Which Apprentice will be pitch-perfect for Sir Alan?

And so we reach the final four in the latest Apprentice Series by the BBC. All that remains after 12 gruelling weeks is a battle of the pitches by Susan, Tom, Helen and Jim on Sunday. Who will emerge victorious?

Delivering a great pitch can be daunting, as evidenced by the myriad difficulties and palpitations experienced by those who have entered the Dragons Den or faced a Venture Capital team.

With so many businesses vying for limited investment, how can they (or indeed you) get an edge over others? Is there an art to pitching?

There certainly is and there are some general business pitch rules that anyone might consider adopting for more impact. These include:

Know your audience
Do your homework on your target investors before you pitch to them.

At a minimum find out:

  • Who are they?
  • What are their backgrounds/experiences?
  • What have they invested in before (whom, industries, stage of company/market development, technologies, etc)?
  • At what scale have they invested?
  • What is their track record of backing winners?

It’s always a good idea to speak with people who have received backing from your potential investors. What can they tell you about how they secured investments and lessons they’d apply if doing things over again?

Focus on a big idea and get to the point quickly
Centre what you say around your big idea, which prospective investors and customers must be able to ‘get’ instantly.

Boil this idea down to just one sentence that includes a compelling benefit and is easy to repeat to others.

Investors are typically busy people and won’t tolerate waffle, so it’s critical that you get and keep their attention quickly to generate interest.

Concentrate on making your pitch as succinct and clear as possible, covering the following:

  • Who are your target audiences?
  • What problem/problems are you proposing to solve for them?
  • How (your propositions)?
  • Why your solutions are better than other/competing options?
  • What is your value proposition?
  • What are your distribution and marketing communication models?
  • What is your financial model – how & when will you make money?
  • What you want investors to give you (money, advice, contacts and other)?
  • What’s deal are you offering – focus on speed of getting money back and return on investment?

Be ready to prove what you claim

Be sure to back up all claims you make about; what your products can do, the need for your solutions, the potential demand for your products/services, how and why your ideas will succeed, how you can protect your ideas from competitors and the financial viability of your propositions. Focus on product demonstrations and what you have done or tested so far to prove your product’s potential.

The more customers you have and/or orders you can point to, the better. Investors commonly favour projects where there is less perceived risk, so make efforts to reassure potential backers that your plans are based on reality versus wishes!

Demonstrate that you/your team are an ‘investable’ proposition

This is vital. Remember that investors don’t just back ideas; they back the people who implement ideas.

After buying into the viability of a concept, most investors place greater store on their belief in the team that proposes to do something than almost anything else. So devote time to establishing that you are a person/a group of people who can get things done, are likable and dependable.

Bear in mind, investors value relationships with people who will make their lives easier and don’t get excited by people who are hard work!

So that’s it. Let’ see how the nearly famous four get on this weekend. My money is on thoughtful Tom.


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