I recently listened to a founder’s pitch to an investor that went off the rails as soon as the founder opened his mouth. The investor struggled to understand what the founder was trying to communicate. The entire meeting was painful to watch. A few hours later, the same founder pitched another investor, and the meeting went great. What was the difference? At the beginning of the second meeting, the founder sought to understand his audience by asking a few simple questions. This allowed him to deliver his pitch in the way the audience preferred. The change was small but powerful. Here are a few questions founders can ask to help understand their audience:
- Have you had a chance to review any of our materials? Founders often assume investors have reviewed their pitch deck, one-pager, product demo video, etc. But sometimes investors haven’t received the materials or haven’t had an opportunity to review them. They’re human; they miss things. Some are just busy and run out of time. Understanding what they know about your company (if anything) is important. Filling in gaps is different from starting with a blank canvas.
- Where would it be most beneficial for me to start? Some investors want to dive straight into the solution you’ve built and the business. Others want to understand the founder and their journey that led to founding a company. Beginning the conversation with what matters most to the audience greatly increases the likelihood that they’ll clearly understand what you’re trying to do.
- Would it be more helpful to stay high level or to explain the details? For technical founders who live in the weeds of their technology, this is an especially important question to ask. Some investors love the technical details, while others love the big picture. It’s important to understand this and deliver your pitch at a level that interests them. Miss the mark and the conversation could spiral downhill fast.
Understanding the audience goes a long way toward helping founders communicate effectively and gain support. The questions above will help accomplish that, but it’s by no means an exhaustive list. Plenty of other questions would also work. Regardless of what you ask, I’d limit it to two or three questions.