Lessons learned pitching my startup idea to a gamut of customers

startup pitch presentationThe most repeated task that I have done in the last 30 days is pitching my startup idea to a whole bunch of users. Its strange so many people are interested to know about your venture, even when the development is still in progress. However, don’t interpret the request for your startup pitch as an interest by the audience. As most of the times its just their curiosity in knowing what are you up to and once the startup pitch is done, they move on.

We never gave a damn to most of the pitches we heard. Right? So will be the case when you are ready to toot your own pitches. Surprisingly I even wrote a detailed article on how to give an elevator pitch around 3 years back! Back then Elevator pitches were about various propositions in business life and not tasting the blood of starting up. Today when most part of the time I pitch my startup ideas to various entities, the lessons learned have matured a bit.

Here is a brain dump of what I have understood by giving impromptu Startup pitches to most of my audience.

Pitch as much as possible

Pitch often refines your own thought process, capability and the overall pitch. It attracts many supporters and nay-sayers. It challenges people to be the devils advocate and make you understand why a certain thing will not work. Keep pitching and take as much feedback as possible. What is to be remembered & what is to be thrown is up to you.

And don’t worry who will listen to your pitch. The whole world seems to be ready to give an ear once you challenge their status quo. The first sentence matters. I always start with saying that I have an idea where you will help Mr.X for free in your own time. That sounds absurd to the listener. People immediately challenge the notion that why the heck will they do this. They immediately start acting as ideal users. They don’t talk about the startup any more. They talk realistic and it starts a fruitful conversation.

Pitching more means getting a list of most apparent questions you will anyways face. Learning things you have never thought of and prepare for the pitch that will actually matter. Don’t leave a chance. Pitch! Tweet this

Don’t pitch the startup idea

Yes as highlighted above, Don’t pitch saying this is your business… That way people comment on that business. People who will never use, never invest or never refer you, all of a sudden will comment on your business! That’s ton of useless crap. Pitch a proposition. Pitch a hypothesis that if this happens, I do this and I get that. Such conversations start building up the real life scenario and force the listener to raise queries which will actually arise.

While pitching let listeners know are validating your idea with them as users not advisers.

Not every pitch is the same

I got the best feedback till date because every time I start the pitch I first take a few seconds to look at the audience. If your pitch is the same to every candidate you are definitely missing something. Pitching to a user, a customer, an investor, a referral is all different. A pitch involves gaining trust, setting the stage, showing empathy, relating to the user and convincing him in how you will solve the problem.

All of that can’t be same for every listener. No two pitches should be same and by keeping this in your mind you even learn how to pitch differently to different individuals and in different ways every time.

Not every feedback matters

Never take things straight on your heart. I learned this the hard way in my corporate life. Not all feedback, hard work or relations will matter or last in the long term. So live with it and move ahead. Learn how to remove the wheat from the chaff. You are not supposed to address every single flaw highlighted. Nothing is flawless and so is the case with you.

Sense the extremists in first 30 seconds

You know the devils advocates (there is a reason why they are called so). They will approach every idea with a bias. There are people who are more-than-required optimistic (your mom, girl friend, dog etc) or more-than-required pessimists. Both are useless. You can sense them in the first 30 seconds. If they are going to thrash you without understanding the whole pitch, no fun wasting your time on them. You need honest opinions not exaggerated expressions.

I recently met with an investor for some advice. He gave me exactly 23 seconds. My intent was to seek guidance and his only response to everyone was – throw his business card and say send me your business plan. Dear Sir, but I don’t need your money!!!

Never talk features

I have met a hundred people who start the pitch with features. Didn’t take me much time to understand that it is futile. The pitch has to start with a problem which resonates with the user. Then explain how you will solve the same.

Never talk the bells and whistles you will include. Never talk features. Talk benefits. Talk real scenarios.

Never just talk

Lastly don’t try to dump everything on the poor listener. I would be happy to talk 20% and listen 80% because not most of the time people would be interested in giving feedback. When they are, make the best use of the opportunity. You are not in the game to convince how cool you are and if you listen less and talk more its your loss end of the day.

I guess this was a good enough impromptu brain dump. Let me know what were your experiences pitching an idea. And yes don’t shy away pitch your startup to as many ideal customers as possible, you will always be thankful for that.

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{ 3 comments }

Ayush November 5, 2012 at 3:34 am

Wow !! There is so much to learn from your blog!! Thanks!

Karuna November 7, 2012 at 6:37 pm

useful and practical…thanks for writing!! all the best!

Himanshu Chanda November 7, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Thanks for the appreciations Karuna …

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