As I wrote in an earlier post, the first and most critical step in getting a deal done is to create a target investor list. But once that’s done the next question I hear from entrepreneurs is, “How do I get a meeting with high-quality investors?”
The answer may not come as a surprise, but the good news is there’s a clear process you can follow to get meetings with investors.
The first and number one way to get a meeting with an investor is via a warm introduction. Yeah, I know, that’s not earth-shattering news. But most entrepreneurs either give up or simply bypass this step. Instead, they either take a shotgun approach or submit executive summaries on various VC websites.
Both approaches are a waste of time. Sure, the “submit here” link on the venture capital website is enticing, but I always recommend against doing that.
What you want is to set yourself apart from other (competing) deal opportunities. One way to do that is to demonstrate the resourcefulness and willingness to secure a warm introduction. If you do that, you’ll send an important signal to investors that will set the stage favorably for your first meeting.
Great, but how do you get a warm introduction, right?
Well, the absolute best introduction I can think of is from the CEO of portfolio company your target investor has invested in before. That’s especially true if the investor made money. Get one of those CEOs to refer you and you’ll catapult way ahead of other deals on the horizon.
I describe how to find the right investors in the SmartMoney Playbook. It’s free, and you can grab it here.
I know from personal experience that most investors ask their portfolio CEO’s frequently if they know of any other deals out there.
That’s because full-time investors, such as VC firms, are terrified that they’ll miss a deal in the space they focus on. And, given that up to 75% of companies fail to produce a return, they can’t afford to miss a potential home-run opportunity.
So work hard to get an introduction from a CEO. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy…just a simple email or call that says, “Hey I had an interesting conversation with Sam the entrepreneur, and he has an interesting new product. I think you’ll be interested in learning about it.”
Trust me, if that email comes from someone your target investor placed a million dollar bet on in the past, and won, they’ll want to meet with you.
Other Ways to Get Meetings With Investors
After warm introductions, the next best way to get an introduction is through other people the investors have done business with in the past. A good example of this could be a co-investor in a prior deal. You can identify these people by creating your own target investor list or having us create one for you.
Don’t overlook professional service providers as sources for referrals. These include lawyers, accountants, executive recruiters and so on. They can be a great resource for referrals.
Once a list of target investors is complied, many entrepreneurs successfully use LinkedIn to establish contact with them. Another method is hiring an attorney that has worked with your target investor in the past. Since investors hate unknown risks, they are more likely to listen to an attorney they’ve worked with before.
If you’ve already hired your accountant, attorney and other advisors, I recommend you show them your target investor list. Print it out and have them review it to see who they know. Believe me, they want to make these introductions on your behalf and help you get funded by high-quality investors. After all, that’s the money that’s going to pay their invoices in the future. They also want to provide this value-added service because it creates loyalty, locking you in as a valued customer for the long term.
Yet another way you can get the door open to SmartMoney investors is speaking engagements or “pitchfest” competitions. My advice is for you to participate on a speaking panel or to make a presentation at an investor pitchfest…it’s a great way to meet investors.
Don’t forget to search online to see where your target investors might be speaking on industry panels. Make an effort to attend and meet them face to face after their session. Beforehand, review their slide decks to see what they’re looking for.
A word of caution. Don’t be the person who runs up after the session and stuffs your opportunity down the investor’s throat. That’s the least sophisticated way to approach investors, and doesn’t make a favorable impression. Rather, introduce yourself, get on their radar and comment on their presentation.
Take it From the Top
When it comes to opening the doors to high quality investors, I recommend going top-down rather than bottom-up.
What I mean is you want an introduction to the top decision maker so you can get them interested in your deal. Don’t try to get attention of a junior associate and expect they can push your deal up to the partner level. It’s generally ineffective, because the top partners at the VC’s control the priority of the junior associates and analysts, not the other way around.
Finally, review your target list with your advisors and mentors…whoever they may be. Ask them to log into their LinkedIn profile and see if they’re connected to the contacts on your target investor list. The keys to getting successful meetings are to:
- create a solid target investor list and
- work the list to secure warm introductions.
If you do these two things you’ll be far ahead of most entrepreneurs competing to raise money from high-quality investors.
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