It's not just about presenting your business plan and financial projections when it comes to convincing investors to invest in your business idea.
Building a genuine connection with investors is equally important.
The power of persuasion involves skills beyond “transferring data from your mind to theirs.”
I’ll show you 17 key strategies to make investors like you and fall in love with your startup.
And increase your chances of securing the funding you need.
1. If you want an investor's attention, make them feel at ease
Would you rather listen to someone who makes you feel queasy or easy?
Assuming “easy” is better, here’s the next question:
What do people do that makes you feel at ease?
- When they tell you that you’ve got it all wrong? No.
- When they try to dump loads of hard-to-follow jargon into your brain? No.
- When they’re nervous? No.
So, don’t do that to your investor, either.
Make this your new professional standard:
Don’t contradict but confirm your potential investor’s fundamental convictions at the start of your pitch. (Don’t tell them the world is flat or capitalism is heading off a cliff.)
Get them nodding in agreement and saying, “That’s right.”
Use language that’s easy to understand.
Limit the amount of information you expect them to process. (Avoid “death by jargon” and “death by PowerPoint presentation.”)
Relax. Tension and nervousness won’t get you anywhere.
Learn to leave your insecurities at the door. (Don’t worry, the other upcoming tips will help with that, too.)
2. Be curious about your investor
The worst founders only talk about themselves. Don’t.
Be a curious founder who wants to find out more about their investor.
This person may kindly agree to join you on your craziest and most challenging journey.
By your side for many years. Shouldn’t you be curious?!
So go ahead, turn the tables because we all know:
Investors love talking about their experiences and successes.
So, take the opportunity to learn more about their background, previous investments, and expertise.
Never underestimate the emotional bonding power of curiosity.
It feels good when an important person is interested in you, right?
So be generous: Give your investor that feeling.
“Listening is one of the most underrated skills for founders pitching to investors.“
I hear this again and again.
Not from coaches or mentors.
From the investors themselves.
And when I say “listening,” I don’t mean “hearing the words.”
Striving with all your attention and focus to understand someone’s perspective.
As if you were grabbing their statements with your mind, holding them, turning them over.
This kind of active listening naturally leads to follow-up questions that show your curiosity.
It forces you to question yourself when you receive critical feedback.
Some business investors tell me they’re shocked by some founders’ inability to understand their feedback because they didn’t listen properly.
They don’t always expect founders to accept their feedback, let alone implement it ASAP.
But they do expect founders to listen and understand.
If you know how to listen actively and follow up with curious questions (even about criticism), you will leave a hugely positive impression.
4. Find shared interests and values
Investors are more likely to give funds to startups aligning with their values and beliefs.
Research your potential investors and identify common ground.
Whether it's a passion for sustainability, social impact, or disruptive technology, finding shared values with business investors creates a sense of camaraderie and increases their interest in your startup.
But sometimes it’s simple things too – maybe you both have a dog or like skiing. Or sushi.
An investor I worked with once started telling me about his fiancé, simply because I had recently married, and asked me how I’d decided that my wife was the one.
Granted, that’s a one-in-a-million scenario for many startups speaking to investors, but it shows: personal connections matter. (He invested 14 million.)
5. Be 100% honest and transparent
Business investors are smart.
Don’t try to hide weaknesses, overstate your potential, or claim traction you haven’t got.
It’s a mess when they find out – and they will.
So, be honest and transparent.
Honesty establishes trust.
You’ll need that for a successful partnership.
It also means your investor can provide the best advice and guidance based on accurate information.
Plus, investors see critical self-reflection and a willingness to learn as desirable qualities.
So, be attractive. Be honest.
6. Create a fun, lighthearted aha moment
Investors don’t like it if you come across as too salesy.
You might think that’s weird because you’re there to sell them something, right?
But it’s not that simple:
They’re happy if you end up convincing them to invest.
But they don’t want you to push. They want to reach their decision themselves.
While convincing them might feel like hard work, it’s best to make it look easy.
And here’s one thing that can help you do that:
Break the ice with a fun, lighthearted aha moment.
(It can be a bit shocking too. You’ll know you got it right if you get a laugh.)
Just like anyone else, investors love new, valuable insights.
Maybe even something that’ll help them become better at what they do: investing.
So, find one of those “surprisingly simple solutions to a wicked problem” that make people slap their forehead and say: “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Or a juicy, fascinating bit of insider knowledge about your industry.
Add that to the first 3 minutes of your investor pitch to spice it up and lighten the mood.
Create that unique memory in the investor’s mind that sets you apart from the competition.
7. Engage with your investor’s way of speaking and thinking
One skill is fundamental, as we’ve already discovered:
And it’s doubly important and doubly powerful:
Because active listening can help you align the way you speak.
Here are some details to pay attention to:
1. How does the investor speak about the market and your competitors?
Do they expect you to “break into” the market, to “outsmart” the competition, or to just “take on” challenges?
2. What are investors interested in?
Scaling, profitability, target market, customer loyalty, cash flow?
Most investors focus on two or three criteria they believe are most decisive for your success.
3. What kinds of imagery do they use?
From “taking off” to “driving success” to “nurturing” your customer relationships.
Learn their lingo and use it.
Mirroring how other people speak increases something brain scientists call “processing fluency,” making them more likely to believe what you say.
This is one of the most effective ways of getting into an investor’s head, making you more persuasive.
8. Show how you’ll be a partner for success
Investor meetings are about more than just getting the money.
They know that, and you should, too.
So show them that long-term mindset.
Show them you understand that:
- they’ve got excellent networks and experience to offer,
- they’ll probably need to weather a storm or two with you,
- and they’re likely to be involved in future funding rounds.
This means that investors are so much more than a source of capital.
They are partners.
So show them you’re in it for that partnership.
9. Convince by telling potential investors a simple, unforgettable story
When you pitch a new business idea to an investor, use that unique opportunity to capture their attention.
Tell a simple, unforgettable story:
“Look: We built this solar-powered bakery in Banakwah that feeds a community of 217 people every day. That’ll save two dozen children from the rampant lung disease and breathing problems caused by baking in shantytown huts on open dung fires.”
Even short little stories can shake you awake.
It's like a needle – a small thing, but you’ll notice when it breaks your skin.
So, get under their skin.
Here are 7 essential criteria for a good story:
- It's personal.
- A hero faces a “dragon” of a problem.
- It addresses the five senses.
- There’s action.
- A surprise ending or plot twist livens it up.
- Carefully selected evidence makes it believable.
- People enjoy it so much they want to retell it.
10. Acknowledge difficulties
Acknowledging that your success will not be a walk in the park (nor a piece of cake) may seem counterintuitive, but it works to your advantage.
Clarity about the hurdles you face makes you look more mature and aware of your situation.
No experienced founder will tell you the first 3 years were easy.
So, don’t pretend you’re gonna be the first. Be honest.
Here are a few things you can do to come across as reliable and persuasive despite the difficulties that lie ahead.
- Prep by drawing up a list of possible objections in advance.
- Learn to turn objections into opportunities to shine.
- Be honest about the weak points in your business model.
- Show that you clearly understand your most significant obstacles.
- Ask for advice on how to overcome these obstacles.
11. Tell your investor how you expect them to help your business
Learn to make a confident ask.
Not just for money. (We’ll get to that.)
Learn to ask for whatever else you need and you think your potential investors can give:
Network connections, recommendations, mentorship.
Prepare your ask well:
Make a list of what you need, prioritize, then go for what’s most valuable to your business venture’s success.
Ask with the confidence of knowing they’ll say yes.
Because it’s likely, they will.
After all, they want you to succeed.
Next, let’s talk about the money ask:
Don’t ever start with a number when you ask for funding.
Start with your plans:
Whether it’s research and development, a marketing campaign, or a salary for the new, super-talented CTO – make it clear how monies will be put to good use.
Start thinking of monetary and non-monetary requests along the same lines:
It’s all about how you expect the investor to help your business along your journey.
Clear goals show investors that you have a strategic plan in place.
Then, they don’t feel like you’re just asking for a number.
You’re asking for their participation.
That’s what they want:
12. Show what you’ll do to get results
“What kinds of startups do you believe will succeed?” I asked an investor friend.
“Not startups. Founders. The ones who get things done.”
Let’s say you’ve got a grand plan.
But you don’t give your investor the feeling that you’ll
- roll up your sleeves and
- get your hands dirty.
That’s an investment you’re likely to lose.
Investors like the grand vision, sure, but they also need you to present practical steps:
- action plans,
- tangible outcomes.
Show your commitment to execution and your organizational skills.
Show you’ll be a founder who gets things done.
13. Make it emotional
If fundraising were a purely logical process, you’d send over a spreadsheet and get the money transferred into your business account after they analyzed your data.
Of course, that’s not how it works.
Because investors know how much energy it takes to make it through the first 3 years.
That energy comes from your passion for your vision.
And the ability to inspire others is crucial in getting them on that same energy level, too.
We’re humans, not machines.
Humans are driven by emotion.
Emotions drive our decisions.
Oh, and did I mention that investors are humans, too?
So, you better figure out how to connect with them. Emotionally.
It’s part of the skill set for persuasion.
14. Stun them with your innovations and originality
Think about what it means to be an investor:
You’re constantly searching.
Hunting for fresh and disruptive ideas that could bring massive returns.
So, as a founder, you need to show just that:
- innovations and
That’s the game-changer.
Highlight your unique approach and how it sets you apart from competitors.
Originality signals your ability to think outside the box and adapt to new market trends.
Investors want to back winners, so show them you’re a front-runner in your industry.
Capture their attention and generate excitement.
And investors agree:
The famous US investor Charles Schwab calls his ability to "arouse enthusiasm" his greatest asset.
15. Think outside the box
Columbus is famous for two things:
- sailing to America and
- the egg.
Never heard of Columbus’ egg?
He bet a competitor he could stand an egg upright.
If you’ve ever tried, you know that doesn’t work – eggs always roll onto their sides.
But when his competitor agreed to the bet, Columbus just took the egg and smacked it on the table, denting the bottom end and making it stand upright.
Learn to think like Columbus:
- Challenge conventional wisdom and explore new possibilities.
- Showcase your ingenuity and ability to think creatively.
- What others say can’t be done – do it.
A single Columbus-egg moment can do a lot to persuade investors you’re the founder they’ve been looking for.
16. Use anecdotes to strengthen the personal connection
”What is it that makes you you?”
That’s what an investor asked a green-tech startup founder I trained.
Completely out of the blue.
“I didn’t know what to say,” she admitted.
But you should be ready for that type of question.
Investors aren’t just interested in your ideas but in you.
The best way to answer is with an anecdote.
Tell them a short story that says something about what makes you you.
Like a music producer I know who once did a yoga handstand on top of a brand-new mixer that had just been delivered to his studio. (His way of expressing his joy!)
What does that tell you?
- Fun-loving, sporty guy.
- Enjoys life and self-expression.
- Takes calculated risks.
But I didn’t even have to say that, did I?
The anecdote said it.
The ability to tell an anecdote like that is a great plus.
(And no, it doesn’t have to involve a yoga handstand.)
Ok, your turn:
Find your “this is what makes me me”-anecdote.
Practice telling it with swag.
17. Find the one
Once you’ve built a strong relationship with your lead investor, other investors will be easier to convince.
Whether you call them a lead investor or cornerstone investor, always start by building one key relationship.
Having a trusted partner on board gives you a thousand times more credibility with every other potential investor, so work on getting this first one right.
In fact, “obsess about who they are and what they bring,” says Codie Sanchez in Forbes.
It may take time, but it’s worth it.
A known investor’s reputation and connections can open doors to new business opportunities and partnerships.
So, once you’ve found them, nurture this relationship.
It’ll make convincing investors much easier – your lead might even do it for you!