Every entrepreneur in the world thinks they have a great idea. But how do you convince other people? By delivering a stellar business pitch, of course.
A great business pitch is essential to building valuable partnerships and ensuring financial backing that will take your product from conception to the shelves.
When it comes to pitching, you’re going to have a short amount of time to get your idea across, so you have to use that time effectively. But it can be easy to get so caught up in the excitement or confidence in your product that you fail to fully express its value to a buyer.
We decided to ask a professional for some tips on how to pitch an idea. Here’s the inside scoop.
Tips for Pitching a Great Idea
We sat down with Kinna Thomas, a senior buying manager for Walmart who also helped create the famous Patti Labelle Sweet Potato Pie.
Thomas has a lot of experience listening to product pitches, thanks to Walmart’s annual Open Call event, where hundreds of entrepreneurs turn out with hopes of getting their products on the retail giant’s shelves.
Here are the five tips she gave us to better your chances of nailing a pitch.
Focus on the Customer
You might think your product is the best thing in the world, but it doesn’t really matter what you think — it’s what the customer thinks.
And really, customers don’t care about the product itself — they care about what the product can do for them.
Maybe it will make their day-to-day life easier or maybe it will save them money. Get the message across that your product is an actual benefit to a consumer and that it’s something the buyer doesn’t already offer.
“We want you to make sure that you are definitely locked and loaded on understanding the assortment that we need to carry,” says Thomas.
Nail Down Your Product
You’ve got this amazing idea! Everyone spills stuff, right? Well, what if when you made a big mess… you could just suck it right up? Genius!
A vacuum. You just pitched a vacuum. Unless your vacuum is state-of-the-art and can promise that the user will never have dog hair in their carpet again, your idea is not going to be received well.
“The product needs to be exciting, invigorating, innovative and different from what’s out in the market,” says Thomas.
Make sure you can explain what you’re selling quickly and efficiently.
And while you might be tempted to claim your product has zero competition, that’s most likely not the case. Show that the product or idea deserves to be backed by pointing out what makes it different from competitors.
Don’t Forget About the Cost
This one really shouldn’t be a surprise: Buyers want to make sure the price is right.
Where your product is on the timeline will mean a lot to an investor or buyer. Is it a newly formed idea that hasn’t been tested and sold? Or have you already moved forward with manufacturing and set up a cost model?
Proving you can create a product and sell it at a profit — without breaking the consumer’s bank — goes a long way. Go to your pitch with numbers that validate why it would be beneficial for the buyer to back you.
Be open and honest about the costs your product will require, as well as the sales numbers and future projections.
Think About the Logistics
You might think your product is the absolute bee’s knees and everyone in the world will want it, but consider the reality of who will actually buy it.
Yeah, your Do-It-Yourself Ice Sculpture Kit is pretty cool (see what I did there?), but try selling that product in a Walmart in South Florida. It just doesn’t work — you’re in the wrong market.
This point goes back to knowing your product. Consider where it would sell best and include that in your pitch.
“We want to know scalability,” says Thomas. “Whether or not you should be in a hundred stores or thousands of stores.”
One thing you shouldn’t lose sight of is that buyers are looking to back not only your product but also you — that is, they are investing in you as much as in the product itself.
“Doug McMillon tells us all the time ‘Be prepared,’” says Thomas, referring to Walmart’s CEO. “So that’s exactly what we want for you.”
You could have the best idea in the world, but if you walk into a meeting without presenting yourself as a prepared, collected and efficient individual, it could ruin the whole pitch.
Think about it from a buyer’s point of view: If you were risking your hard earned money, why would you give it to someone who doesn’t inspire confidence and assure you that they will handle your investment wisely?
“Practice makes perfect” is a well-known mantra for a reason. Rehearse your pitch in front of real people beforehand. That way, you can walk into a meeting confident that you can nail your pitch.
Kaitlyn Blount is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.