The art of the pitch is the stuff of story

Paul Heagen Uncategorized Leave a Comment

What’s the best movie you’ve ever seen?

I’m guessing that as much as any scene, any acting, any special effects or setting, what has imprinted that movie in your mind (and your heart, likely) was the story.

Oddly, when it comes to a big business pitch — whether a start-up scratching for angel funding up to a global enterprise seeking to land a big deal — many fail to master the art of translating and assembling all this information into a great story. One with an opening scene, characters, drama, discovery, struggle, hope, and meaning. It’s this inability (or reluctance?) that leaves far too many pitch teams lamenting their fate in the next day’s “lessons learned” review.

The process I use to take a start-up through their paces (which, with some tweaking, is just as applicable to a large, established business seeking a deal or a CEO pitching the board on a strategy) starts with an understanding of what it takes to awaken the human spirit and move decision-makers from awareness to curiosity to intrigue to understanding to engagement to commitment.

The process is centered on simply, clearly answering nine questions:

  1. What is the problem? A solution seeking a problem is a feral cat. If you have to convince someone to take in an idea, a product or a change that was not sought, you are asking them to invest energy they would rather save for, well, solving a problem.
  2. Why does it matter? We all have problems; some are bigger (severe, felt by many) than others. We care more about the big ones.
  3. Why hasn’t it been addressed before now?  Is the world just a bunch of miserable fools,  or has someone tried and failed to attack this? Has some disruptive technology burst into the scene?
  4. What have you figured out that nobody else has figured out?  Investors are buying into your thinking, not just your ability to execute. In these ah-hah moments of discovery reside first-to-market value and breakthrough change.
  5. How do you know it will work? Proof of concept and technology, sure, but will customers see this as a solution and will they experience relief, hope, even joy? In other words, will this get pulled into the market with natural energy, or will it need to be pushed?
  6. How will you make money? Oh, that. Money is a measure of value. Except in the totally irrational world of digital music and content, people are willing to spend money on things that matter to them. Or spend money to save money, or spend money to save time. Or save face. All that. You’re job is to prove they’ll spend it with you.
  7. Why are you the best at doing this? Goes back to the notion that you may know something nobody else has figured out, but as smart as you are, you’re not the only smart person on the planet. So, your leadership, your experience, your insights, your ability to drive an outcome matters a lot.
  8. Where are you now? Not just early revenue or product validation, but are you actually executing on a plan and getting traction?  Every step you have already taken reduces investor risk. Am I helping to push you over the line or still get you out of the attic?
  9. What do you need?  Capital, sure, but for what? How does capital fuel your pace and growth? Ask boldly or you may never receive bountifully.

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