Nothing can feel more intimidating than stepping into a room to meet investors. After all, they can be rich, they can be famous, and they can be key to your success. When you feel intimidated, you become defensive. If you respond to investor questions defensively, you will fail.
PartiePoche pitched their product on SharkTank in 2012.The two young founders delivered a strong problem-solution pitch, but when one investor asked a simple question about the valuation of the company, the pitch fell apart. After trying to dodge the question, the founders said the question was crazy. There was some argument back and forth, and then one founder said “bring it on; let’s do it,” illustrating a classic aggressive response. After every question, the founders immediately attacked the question with a terse answer. This led one investor to say “you’re not listening to us,” and another investor to say “you didn’t even take a breath there [after I finished my question]… I don’t feel listened to.”
When you notice yourself feeling defensive, consciously shift your frame of mind to be curious. Listen to questions. Pause and consider the investor’s words as if they were spoken by someone on your team. Then and only then position your answer appropriately. You can use your curiosity to even ask questions yourself, thereby reducing the feeling that you’re under interrogation.
Investors constantly assess whether they can build a cooperative relationship with you to make your company successful. Next time before entering the meeting room, ask yourself: are you open to hearing the inevitable doubts that investors will share? It’s important to position yourself well, but never forget that relationship is equally important. Stay curious.
For a detailed review on how to be successful in Q&A, read Chapter 4 of The Startup Pitch. You’ll get insights and examples of exactly how to manage questions and appear more confident.