What your Seed, Series A, and Series B investors desperately want in your pitch The thing about investors is that they need to be…alive. But when some SaaS companies pitch for funding, they don’t realize that it’s their responsibility to keep these investors that way. Investors hear one billion pitches a week. Seed pitches. Series A pitches. Series B pitches. Please-please-we-are-begging-you-we-really-need-this-cash pitches. Okay, maybe not a billion pitches, but it’s got to be close. Investors live in the trenches. They’ve heard everything. They’ve eaten hundreds of terrible biscuits and had god-knows-how-many lukewarm coffees. And they have seen the same mistakes over and over. Here’s the usual sequence of events. They sit there. Then their hearts sink as soon as they realize this is going to be terrible. Cue the boredom. The tortured introspective speculation on what they did in a past life to deserve this, and then… Before you know it… Best case scenario, their eyes roll in the back of their head and BAM! They’re in a kill-me-now coma. Worst case scenario, they retire to the floor, roll up into the fetal position, and let their soul leave their body forever because “I don’t care I’m headed straight for the 7th circle of hell, ANYTHING is better than this pitch. Goodbye cruel world and if anyone plays Celine Dion at my funeral I WILL HAUNT THEM NEAR, FAR, WHEREVER THEY ARE. But you as a SaaS company need that sweet, sweet green. You want them to make it rain on you, baby! So how do you…not kill them in the pitch? Here’s a guide to some of our best tips, gathered from real life experience and a little bit of research. Note- this is not the usual stuff like differentiating your brand from your competitors, including success stories, showing your traction, and defining your market. That’s a given. This is the real stuff. Ready? 1. Be somewhere in the ballpark with your financial projections and valuation. Actually, at least be on the same planet. One of our favorite things about watching Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank is the look on the investors’ faces when the pitcher values their business at one jillion dollars. It’s absolute GOLD. If you inflate the value or projections to ridiculous heights that you can’t defend, investors will shut down immediately. They also won’t trust you. Special Tip: Use data. Data. Data. Data. Data that’s not been manipulated. Put together your numbers and ask that annoying family member who has questioned and criticized every single thing you’ve done in your life to have a look. If you shut them up, you’re probably okay. 2. Answer all questions. Honestly. If you dodge questions, you’ll make even the most botoxed eyebrow raise. Anticipate everything that they might ask and be prepared. There’s no room for vagueness or side-stepping anything. You’ll look dishonest and clueless – which is great when you’re running for office, but not a good look when you’re trying to get a wad of cash. Special Tip: Practice answering tough questions – if you’ve got a teenager, ask them to cross–examine you. If you don’t have a teen, ask someone who isn’t your biggest fan. And if you don’t know the answer to a question they ask, figure out how to admit it gracefully and offer to follow up with the information later. 3. Avoid death-by-PowerPoint Do you really need those slides? The kinds of slides that kill investors are the ones that have 10 bullet points on each, 3 quotes, 17 colors, and always some kind of photo of a mountain. The problem is the investors won’t know where to look and they’ll be too distracted to listen to what you’re saying. It’s like putting a juicy sandwich on the counter while you try to tell your dog what to do. Is that dog capable of hearing anything you’re saying? Special Tip: Be ruthless with what goes on the slides and do no more than 10-15 of them. Use relevant visuals. Avoid walls of text – use bullet points that are as short as possible. 4. Talk to EVERYBODY This is an unspoken rule that most people have no idea exists but it is LETHAL when broken. Not only do you address everyone sitting in front of you (not just the most important person), but you speak their language. Each person has a slightly different way of communicating. It takes some time to get the hang of personalizing communication, but in the end, it will be worth it. There are many books on this (the best being Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson, which is a really fun read). Erikson argues that there are ideas people, numbers people, security people, and take-charge-bull-in-a-china-shop people. And some people are a mix. If you’re not flexible in how to talk to people, you risk losing them. For instance, if you do your presentation as all numbers, you lose the big-sky thinkers. If you focus on “MUST ACT NOW! DIVE! DIVE” you’ll lose the people who like to feel secure and build slowly. The best pitches have a little bit of everything, but are still tailored to each specific group of investors. It’s a total pain, but when you go above and beyond, you place yourself in front of your competitors. Special Tip: Research your investors beforehand so see how they like to communicate, and what’s important to them. Then adapt all your stuff to that- including the types of questions they’re likely to ask. 5. Remember that investors are big EMOTIONAL babies Actually, everyone is. If someone says they aren’t a big emotional baby, step back because their pants are about to spontaneously combust from all the lies. EVERYONE is emotionally-driven, so people take action for emotional reasons. You might be thinking, “What about those logic and numbers people?” They’re logic and numbers people because logic and numbers make them feel safe and secure. That’s emotion. Special Tip: Tap into how your investors feel- whether it’s how their pain points make their lives crappy or how amazing they’d feel investing with you. Show them you get how they feel. Wrap them up in a metaphorical blankie. They’ll realize you understand them. 6. Kill your ego ASAP This rule is the one that is the least popular with a lot of honchos, but WE DON’T CARE. Ignore it, and you’ll send your investors into an aneurysm-inducing rage. The best pitcher is not necessarily the head honcho. The best pitcher is the person who tells the story best. It might be the CRO. It might be the owner. It might be the kid who sorts the mail and goes to get lunch for everyone. We don’t care. We’re not saying don’t be there at the pitch. Be there for questions and clarification. But when it comes to the pitch itself, check your ego because if you are a bad or boring pitcher, you will not escape the damage your one-person-sideshow-circus-little-stunty-stunt will cause. Special Tip: Hold auditions. Do what you gotta do to find the best person. Then talk to your pitcher about how much time they’ll need to get ready. Then double that time. And don’t make them carry their usual workload while they’re in prep (unless you want to kill them as well as the investors). 7. Tell a story. But good. People love stories. It’s in our DNA. Without a story, the pitch will feel flat. Don’t make it too long- 10-45 seconds is great. Really commit to the story too- we want voices, excitement, inflection, the lot. Ignore stories at your investors’ peril. We once heard about this pitch that didn’t have a story- and the investor was so upset by this, that her heart literally smashed out of her chest, and as she fell, dying, trembling and weeping in her last moments on this very earth – trying desperately to leave some wise words, anything so that she would be remembered…her heart rolled across the parquet floor…and right into the mouth of the hungry office Rotweiller, KiKi. No! Honest! You don’t want the same thing to happen to you. Special Tip: Picking the right story that’s interesting, related to your journey, raises a few questions, keeps the intrigue up. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or made-up. But don’t say something’s true if it isn’t– we’re not McDonald’s workers saying they DEFINITELY put ketchup in your bag at the drive-thru. 8. Grab them by the throat* and keep them hooked. *not literally Have you ever sat down at an event, and about 5 seconds in, you knew coming to this was the worst decision you’ve ever made and you beg God or the universe or the kinda stabby-looking guy sitting next to you to PLEASE KILL ME STRIKE ME DOWN I DON’T EVEN CARE HOW YOU DO IT. You have about 6 seconds to get and keep an audience’s attention. Investors want you to get to some kind of point right away. If they feel you’re going to waste their time, they will zone out and miss everything you say. And if they do zone out, they sure as heck ARE NOT going to ask you to start from the beginning. Special Tip: Start with a bold statement, shocking fact, or that story. Use the open loop method to keep them in the palm of your hand. Open loop is a simple storytelling device where you leave a question unanswered, then do the same thing over and over to build intrigue, till you get to the middle of your speech, then you start answering the questions one by one. That creates relief and closure and keeps them paying attention till the end. And if all else fails, do your finest chimp-gone-rogue! Leap across the backs of chairs and tables! Create chaos and absolute scenes! Smash bananas on their heads! That’ll get their attention. 9. Tell them what’s in it for them. This happens all the time – people tell the investors in the pitch over and over what their own company will gain if the investors give them money. Bigger and better teams. Security. More market expansion. Maybe the company’s sales teams will be able start sleeping again. Hooray, right? But here’s a breaking report from Hard News: THE INVESTORS DON’T CARE. What they care about is what’s in it for them. What do they have to gain? How will they feel if they invest? How will their world be different? How does this investment help solve their problems? And why they should pick you, versus the Taylor-Swift-concert-sized pool of companies who pitch before and after you? Special Tip: Just be honest, whether that’s equity, dividends, or a share of the profits. Give real projections for return on investment (ROI) and always include exit opportunities. 10. Go sticky. Look at people on a dating app – there’s so much choice they mindlessly swipe over and over, left, right, right, right, left. Now wait a week, then ask them to talk about even 10 of those faces they swiped on. They can’t. In fact, they won’t remember 99% of those faces. This is called choice blindness and it’s a real thing. The more choice you have, the harder it is to differentiate and remember the choices. Choice blindness paralyzes us and stops us from making the best decisions. Investors suffer from choice blindness because they have so many options. Every pitch is YET ANOTHER ON THE PILE. That means you have to figure out a way to make your pitch memorable. Now you could do that chimp-gone-rogue strategy we mentioned before, or you create what’s called a sticky sentence. A sticky sentence distills everything you’re about into one simple, memorable, short sentence. The idea is that even if the investors forget important details like financial projections, or tech specifications on your product, this sentence will stick in their brain for HOURS or DAYS or a LIFETIME. Like a Celine Dion song. Our favorite example of a sticky sentence is in the amazing book Made To Stick by Chip & Dan Heath. When the film Alien was pitched, the sticky sentence in the pitch was: Jaws on a spaceship. Boom. That’s everything you need to know. And it’s hard to forget. Special Tip: First buy the book (you won’t regret it) and distill everything you are into something that will intrude on their thoughts and plague them anytime they close their eyes, for the rest of their lives. Result! Conclusion It’s an undeniable fact: dead (and mostly dead) investors hardly ever give up their money. So you can’t kill them in your pitch. You must be different. You must be passionate. You must not play Celine Dion songs. If you follow the above points, your pitch will be in a much better state. Do it for you, and for the sake of your investors. Then get that sweet mon-eh, baby. Want to see how you can gear up your SaaS business for success, through streamlined processes and automation, with Bluefort’s solutions? Let's Chat More Bluefort insights... 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