5 VC sales tips for technical founders
Selling isn't a natural talent for the technically minded, but you need to work on it if you're going to be successful
Technical founders are amazing at building the tools of the future, but often shy away from the process of selling them. These simple tips can help smooth the curves on your pitch process and increase the chances of you landing funding.
5. Be honest about product capabilities
Most founders are pretty excited about what they’ve created. However, when we’re in the moment that can often lead to exaggeration about current product capabilities, or misleading about how simple or difficult something may be. The reality is, your product does what it does, and while it MAY be able to do something else, its totally reasonable that a feature may not make sense for where you are headed. This type of posturing is VERY easy to sniff out, and almost always falls on its face in the Q&A.
4. Keep most of the dreaming to yourself
Your 5 and 10 year horizons are no doubt ambitious and fun to think about, but pitching them as if they are well thought out leaves others confused. As we project further into the future, ideas get vaguer and the percentage chance that we will be accurate diminishes. I get it, talking about the future we envision and how our idea will shape it is exciting, but focusing too much attention on it makes investors feel uneasy. Spend most of your time focused on the now and your next steps, and use the puffery simply to plant the idea of how large this idea could get. You don’t need to connect the dots.
3. Leave room for flexibility
Long have politicians and entrepreneurs had something in common: the pivot. Technical founders have a tendency to present their business and decisions as black and white. Binary. While this provides aura of certainty, it provides little ability for an individual to pivot when things don’t go as planned. While we always want to be honest, by presenting data and plans as flexible you leave room to continue conversation rather than shutting it down.
2. Use your own voice
Ever seen a presentation where it sounds like someone is reading a script? Yeah, I hate it too. While this approach can seem like it would present as super polished, in reality it comes off as dull and uninspiring. People want to hear from YOU!! As the founder of the company, you should have mastery over your product and customer (if you don’t, you’re not ready). While practice is important, feel free to let it fly. A few mistakes and corrections are no big deal, and in fact can serve as moments to allow the audience to connect with you on a deeper level.
1. Plan for the negotiation
Here it is. You’ve gotten through your presentation and put your ask out there. Never will an investor ever be ready to plop down a check on the exact terms you present with no followup questions. Planning for the next steps can separate you from the pack and give you the extra chamce you need to close a deal. There are many different strategies to take (which we’ll focus on in later articles) but your primary goal is to keep an investors interest as long as possible WHILE making progress towards closing. (That last part is important. Make sure you’ve planned your process towards closing so you aren’t just dealing with people who are happy to waste your time.)
Bonus: Know your BATNA
If you’ve never taken a negotiation course, I would highly advise it. The reality is, most negotiations are going to end in a closed deal. But that doesn’t mean you need to go home empty handed. Plan for your BATNA ahead of time and you’ll always leave the table better off.