Entrepreneur: Are You Talking (Enough)?
Unless you’re a clueless blowhard, it’s uncomfortable to talk yourself up. Most of us don’t like doing it. No one wants to listen to a braggart. But if you’re an entrepreneur seeking investment, you’re a special case. You have a right, a duty, a necessity to talk about yourself.
Ultimately, investors invest in people. Investors need to hear, feel, and then believe that you are the best person on the planet to execute the idea. Investors need to believe in the person receiving their money. This has always been the case. For example, we all know that Thomas Edison was a brilliant inventor. However what many don’t know is that Edison was also a master salesman, showman, and self-promoter, and that part of his success came from his ability to sell himself to investors. In short, he made himself ‘investable.’
So, like Edison, you need to talk yourself up to investors. What kinds of things should you share about yourself? Your accomplishments and experiences are a good start, but it’s also crucial that you openly discuss your failures and, more importantly, what you learned from them. Weave a narrative for investors — show them how you, your idea, your successes, your failures, the problem, the market, and the product are all inextricably linked.
Talking yourself up this way will give investors an idea of how you will execute. And don’t think of it as bragging; you’re telling them a story about yourself that will show them why you are invaluable to the success of your business venture.
Here are 7 ways to talk yourself up to potential investors:
1. Take 90 seconds. On top of what you’re already doing, add 90 seconds to the beginning to share your story. Most of us only have meaningful insights after a lot of hard work and some failures. How did your insights come to you? More than anything else, this is the story about yourself that investors want and need to hear. Show investors your wisdom. They want to know that they’re not just investing in a great idea or product; they’re investing in a person with insights that will ensure success of the business venture.
2. Begin with a timeline. One format for communicating your story that works well is to begin with a high-level chronology of your background, then say, “Now let me dive deeper into these two (or one or three) roles” and describe what is most relevant about your prior roles to your new venture. What about your prior roles informs the opportunity you’re pursuing? Describe that.
3. Seek insights from others. To get another perspective, and to develop a way of framing your personal narrative for the pitch, ask people who know you well to describe your strengths and accomplishments. The picture they paint of you and your achievements may be new “packaging” you hadn’t considered.
4. Anecdotes are powerful. Weave in a quick anecdote about your accomplishments, especially if the story highlights relevant behaviors that you can repeat later on and apply to the business venture.
5. Ask directional questions. Ask the investor if there is a part of your background you should describe more deeply. Besides showing that you care about their concerns, this can be a good test of how well the investor is listening, and you can adapt your talking points to have greater impact.
6. Name your previous companies. Not just the functional roles, even if you think that no one will have heard of the company. With well-respected companies, there is a halo effect on you; with less-respected companies, you don’t look like you’re trying to hide something.
7. Use your partner(s) to support your story.If you have a co-founder, you might try weaving your stories together and even telling each other’s story. Talk up your co-founder and vice-versa. If you genuinely have mutual respect for each other, this can be very powerful.
Be comfortable telling your story. You’re not just seeking capital for your idea or product; you’re trying to build trust and faith in you.
Spending two extra minutes on yourself will do more for building trust with your investors than a dozen extra product slides. Establish your credibility, and investors will begin to believe that you and your idea are credible.
Talk yourself up — investors need to hear about you and why you are a good investment.