In Part 1 you’ve wooed, made a fabulous impression and secured the meeting. In Part 2 you’ve prepared like a good little Scout. Now it’s time to shine. Pitch Day can be terrifying, so below are a few tips and tricks that can help you stay on top of your game, push those nerves aside and land that deal.
I’m Frankie Snobel, a drinks industry disrupter and founder of Tipplesworth cocktail kits, mixers and cocktails-on-tap, which was acquired in 2019. Across my career, I’ve secured meetings, developed relationships and signed deals with key industry movers and shakers – including major buyers, global brands and investors. And now, over the course of this series of articles, I’m going to share what I’ve learned with you about the art of pitching.
Be confident and believe in yourself (as hokey as that sounds)
You know your s***. You’ve done a shedload of research and preparation and need to believe in yourself. You have the answers they will ask for and will give it everything you’ve got.
Before any mega meeting/pitch, I stand in front of the mirror and give myself a pep talk as I would give to a friend (seriously!). It helps me focus and channels my nervous energy into positive energy.
Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are going to smash this. And regardless of what happens, you are an incredible person, more resilient than most, a true dreamer and fighter; you deserve to be in that room.Frankie Snobel
Seven years into my business journey, I was still doing this. Because it’s easy to forget who you are and how amazing the journey of entrepreneurship can be when you’re in the midst of it all. Give yourself a bit of love and a little chat.
You’ll feel better for it and this good vibe will follow you into the pitch.
Dress to impress (and represent)
The first impression will be when you walk through that door, so wear something that represents you and your business and makes you feel fabulous.
I’ve had pitches to investors where I wore a frilly gown and heels and wheeled in a cocktail trolley (FYI my businesswas drinks, so that’s totally acceptable!) and pitches to pub chain buyers where smart jeans and a branded t-shirt was more appropriate. So consider your audience and the impression you want to make on them.
Smile dammit! You may be a nervous wreck, but be a friendly and happy one. Smiles are contagious too. Speaking of contagious, the good ol’ handshake was also at the top of my etiquette pre-Covid, but now it may not be! Judge the situation when you’re there and maybe offer up an elbow bump if it feels right. Eye contact is super important too. It’s similar to first dates – it shows you’re interested in what they have to say and are confident in conversation with them.
It’s easy to just ramble on about your business and yourself, but you need to give and take. Listen to whom you are pitching too. Think before you speak/respond. Ask them questions to show you are interested in their expertise too. Regardless of what happens, you can learn from this opportunity, so hear what they have to say.
Don’t be afraid to _______
1. Say “yes”
My first ever pitch was to a major luxury retailer and they asked me if I could deliver a large amount of stock in a very short period of time. This meeting was before I was even in production, or even had the money to kickstart the production. But I said “yes”. Because I knew I would find a way through hell or high water. Once they gave me a mind-blowing Purchase Order, I was able to secure a business loan and work a small miracle to deliver on time (or just about). It was risky, but it paid off.
2. Say “no”
This was the hardest one for me to get comfortable with because as an entrepreneur you want to grab a hold of every opportunity. So learning to focus and not overstretch myself and the business was something I had to work at. Take the time to understand the best route for your business and say no to things that may get in the way (even if everyone thinks you are mad).
Know what your limits are before the pitch (i.e. margins, payment terms). I’ve had some very cheeky proposals from buyers, covering exclusivities, unfair payment terms and pricing discounts. This is when it’s good to have some perks for them up your sleeve, to help negotiate back. Things like marketing spend, promotions and short-term exclusivity.
It has to be commercially viable for your business and theirs, so sometimes a little “term tango” is needed to get there.
4. Ask questions
If you don’t understand something, ask them to help explain. They’ve likely done many of these meetings/negotiations and this may be new to you. I’ve always had a kind and honest response when I didn’t understand something and asked for their help. Plus you may learn some important information that may help you in business, regardless of what the result of the pitch is.
5. Ask for time (if needed)
Signing a contract shouldn’t be taken lightly. Read the small print and understand the terms, as it could bite you in the bum otherwise. If you need a bit of extra time to thoroughly look over, then politely ask for this. And some contracts/agreements may require legal counsel as well, so make sure you don’t rush, despite the excitement.
Pitching can be a whirlwind and when it’s over and the dust settles, reality can hit you hard. Every pitch/deal is different, but below are my thoughts and advice on what should happen post-pitch too.
The real work has just begun
Buyers regularly do range reviews and will want to ensure products taking up their much-coveted space are strong sellers. So marketing and promotions need to be carefully planned and monitored to have optimum impact – boosting brand awareness and sales.
Keep discussions open with buyers, as having them on your side is invaluable. I’ve secured free-of-charge press events, magazine articles and social media posts with large retailers because I made sure to nurture our working relationships. Out of site = out of mind, so stay on their radar and keep them sweet. And be sure to tap into their expertise for future NPD – it will get them excited about new launches (and potential exclusives) and help you narrow down your options with their in-the-know feedback.
If it’s investment that you’ve just secured, expect to report regularly to investors – they will want to see progress and potential return on investment. Remember they have parted with their hard-earned cash, so show them the respect they deserve.
Learn from “no deals”
Yes, it sucks, but sometimes a no-deal is a blessing in disguise. Maybe you and your business were not ready. Better to hear a “no” than risk damaging your brand or losing money with a flop. Ask for feedback, thank them and let them know you will reconnect if you think you can improve to meet their requirements. I had a major supermarket maintain back-and-forth discussions for months, only to turn me down. Rather than accept defeat, I asked them for honest and brutal feedback – and they gave brilliant pointers on packaging changes and things they would want/expect to add my range to their shelves. So I took a step back, listened to their feedback (which rang true), and made those changes.
And the following year, with those changes made and a year of strong sales with other retailers, they rolled my improved range out nationwide.
Final nuggets of wisdom from my countless pitches (good and bad)
Running a business is a brave choice and not for the faint-hearted. Pitching yourself and your business to important people takes gumption to a whole new level. When it goes well, it can supercharge you and your business to new heights and open even more doors (and pitches!)
It’s worth noting I’ve also had my fair share of rejections in business. Some more devastating than others. However, after I dusted myself off and wiped away the tears, I reframed them as learning opportunities. Bitter ones, but still important! Not every pitch leads to sunshine and roses. And the key is to not let pride or emotion get in the way of growth and success. Let rejection fuel your fire as much as a transaction.
So don’t be afraid to take those bumpy roads along your business journey – good and bad. And remember to enjoy the view – it’s all a part of being an entrepreneur.