to deliver.
Exuding confidence and presenting with impact is a skill you will have to learn to present a business plan to potential investors. Making eye contact and using open body language does not come naturally to everyone, but it’s important to look assured when you’re presenting your business plan.
A way to practice this confidence is to record yourself in the weeks or days leading up to the presentation. Video yourself to examine your body language, or record audio so you can listen to the cadence of your voice and identify where you need pauses or more information.
As cringeworthy as this task might feel, it will make a massive difference to the way you present. Seeing yourself from another perspective will be invaluable in identifying areas to improve.
Another thing to practice is being interrupted. In a real investor meeting, you are likely to be stopped and asked to expand on certain figures or areas. Don’t let this trip you up because you only practised the presentation in one long continuous flow.
To plan for this scenario, present the business plan to a friend or colleague and have them ask you questions throughout. This will prepare you for a variety of questions at any point in your presentation.
Whilst you are preparing to present your business plan to potential investors, the Countingup app can help you keep on top of your business finances. The business current account with built-in accounting software helps you save hours on accounting admin, so that you can focus on growing your business. Find out more here .
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How to Make a Business Plan Presentation
- Small Business
- Business Planning & Strategy
- Making Business Plans
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- Marketing Presentation Objectives
- How to Pitch a Business Plan
Making a business proposal presentation to prospective investors is stressful for nearly all entrepreneurs. Even if they are confident their business plan is well thought out, they still worry that they will not be able to express the most important aspects of their plan and engage the investors’ interest in the short time allotted for the in-person presentation. The keys to a successful presentation are advance preparation and rehearsal until your delivery is smooth and polished.
Preparing the Business Plan Presentation
Business plan presentations are designed to sell your idea to investors through a concise and engaging overview of what your business does, how it fills a consumer need and what you are looking for in terms of an investment. Seasoned investors are busy, and typically aren't interested in a long, drawn-out presentation filled with irrelevant information. In fact, many seasoned venture capitalists and angel investors will give you a specific time limit and a suggested outline for your presentation; if you receive these suggestions, it's a good idea to follow them. If you don't receive specific guidance, focus your presentation on the following key points:
- Introduce yourself, your company and its products.
- Describe your market and how you solve your customers' problems.
- Explain how your product is different than anything else on the market.
- Discuss the size of the market for your product
- Explain who your customers are
- Demonstrate growth in your market in the next 3-5 years
- Discuss the competitive advantages your venture has that will lead to outstanding revenue growth and profitability.
- Demonstrate your projected revenues and pretax profits for the next 3-5 years.
- Discuss your marketing strategies, including distribution channels and sales strategies
Slides 10 and beyond
- Introduce your management team and advisory board members. Include one or two points about each person’s background and experience. and explain how each person on the team brings a critical element necessary for your company’s success.
- Reveal the total amount of capital you need and a short list of major expenditures.
By following this general outline and focusing on the most important information, you'll answer most of the investors' questions and give them the details they need to make a decision. Remember to only hit the highlights, and don’t try to fit your entire business plan into the presentation. Too many slides can result in information overload, and they will not remember the most important pieces of information. Aim for a business plan PowerPoint of about 10-12 slides.
Rehearsing Your Presentation
Once you've created the presentation, practice presenting it to ensure that you appear polished and professional come presentation day. Again, keep time limits in mind, and respect the investors' time. Don't forget to include time for questions in your overall presentation plan.
To begin rehearsing, create an outline of your the presentation, addressing the important points that you want to cover. If you are using presentation software like PowerPoint, print a copy of your presentation in outline view, and use that to identify the key points you want to make from each slide and jot down additional notes about what you want to say. Creating the outline not only ensures that you cover all of the key points, it also keeps you from simply reading what's on the screen, which will quickly bore the audience.
Once you have an idea of what you are going to say, rehearse your presentation with colleagues. Invite members of your management team or trusted associates into a conference room and conduct a dress rehearsal of the presentation. Get their feedback on what parts of the presentation might need editing or clarification. Time your presentation and cut it down if necessary. Rehearse the presentation several more times on your own.
Succeeding on Presentation Day
It's normal to be nervous come presentation day, but do your best to relax and calm your nerves. Try some breathing or visualization exercises ahead of time to clear your mind and get into the right frame of mind. If you are well-prepared and know your presentation inside and out, there is nothing to be nervous about. Just be yourself – the investors are evaluating you as well as your business plan, after all – and do your best to project an image of confidence and competence.
Show enthusiasm and urgency, but avoid coming across as desperate or unfocused. Speak slowly, smile, make eye contact and refer to your notes if you need to and you'll impress investors with both your business and your presentation skills.
- Entrepreneur: 10 Tips for Creating a Winning Business Plan in PowerPoint
- Business News Daily: How to Give a Great Business Presentation
- Close the presentation with a sense of urgency. Show why now is the right time for your company to enter the market. Timing is often critical with early stage companies.
- Don’t try to fit your entire business plan into the presentation. Too many slides can result in information overload for the people you are presenting to, and they will not remember the most important pieces of information. Ten to twelve slides is sufficient.
Brian Hill is the author of four popular business and finance books: "The Making of a Bestseller," "Inside Secrets to Venture Capital," "Attracting Capital from Angels" and his latest book, published in 2013, "The Pocket Small Business Owner's Guide to Business Plans."
Keys to a successful business pitch, how to conduct an effective powerpoint presentation, how to plan a business presentation, how to create a powerpoint presentation outlining your proposal or business plan, how to write your business proposal, how to speak in front of employees, how to prepare a business presentation, how to make a boring presentation interesting, how to design & deliver an effective seminar, most popular.
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How to pitch your business plan
Presenting your business plan is an art and a science to which you must devote time if you are going to be successful as an entrepreneur.
When presenting your business plan, it’s important to keep your audience in mind and target your content appropriately.
As you seek to finance your business, your audience can be broken down into two groups: Potential investors and potential lenders. You should tailor your presentation to the differing interests and goals of these two groups and be ready to answer their questions.
What investors are looking for
Investors look into the future to a time when they can cash in, hopefully at a high multiple to their initial investment. Therefore, they are concerned with your growth potential.
- Is there a growing market for your product or service?
- Does it involve breakthrough technology or is it merely a me-too product?
- What would be the exit strategy?
- How much return can investors make on this investment, and when?
Investors typically won’t see an entrepreneur more than once and often will want to listen to you present your business for no more than a couple of minutes.
Prepare a brief, compelling presentation that tells your story, describes your business and explains how you will fulfill a customer want, need or desire. Tell them what you have achieved and why it’s a good idea to invest with you.
What lenders are looking for
Lenders are more concerned with risk and the return of their money with interest. So they look more at revenue, expenses, and other cash flow issues.
Bankers prefer one clear and complete idea over many excellent but vague possibilities. So make sure your presentation is focused and fact-based.
- Is your product priced right for its market niche?
- Can company management control expenses?
- Does the company have the ability to repay its loan and still grow?
- How much are company owners willing to share the risk?
In its risk assessment, a bank will not only look at your ability to execute a project and repay the loan. Your banker will also consider the project itself and ask: “Is this the right decision for this company? Will it contribute to its profitable growth in the years to come?” Therefore, the business plan for the project you want to fund must be clear and succinct.
For more information on borrowing download your free copy of BDC’s guide How to Get a Business Loan .
Establishing your credibility
If your new business doesn’t have substantial revenue or isn’t generating positive cash flow, it is even more fundamental to demonstrate you are a credible and worthwhile risk.
That means having all the pieces in place—deep market knowledge, a competitive product or service offering, and the self-confidence to overcome the inevitable setbacks.
You will have to demonstrate you have the experience, skills, determination and self-confidence to successfully build your company or carry out the project for which you’re borrowing money. If you don’t believe in yourself, your business and your project, why should others?
Here are some points to keep in mind when you meet investors and bankers to discuss your business plan.
- Use facts and figures —Support every conclusion and claim with research from third-party sources. If you mention trends or evaluate your market potential, make sure you’ve done the research to back your claims.
- Be clear —Your banker or potential investor probably isn’t an expert in your field, so avoid industry jargon, acronyms and technical details.
- Show you’ve done your research —Demonstrate you’ve looked at your project from every angle and prepared contingency plans. Discuss how your previous experience and achievements will help in this case.
- Stick to business —Focus on proving your case. It’s good to be passionate about your business, but it’s your facts and figures that will get you the money.
- Be realistic —Your forecasts should clearly show how your business or project will be profitable for both you and your counterpart. These forecasts must be rational and backed up by solid data. Be careful about making claims that you’ll be the next Google or Amazon.
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How to Present a Business Plan to Potential Investors
Helping ideas to grow into measurable success. InnMind Expert in Metaverse, Crypto, Marketing Growth.
More posts by Val Baev.
Being able to sell your business plan to potential investors effectively is undoubtedly a fundamental skill for a startup founder.
Unfortunately, doing it correctly is not very intuitive. You can easily go overboard on the details too early when your audience is not yet interested enough, or you can showcase too little. Either way, such a mistake could cost you a potential investor.
This article would give you a solid backbone of info, which should help you avoid such basic mistakes that can slow down your fundraising process .
1 Judge the Level of Interest
You need to adeptly match the information you are presenting with the level of interest of the people you are communicating your business plan to.
People who don’t know much about your project won’t have the interest and patience to read a full 30-page document. At the same time, people who are familiar with your project and business and want to make a serious commitment would expect such details.
Regrettably, this means that one document wouldn’t be enough.
It helps to imagine the process as a sales funnel. From least-interested to most-interested, people should receive the following business plan communication:
2 Elevator pitch
You should be able to summarize the whole business in a few sentences to people you’re just meeting. It pays dividends to polish this presentation, as you would have to give it constantly to all kinds of stakeholders in your business. You can also use writing services like Trust My Paper , where experts will help you create a quality business plan early in your career.
3 Pitch Deck
Short pitch deck, lean canvas, or business plan executive summary: the short pitch deck is the industry-standard way to present a startup idea to potentially interested parties. That said, the short pitch deck is great for meetings, but it suffers a bit when you send it by email for people to read, as it is short on text. Because of this, the Lean Canvas and the business plan executive summary could do a better job on such occasions (or even better – you can combine the short pitch deck with one of the other two documents). These documents have the benefit of being succinct but at the same time giving more information than the few-sentence long elevator pitch.
4 Detailed Pitch Deck
An online presentation made especially to send by email. It has the same structure and contains the same information as the short pitch deck, but it is more text-heavy and detailed. It could also be used for 15 to 40 min presentations instead of the standard 5 to 10-minute pitches. Once again, committing 40 minutes to your project suggests your audience is already relatively interested.
5 Business Plan
Finally, the full business plan. It is useful only to people who intend to commit to the project – usually investors, but also partners, co-founders, etc. Keep in mind that even though the business plan is usually used as a tool to attract investors, its main purpose is to give the founding team clarity of the path ahead.
Sell the Core Business Idea Efficiently
Whether you use a business plan or a pitch deck, the central principles of convincing a startup investor of the viability of your project remain the same.
- Clarity is paramount . Complexity is usually counter-productive because it risks confusing your audience. Moreover, the more complex the plan, the higher the chance it would go wrong when executed.
- Start with the problem you are tackling (make sure it’s a real problem) and the solution you are proposing.
- Showcase the (hopefully big) upside of the project by talking about the total addressable market and your possible market penetration.
- Give evidence – ideally traction numbers sufficient to convince the audience that the story you are telling is founded in reality.
- Showcase the competence of the team – demonstrating deep domain knowledge and ideally, experience is paramount.
- Talk about competition and your competitive advantages . Saying there’s no competition is usually a sign of a bad understanding of the space, so do your research diligently.
Finally, finish with the ask. In a business plan, you have more space to explore what you are looking for – investors, partners, etc., and what you need the resources for.
If you cover the points from above to a satisfying degree, then you are off to a great start to convince potential investors and partners.
Structure Your Business Plan Meticulously
Keep in mind that the business plan isn’t necessarily a document that’s meant to be read from A to Z. Usually people would skim-read it, and then they would use it as a reference document every time they need specific information. This means that it needs to be structured logically to allow people to easily find the information they are looking for even before they’ve read the whole document.
The business plan structure is not set in stone, but people expect to find specific pieces of information there, so being too creative with the structure is counter-productive.
A good business plan structure is the following:
- Executive Summary : a summary of the whole plan, can be sent as a separate document as discussed above;
- Opportunity : talk about the problem, solution, target market, segments, and possibly competition;
- Execution : marketing and operations plan; milestones are helpful to illustrate the road ahead; success metrics are also a great idea;
- Company Structure : cap table, management team, hiring plan for open/perspective positions;
- Finance : financial projections – P&L and ideally net present value projections; needed funding; appendix: anything else, plus pictures and videos supporting the story.
Presenting a business project to investors isn’t as straightforward as one would think, so it pays dividends to invest the needed time to understand what the investor expects to see and to develop the needed documentation that would allow you to build a convincing case.
That said, the pitch deck and the business plan are just a framework – needless to say, the important thing is the content, so make sure you have worthwhile things to say in your business plan.
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Business pitches made easy.
Tell a clear story that gets investors excited about your startup
How to Successfully Pitch Your Business Idea to Investors
If you’re an entrepreneur, you need to know how to pitch your business. Even if you’re not planning to pursue funding, having a solid elevator pitch ensures that you know your business inside and out. Which comes in handy if or when you eventually decide to seek out investment.
How to make a pitch for investors
Creating a successful pitch starts with a thorough business plan. From there it’s up to you to identify what makes your business valuable and worth investing in. You may have 5-pages of proven financial history and a deep analysis of how you stack up against the competition across multiple industries, but you simply can’t cover it all.
Because, when your pitching to angel investors and venture capitalists for the first time, you’ll often only have around 10-minutes to make your case. Here’s how to make that quick pitch successful.
1. Create a presentation
First, take the time to put together your pitch deck . The goal is to create a deck that is easy for you to work off of and gets investors excited about your business.
Keeping that in mind, you should have a short version that you can speak to within 10-minutes as well as an extended version that includes everything you’d like to give potential investors access to.
You can use our free pitch deck template for Powerpoint to get started and browse our gallery of over 50 different Industry Pitch Decks . If you need help putting your pitch together, check out this list of tools that can help you put together a professional-looking presentation.
2. Practice your pitch
You need to practice your pitch. Not being able to quickly speak to each element of your business makes every other tip on this list virtually useless.
Too many entrepreneurs think that just by knowing their business they can quickly and succinctly explain its’ value. And having a killer pitch deck with eye-popping visuals will be enough to fall back on. So they go into pitch meetings unprepared.
Instead of being able to say, “I only need 10 minutes of your time,” and actually only taking 10 minutes, you’ll soon find yourself rambling 20 minutes in having only made it through slide 5. Take the time to practice, simplify your messaging, and only keep elements that build up your business. Leave everything else on the cutting room floor.
3. Outline the problem with a story
Begin your pitch with a compelling story. It should address the problem you’re solving in the marketplace. This will engage your audience right out of the gate. And if you’ve done any testing try to include actual data here.
If you can relate your story to your audience, in this case, the investor, even better. What industries have they invested in previously? What pain points do their previous entrepreneurial endeavors have? Do some research about the investor, so you have a good sense of what they care about and can tailor your story to them.
4. Your solution
Share what’s unique about your product and how it will solve the issue you shared in the previous slide.
Keep it short, concise, and easy for the investor to explain to others. Avoid using buzzwords unless your investors are very familiar with your industry. Again, if you’ve done any testing beforehand, plugin results here to give your solution more credibility.
5. Your target market
Don’t say that everyone in the world is potentially your target market , even if it could be true one day.
Be realistic about who you’re building your product for and break out your market into TAM, SAM, and SOM . This will not only impress your audience, but it will help you think more strategically about your roll-out plan.
If you can, try and develop a user persona or your ideal customer when speaking about your target market. This can help investors visualize the potential customer base and displays that you’ve thought intently about who your business will serve. It’s also much easier to speak to a named individual in a quick pitch, rather than a broad demographic.
6. Your revenue or business model
Investors tend to care about this slide the most. How will you make money ? Be very specific about your products and pricing and emphasize again how your market is anxiously awaiting your arrival.
7. Your successes: Early traction and milestones
Early in the presentation, you want to build some credibility. Take some time to share the relevant traction you’ve made.
This is your opportunity to blow your own horn. Impress the investors with what you and your team have accomplished to date (sales, contracts, key hires, product launches, and so on). You’ve likely mentioned bits and pieces of this early on, but this is the point where you create a full snapshot of your business.
But don’t just leave it at what you’ve done, be sure to speak to where you’re going. Show them a roadmap of next steps, additional milestones and even mention how funding will help achieve them.
8. Customer acquisition: Marketing and sales strategy
This is usually one of the most skipped sections of an investor pitch and a full business plan. How will you reach your customers? How much will it cost? How will you measure success?
Your financials should easily allow you to calculate your customer acquisition costs. But you should also mention how you intend to reach customers, which channels you’ll be advertising on, and even present an example of messaging. You’ve done your research, you know your customer, why not show investors what that will look like in action.
9. Your team
Investors invest in people first and ideas second, so be sure to share details about your rock star team and why they are the right people to lead this company.
Also, be sure to share what skill-sets you may be missing on your team. Most startup teams are missing some key talent—be it marketing, management expertise, programmers, sales, operations, financial management, and so on. Let them know that you know that you don’t know everything.
10. Your financial projections
Show what you’re projecting in revenue (per product) over the next three to five years. You must back up your numbers by sharing your assumptions. You’ll see investors taking out their smartphone calculators to make sure your numbers make sense, so give them the information they need to see that your calculations are accurate.
If your financial chart shows “hockey-stick growth,” be sure to explain what happens to cause those inflection points. Now it can be incredibly easy to spend a ton of your time explaining financials but keep in mind that you need to speak to them quickly. If investors want to hear or know more, add your full financials to the extended pitch deck or offer to answer questions after you’ve finished presenting.
11. Your competition
Again, this is a very important part of your pitch, and many people omit this section or don’t provide enough detail about why they’re so different from their competitors.
The best way to communicate your value proposition over your competitors’ is to show this slide in a competitive matrix format —where you list your competitors down the left side of the page, you have your features/benefits across the top, and place checkmarks in the boxes for which company offers that service. Ideally, you have checkmarks across the top for every category, and your competitors lack in key areas to show your competitive advantage.
12. Your funding needs
Clearly spell out how much money has already been invested in your company, by whom, ownership percentages, and how much more you need to go to the next level (and be clear about what level that is). Will you need to raise multiple rounds of financing? Is the investment you’re seeking a convertible note, an equity round, or something else?
Remind the audience why your management team is capable of managing their investment for growth. Tell investors how much you need, why you need the money, what it will be used for, and the intended outcome.
13. Your exit strategy
If you’re seeking large sums of investment capital (over $1M), most investors will want to know what your exit strategy is . Are you planning on getting acquired, going public (very few companies actually do), or something else? Show you’ve done some due diligence on this exit strategy, including the companies you’re targeting, and why it would make sense three, five, or ten years down the road.
Investors will want you to be able to back up your claims. Have a well-thought-out business plan on-hand to share, so investors can read more if they’d like to. The intention, after all, is that you deliver a powerful pitch, and by the end, their hands are out asking for either your executive summary or your complete business plan.
15. Take feedback and refine your pitch
No matter the outcome of your pitch, whether you receive funding, another meeting, or rejection, look for areas to improve. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback and take that into account for the next time you pitch. Now if the investor isn’t willing to provide any, don’t push the issue. It is their time you’ve just spent and are asking more of, so it’s a fine balance to achieve.
If you can, have another team member there to take notes and review with them after the fact. Look for weak-points, areas you stumbled over, and slides that led to negative reactions from the investor. Keep refining, practicing, and executing even if you think you’ve found the perfect pitch.
You’ll really never know how good your pitch is until you actually do it. Don’t stress yourself out, and treat every investor pitch as a learning experience for you and your business. You’ll only continue to get better and better and can apply those learnings to every area of your business.
Editors’ Note: This article was originally published in 2018 and updated for 2021.
An entrepreneur. A disruptor. An advocate. Caroline has been the CEO and co-founder of two tech startups—one failed and one she sold. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs realize their full potential and learn how to step outside of their comfort zones to catalyze their growth. Caroline is currently executive director of Oregon RAIN . She provides strategic leadership for the organization’s personnel, development, stakeholder relations, and community partnerships. In her dual role as the venture catalyst manager, Cummings oversees the execution of RAIN’s Rural Venture Catalyst programs. She provides outreach and support to small and rural communities; she coaches and mentors regional entrepreneurs, builds strategic local partnerships, and leads educational workshops.
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1. Create a presentation ... First, take the time to put together your pitch deck. The goal is to create a deck that is easy for you to work off of and gets