Show them the forest, not just the trees: 5 questions to make your investor pitch holistic and compelling

Presenting five questions to anchor your business pitch in a holistic, compelling narrative for investors. Because, all things being equal, the pitch with the fuller story has a better chance of winning hearts and minds.

5th Mar 2020
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Imagine this. William Shakespeare asks a woman to marry him. When she asks why, he narrates lines from As You Like it and Hamlet. The woman refuses. “You showed her the trees and missed the forest!” his friend says. “You should have said you are the greatest chronicler of the human heart!”


Very often, we are so caught up with details that we can miss the fuller story of our business. How do we cover all bases with an investor?


Here are five questions to anchor your business pitch in a holistic, compelling narrative for investors. Because, all things being equal, the pitch with the fuller story has a better chance of winning hearts and minds.

#1 Why should someone listen to your story?

An aspiring writer takes his novel to a publisher. The publisher reads the first 10 pages patiently. Then he tosses the book aside. “Nice language but I don’t know why I am reading your story,” he tells the writer. The book’s purpose is lost.


We sometimes spend too much time formulating the ‘what’ or the ‘how’ of our business and too little time on the core question: Why is my business here? Investors have a sharp radar for this. How to frame your ‘why’?


Dig deeper. A marketing startup may say, “Everyone needs to brand their products. But not everyone has access to large advertising agencies. We help firms solve this problem in a very creative, rigorous way. Want to know more?” Now you’re ready for the second part of the story: your unique idea.

#2 Do you have a secret sauce?

The market is saturated with ideas. You need a secret sauce. The quickest way to know if you have one is to ask yourself if your product resolves contradictions. Here’s an example. To make a car faster, the engine has to be bigger. A bigger engine makes the cost prohibitive. So, can we make the engine faster without sharply increasing the cost?


Now you’ve got someone’s attention. “We know every car lover covets a big, sleek, fast car. But they’re expensive. We’re building an affordable fast car.” Now you can unleash all those exciting technology and supply chain innovations that you have been passionately building for years.




#3 Do you have a game plan?

The legend goes that the Egyptian architect, when outlining his plan for the ambitious pyramids to the Pharaoh, faced only one question from the latter: How do you plan to go about it? A solid business plan tells investors that you can actually back your vision with execution and revenue. Questions to think about:


  • Who’s my target audience? Can I show data-based financial projections?
  • Which sales channels will I use and why?
  • What’s my marketing plan and how will it be different from competition?
  • When do I expect to make money?

#4 Will you laugh your way to the bank?

In Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise – who’s quit his job to start a sports business – asks Cuba Gooding, an athlete, if he will work for him. “Show me the money!” Cuba famously says.


Make no mistake; investors are in the business of growing their money. How can you demonstrate that your business will make money? The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If your company has been functional for a while, show them how you’ve grown. If you’re not yet in business, show them what your money goals are and by when you expect to hit them.

#5 Why now? Why me?

Why now? Communicate urgency in a savvy, data-driven way. “With 24 percent increase in disposable incomes and more urban congestion, now is the best time to launch a customised meal delivery service.” And why you?


An investor pitch is about two brands. The first brand is your product. The second brand is you. To sound credible and make your passion felt, share your journey. What has led you to this moment? Why do you believe you can succeed? “I’ve always been passionate about fighting mediocrity and growing in relevant, vibrant ways. So, I am going to do the same thing here, on my terms, and on a much larger scale.”


So, the next time you make a pitch, don’t get so absorbed in one or two ‘winning’ details. Craft a fuller, engaging narrative. Show them the forest.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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