Why business pitching is like courting a date

JULY 20, 2015

You’re on your first date: you must make the initial impression the best one in order to lock in a second date: you employ all the skills you have at your fingertips; and voila! Success:

  • Short-term goal for a second date: secured
  • Long-term goal for a relationship that lasts: in progress

Like dating, pitching your business or business idea to potential investors or possible partners also relies on a number of basic fundamental truths: being confident without being cocky; being approachable without seeming desperate; being passionate without being immoderate; and having the facts and numbers at your fingertips; and voila! Success:

  • Short-term goal for a second meeting: secured
  • Long-term goal for a mutually beneficial relationship: in progress

When dating, certain fundamentals should be avoided, such as answering your phone, belching or arriving dirty. Likewise when pitching your business to a prospective investor, below are the basics of what NOT to do:

  • Avoid buzz words and jargon

These can sound the death knell of any new interaction. Use easy-to-understand language, crisp, concise and simple. Include actual anecdotes and humour; be witty without being corny or sarcastic; and never ever talk down to anyone because you think they won’t understand your ideas. Be genuine, be real, be sincere.

  • Go easy with the PowerPoint presentation:

Yes, we all know that it looks good, sounds good, is professional and pleasing to the eye. But it’s you they want more of, rather than the accoutrements, just as when on a first date it’s the impression you make as a person rather than the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the art you own, that captivates the heart. Rather ensure that the initial attention is focused on you and your ability to share your exciting venture; and only then bring on the PowerPoint, as the dessert rather than the main course.

  • Don’t ignore advice from those around you:

You sound out your best friend about what you should wear, which restaurant you should visit – and even if you don’t take all the advice, it’s comforting to know that two heads are better than one and could work in your favour during the date. So too when preparing your pitching message, play it first to a captive but honest audience – family, friends, colleagues - that will criticise positively and help you see the errors that you missed because you’re too close. In this way you will gain perspective, confidence and practice

From first base to home run

  • First base: you approach the date with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation, hoping there will be a connection. The initial pitch too, is nerve-wrecking, as you want to come across polished and succinct, listen and connect.
  • Getting to second base: will she/he be responsive enough for you to push ahead? Will the company show increased interest and commitment to invest, or at least want to know more, more detail, more faces?
  • Third base: will the connection deepen or is rejection imminent? Patience is the key ingredient during this stage. Hopefully there have been indications of joint moving forward – great excitement but muted till there is more confirmation.
  • Fourth base: You scored!  Birds of a feather, shared interests, common path – it’s working! You receive positive input and constructive feedback; introductions to other partners / stakeholders; supplying necessary and additional information; ready to forge ahead.
  • Home run: Marriage? Strong business relationship; contracts signed for commitment from both sides; agreement on necessary financing needed; both parties fired up with enthusiasm and ready to move forward.

You deserve to win. It all begins with the first pitch!

You’ve read all the above – you’re eager to start – so now the best way is to register for the 2015 ENGEN Pitch & Polish workshop and competition which is looking to discover the nation’s most promising local entrepreneurs by teaching them to polish their pitch.  This annual programme, in association with Engen Petroleum Ltd and longstanding media partner, SAfm, has impacted thousands of entrepreneurs and continues to reach and teach eager entrepreneurs.

While on the course you will learn business fundamentals and be shown how best to access funding through your ability to share your vision effectively.  Then, at the close, your polished pitch is ready to go.  You will also stand a chance to win prizes and money.

Register now to attend or compete. Sms PITCH to 45901 (charged at R1.50 per sms) or register online at www.pitchandpolish.com.