If you’re launching a startup or leading a new business within an existing organization, you’ll need a strong set of presentation skills.
It doesn’t matter how much financial know-how you have or how keen your instinct for human resources is. A decisive sense of business strategy means nothing if you can’t get your idea off the ground with a sound business pitch.
GLOBIS University’s Corporate Mentorship Program puts MBA students in the hot seat, challenging them to harness the elements of a successful business pitch and then presenting it to the management team of a real client.
This year’s corporate sponsor was manufacturing company SOMIC Ishikawa. Students formed teams and put their MBA studies to the test in a competition for corporate buy-in.
GLOBIS Insights sat down with the winning team to hear their tips on how to pitch a business proposal.
3Cs to Find the Right Business Partner
Business partners have a lot of value. They can support you when motivation dips, fill skill gaps, and play devil’s advocate to flesh out ideas.
But finding the right business partner, much like finding a spouse, isn’t easy. Many founders (or cofounders) are eventually removed by their own board members. Suppliers, too, can find new partners, leaving you and your business behind.
To get ahead of this reality, the winning CMP team suggests looking to what they call the three Cs:
When considering a potential business partner (who will also be your pitch partner), ask yourself, “Is this someone I can really trust?”
The contender may be naturally charming or charismatic, but are they reliable? Are they the type of person who will stick around when investors pull out? Or when bills come due?
Maybe you have found someone who will stand by you and your business no matter what. That’s great. But can they do the work?
To show investors that your team has what it takes, you’ll need a partner (or partners) with complementary skill sets to your own. If everyone on your team shares the same background and expertise, you’ll lack the diverse perspective required to come up with a sustainable business plan.
Even if you have a team you can trust, and that gets the work done, there’s one more important piece of the puzzle.
Just like any healthy relationship, a successful business partnership demands that everyone feels understood and respected. Sometimes people just click. Other times, it takes time and honesty to build rapport.
And as the winning CMP team demonstrates, a diverse range of age groups, nationalities, and genders can help provide the perspective required to pitch a winning business.
How to Pitch a Business: Think Big, Start Small
A successful business pitch requires an (often grueling) ideation process.
“It took a long time to define what our proposal would be,” says Angela Kristine Garcia, a member of the winning team. “Every time we presented something, it was totally different! It felt super crazy, because even when we finally pinned down [our final idea], there where still so many details to hammer out. It was quiet a journey!”
The solution: Start small, and find a common thread.
After several failed business models, the soon-to-be winning team members found a common thread to unite them: Several had farmers in their families. That meant they had an awareness of the unique issues that farmers and the farming industry face in the digital era. That awareness became a guiding star for the team.
According to Myra Almilla, another member of the winning team, even those who weren’t tied to the industry could get behind that mission.
“Farming is something that’s close to my heart,” she said. “My father was a farmer…and so I considered why my parents didn’t succeed [in the farming industry] and how we could address those pain points. [Our business pitch] was an opportunity to give struggling farmers justice and a chance to succeed.”
Plan for profitability.
Coming up with a solid idea for a business pitch is one thing. But plotting out financial projections in detail while also communicating how it all builds to a successful generator of revenue is another thing entirely.
During the CMP course, the eventual winners would hear one comment from faculty and mentors again and again: “This doesn’t seem profitable.”
It doesn’t matter how exciting your pitch is. If you can’t make money, you don’t have a business. So before you put yourself in front of potential investors, consider these points:
- Why would an investor object to your proposal? Predicting potential uncertainties, and having an answer ready, will show investors that you’re confident in your business’ potential.
- How can I get in contact with investors who care? Networking within your target industry is a great way to “soft sell” your business and gauge interest.
- Are you being completely transparent? Don’t hide your fumbles along the way. Showing your investors how you have overcome obstacles in the past will prove that you have what it takes to run a successful business—through thick and thin.
Get to know your potential customers.
No business pitch should go to the presentation stage without a key ingredient: input from the target audience.
Aiming to empower farmers with digital solutions, the team spoke to—well, farmers. This helped them gain a deeper understanding of needs, priorities, and pain points on the ground. And thanks to their international connections, they realized that farmers who struggle to make ends meet in developing nations like the Philippines face very similar challenges to farmers competing in massive G7 economies like Japan.
“After interviewing many Filipino farmers, we realized that their pain points were almost identical to farmers in Japan,” explains Myra Almilla. “This gave us the confidence we needed to believe that our business could scale globally and work across developing and developed nations.”
It doesn’t matter how passionate you are about your idea or how razor sharp your elevator pitch sounds. If you can’t prove ROI, then your pitch has already failed. Take the time to engage in a back-and-forth with your partners and targets. Scrutinize your own ideas from the viewpoint of skeptical venture capitalists with money on the line.
The Value of Believing in Your Business Pitch
Pitching a business idea requires much more than a cool product or service. There’s a lot of work to be done before you make it to the presentation stage.
Nishant Kumar, a fellow GLOBIS alumni and winning team member, emphasizes the importance of finding partners you can rely on and work well with: “Different people have different angles to see the same thing,” he says. “If you keep an idea to yourself, it will never be at its best. It’s all about embracing that aspect of teamwork.”
You need to understand your potential clients and target audience. And, to transform your pitch deck into a small business, you’ll need to convince investors that they should believe in you.
That’s no easy feat, but it is doable. If you believe in what you’re doing, you’re already well on your way.