Writing a winning business plan for your small business is one thing, but presenting it with charisma and enthusiasm is another. As an entrepreneur, you may need to pitch your plan to investors, lenders, partners, mentors and other stakeholders. Be sure to practice your business plan presentation so you can convince your audience that your business is bound for success.
Write a Winning Business Plan
Before you can nail your business plan presentation, you need to write an effective business plan. This business tool is the foundation of your presentation, so it’s imperative that you cover all the necessary areas in which your audience will be interested. Be thorough and thoughtful when business planning.
An effective business plan template includes:
- Executive summary: A brief synopsis of the important parts of your plan
- Company overview: Your mission statement, business structure and model, the history of your business, your goal and objectives, your management team’s experience and your mission, vision and core values
- Market analysis: The trends in your industry and the consumption patterns of your potential customers
- Competitive analysis: Your direct competitors and their strengths and weaknesses
- Products and services: What you plan to sell and the pricing strategy you plan to use
- Target market: A detailed buyer persona of your ideal customers, including their demographic, geographic, psychographic and behavioral traits
- Marketing strategy: The promotional channels you plan to use, your unique value proposition and sales strategy
- Logistics and operations: How you plan to develop, store, sell, package and deliver the product to your customers
- Financial plan: The current and future financial status of your business
Know Your Audience
Your business plan presentation should be tailored to the audience to whom you’re speaking. For example, a mentor will have different interests than an investor. It’s important to understand who will be at your presentation and the kinds of questions they will want answered. Your potential audiences may include:
- Investors: This group is interested in your new business’s potential growth. They will want to know how you plan to make a profit and how long it will take you. Tell them about the growing market for your product and the unique features that only you offer. The key element they need to know is what kind of return they can make on their investment and when.
- Lenders: Risk assessment is a key aspect in which this group will be interested. They want to know whether you will be able to pay back your loan with interest, and they will look at your revenue, expenses and cash-flow documents. They need to know whether your product is right for the market and whether your business is right for their institution.
- Partners: Manufacturers, suppliers and other partners will want to know that you’re reliable, accountable and able to pay their invoices quickly and on time. Tell them about your business model and target market and your plans to gain market share and increase your sales quickly.
- Mentors: This group of people will want to know about your passion for business and the skills you bring to the table. What can you learn from them that will help you take your business to the next level?
Prior to your presentation, research the people who will be attending. Look up their work experience and professional history on LinkedIn, if possible, so you can have an understanding of their expertise and interests. This will enable you to cater your presentation to their needs so you can fully capture their attention.
Learn Your Business Plan Inside and Out
Once you have a solid business plan and know your audience, it’s time to become familiar with the details of your pitch. This doesn’t mean that you should memorize every word in the document, however. You need to be able to know the subject matter deeply so you can rely on your knowledge to answer any questions that come up.
In preparing for your pitch, be sure to write down potential questions that your audience may ask you. For example, a potential investor may want to know about how you plan on meeting your revenue targets in the first year. A potential lender will need to know your fixed and variable expenses for each month.
Learn the answers to the potential questions your audience may ask you so that you’re not wasting time during your presentation flipping through your plan. You may only have a short time allocated for your pitch, so be sure to have all the answers at the top of your head.
Work on Objection Rebuttals
Keep in mind that your audience will have some objections to certain parts of your presentation. A lender may not think your monthly expenses are accurate, or an investor may not believe that your product is truly unique enough to gain market share. A partner may not believe that you’ll have the revenue in order to pay an invoice on time, or a mentor may not feel that you’re truly interested in learning new ways to do business.
Write down potential objections you foresee from your audience and work on crafting answers that focus on your competitive advantage and value proposition. Remember that you may not be able to change your audience's mind, but you can provide them with sound arguments for why you’re going to succeed.
Be sure to practice responding to objections out loud. You don’t want to sound angry or defensive when doing this. Try to keep your voice level and answer using logic instead of emotion. You'll want to present a professional appearance and show your audience that you’re capable of handling objections well.
Dress the Part
Your personal appearance matters when you’re in a business meeting. Dress appropriately based on the audience with whom you’re meeting. Meetings with investment firms and banks may require wearing a well-tailored suit made out of high-quality fabric, while a meeting with a mentor or partner could be done with a blazer over a business-casual outfit.
Remember to ensure that the hems of your pants, cuffs and skirt are neat and that there are no distracting symbols or patterns on your clothes. Don’t wear strong perfume or cologne, as some people can be sensitive to robust smells. If you’re wearing jewelry, make sure that it’s not the focal point of your outfit. You want your audience to focus on you, not your accessories.
Keep Your Audience Visually Engaged
In many cases, you will be required to bring a visual presentation along with your business plan. This can be created using a slide program like Google Slides or Microsoft PowerPoint. Do not copy and paste large sections of your business plan into your slide presentation. Remember that your audience doesn’t want to read large blocks of text on a screen.
Use your visual presentation to complement what you’re saying. You can have numerical figures or a few short sentences on slides, but keep the text to a minimum. For example, if you’re talking about your financial projections, you can have the gross revenue number up on the screen. You don’t need to include a detailed chart with all of the figures because your audience may not be able to read it.
Use images to capture your audience’s interest. Include graphics of your products and services as well as your brand’s logo. Ensure that your pitch deck is branded with your company’s colors. Focus the content on what matters most to your audience without overwhelming them with text on each slide. Be sure to have printed copies of your business plan and your presentation handy to give to your audience if they require it.
Practice Your Pitch
Before your business plan presentation, be sure to practice what you’re going to say. Start by practicing in front of the mirror. This will be a good way to ensure you’re making eye contact instead of reading your notes or looking in another direction. Looking directly at your audience helps to capture their attention and allows them to focus on what you’re saying.
Once you’re comfortable saying your pitch in front of a mirror, enlist family, friends or colleagues to watch your presentation. If they have business expertise or experience pitching, they may be able to offer some constructive criticism. Practicing in front of others is a good way to get rid of cold feet and presentation jitters.
Consider any scenarios that may throw you off during your presentation and work out solutions for them. For example, if you’re expecting to pitch to two people but end up having eight people in the room, will it make you nervous? Would it throw you off if the person to whom you are presenting is distracted on his phone or laptop? Focus on how you can deliver your presentation regardless of the situation.
Showcase Your Skills
Your business plan presentation is your time to shine. However, you’re not just showcasing your business acumen during this pitch. You’re also there to show your audience that you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur. In addition to business skills, you need charisma, interpersonal skills and salesmanship.
Talk about your business experience as well as the expertise of your team members. How has your career trajectory prepared you to launch this business? What unique skills or experience do you have as a team that no other competitor brings to the table? Consider the pitch as a job interview where you need to wow the audience more than the other candidates.
When it comes to showcasing your power of persuasion, remember that your audience is looking to see whether you’re able to convince others of the value of your business idea. Not only will you need this skill to pitch to investors but you’ll also need it to convince partners to work with you and to convince prospects to become customers.
Ask for a Commitment
Remember that you won’t get what you need unless you specifically ask for it. The call to action is an integral part of your business plan presentation. It can seem like a daunting thing to do, but it’s an important part of being a successful entrepreneur.
Once you’ve made your pitch, reiterate what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for an investment, for example, remind them of the amount you need and what you are going to offer them in return, like equity in your company or a seat on the board. If you’re looking for a manufacturer with whom to partner, then ask them if they’re ready to sign the service agreement now that they are familiar with your business.
Don’t Forget to Follow Up
After your business meeting, take some time to thank your audience for listening to your pitch. In addition to being good business etiquette, this provides your audience with a channel to keep the lines of communication open. If your audience didn’t make a final decision after hearing your pitch, they may have additional questions. Offer to provide any other information they may need to make their decision.
Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.