One of the most daunting tasks for any entrepreneur is convincing others to buy into their big idea. Whether it’s investment, sales or in-kind support, entrepreneurs need to be able to persuade others to get on board.
Know your customers
For the Divisional Senior Vice President Commercial Operations, Centre at Emirates Airline, Sheikh Majid al Mualla, (pictured right), the key is getting to know your customers, by talking to them.
“When I say ‘talking’ to customers, I mean probably ten per cent is talking and 90 per cent is listening to customers: their needs, their requirements, what they need to do, what they’re passionate about, that’s very important,” says Sheikh Majid. “It’s not that you’re selling a product or service or both, it’s an emotional thing that you’re selling.”
When I say ‘talking’ to customers, I mean probably ten per cent is talking and 90 per cent is listening to customers
Connecting with a customer or investor on that level requires a solid relationship. Rana Nawas is the President of Ellevate Dubai, the local chapter of a global professional women's network. She says networking is all about building relationships, but you must do it in a way that you enjoy.
“In a place like Dubai there are so many different kinds of networks, they specialise in different things. They meet at different frequencies, different kinds of people, different content, different ages and there’s lots of variety,” says Nawas.
Connecting with a customer or investor requires a solid relationship
“So find as many as you like that you enjoy attending and keep working at it. Networking really requires a lot of practice.”
To network effectively, it must be authentic, says entrepreneur Omar Chihane. He’s a mentor and co-founder of StartUpSchool.me and he recommends going into any networking situation looking at what you can give, not what you’ll receive.
“Help others as much as possible and extend a helping hand without expecting anything in return. I think when that happens, people like to gravitate around you and that actually attracts a lot of potential investors, potential employees and potential partners and that creates a lot of value,” says Chihane.
If the groundwork of building relationships has been done, then when it comes time to pitch your idea and ask for investment, you can remain focused on your proposal.
“The plan being pitched should be solid, with clear and concise deliverables, and most importantly, it is actionable and contains timelines as well as milestones,” says Sheikh Majid.
“During a pitch, you should be ready for everything, especially the curveball questions around alternatives and contingency planning when things don’t go to the original plan.”
Preparation is the most important thing when pitching an idea, knowing your concept inside out. “Great presentation skills obviously help if you’ve thought it through, but don’t put too much weight on that. I think it’s important for you to make sure your message is very crisp, it gets to the point, and people see the opportunity and not so much the package that you’ve packaged it in,” says Chihane.
Make it relevant
Our experts agree that preparation includes paying attention to the outside world to make sure your concept, and your pitch are both timely and relevant.
“We are in an environment that keeps changing and what works today might not work tomorrow and the other way around, there are lots of stories where people pitch for a product that didn’t work, after nine years the same ideas worked, it’s just the timing, when is the right time to pitch,” says Sheikh Majid.
“In the UAE for example, don’t ignore the fact that Expo 2020 is around the corner, and Vision 2030. Embed that as part of your business model if you can, to ensure that you’re aligned with it, then you can piggyback on all of the investments,” says Chihane.
Ask for feedback
Ultimately, it’s also important to remember that if you don’t succeed in securing a deal, there’s still something to gain.
Detailed feedback will help you improve your pitch for next time, but you need to ask for it because a lot of people hate giving constructive criticism, or negative feedback, according to Nawas.
“They hate telling you what you did wrong or why they can’t do it,” says Nawas. “So I always ask, ‘Is there anything I could have done differently today that would have made you say ‘yes’?”
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