In Depth: The Keys to Selling Your Business to Partners and Investors
When looking to start a new business, two of the first questions we ask ourselves is if the idea is actually any good, and if we have the potential to carry it out. While these are the most basic questions before getting started, our ability to sell is just as vital to our project’s success.
As Jane Rodriguez, Talent Coach, Marketing Consultant and Trainer, explains, "without selling there is no idea and no project. Knowing how to sell a project, an idea, is essential to succeed. First we need investors, then partners and collaborators, and finally customers. And they all, to a greater or lesser extent, have to sell our idea."
Increased competition in certain sectors and the need to find a market niche has led to increasingly greater numbers of professionals and business pitching their products and services to investors, partners and customers. It is because of this heightened competition that the Elevator Pitch, a short speech that lasts the length of an elevator ride, becomes so vital to our project’s future success.
Classic 80’s movie Working Girl, in which Melanie Griffith convinces the company director of her project, or in more recent films such as The Pursuit of Happiness, with Will Smith, have become a reflection of this reality. Far from Hollywood-scripted creativity, the key to a good elevator pitch is not in delivering it between the second and the twenty-ninth floor, but to have your presentation condensed into less than five minutes that includes the three key points of your business: what problem you want to solve, your proposal of how you’ll do it, and how your business performs.
The opportunities to deliver your elevator pitch are numerous, between networking events, investor rounds, trade fairs and conferences and many other situations where expanding our network and extend the boundaries of our business is the main goal. And within these contexts the ability to present a solid Elevator Pitch has become almost an art.
A good elevator pitch is based on understanding your value which should be backed up in your business plan. It is essential to present your ideas in an orderly and clear manner, for which there are certain guidelines.
Eva Martin, Co-founder of Tiendeo, provides us with some general guidelines for presenting a good elevator pitch, regardless of the sector you’re in:
- Proven need in target market and how you bring the solution
- Business model and market potential
- Competitive advantages and differentiation from competition
- Strategy to address the market and tools you have
- Money you need and how you will get it
However, these guidelines are not to be followed so rigidly as to make your discourse a stiff and overly-scripted speech. Ideally, it should adapt to your personal vision, and become part of your brand, a distinctive element of your business.
This last concept is not unique to only entrepreneurs when selling their ideas to investors and business partners. It is also perfectly applicable professionals on a personal level, for example, when on a job search. The Elevator Pitch is a basic tool for all entrepreneurs, freelancers and professionals. It should be based on promoting clearly and effectively your "personal brand". Jane Rodriguez refers to the concept of a personal brand as, "the perception, sustained over time, which our environment has of our talents, about what makes us stand out, and makes us relevant", and becomes a must to achieve our goals. Knowledge and experience in our activity are not enough. We need to know how to sell, which is closely linked with our potential employability.
Another key aspect when selling our personal or our business is not only that we know how to do what we do, but what we can offer a recruiter, partner, client or investor. Paloma Fuentes, Director of Operations for TedCas, explains "to an investor you have to be able to explain how you will make money, regardless of how amazing product your product is. And if you can’t tell a manager how your product will help in the day to day, she won’t care that it can make millions for her company." Along these same lines, Jane Rodriguez points out that this kind of communication is intended to capture the professional interest.
Your message must focus entirely on the point of view and situation of the listener -what problems he or she has, what needs- and then present your project in terms of benefits or solutions relevant to that individual.Like any persuasive communication, the message is aimed at sparking the interest of our listener, trying to awaken some desire for the solutions we offer, and thus lead them to request our services. This is known as the AIDA model in the advertising industry: Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Using this pattern, your message must focus entirely on the point of view and situation of the listener: what problems he or she has, what needs, and then present your project in terms of benefits or solutions relevant to that individual. Rodriguez advises to "think of your interlocutor as a VIP so to automatically turn your attention to generating the empathy needed to guarantee success."
All these steps should be accompanied by a collaborative attitude and a constant search for synergies that will allow you "to network". To do this, Rodriguez says "we must work continuously on our business or personal brand with the aim of relevant engagement, because if we want a network of committed and loyal customers and collaborators it’s important to share." Naturally, as indicated by Rodriguez, "this requires much time and dedication, without an immediate ROI. But if we take the time to properly sow, the time to collect always comes." Much along these lines, Paloma Fuentes adds that "women have a special sensitivity, we are naturally more empathic. We should exploit these qualities when selling our company, and give them the weight they deserve at every opportunity we get."