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Passion can sell an idea

Q.: When you are sure of your concept for a business – but waiting for the world to catch up – how do you sell an idea based on passion rather than on numbers? – Karen Soeffker

A: Selling an idea isn’t easy. I remember standing in a telephone box early in my career, trying to get potential aertisers to buy space in a magazine that didn’t yet exist, so I know all too well how frustrating it can be when people won’t give you a chance. However, I deeply believed in my idea that having confidence in yourself breeds confidence in others.

I wouldn’t worry if your idea hasn’t caught on with others yet. It could mean you’ve spotted an opportunity before anybody else has. All you need to do now is make your first sale, and the rest will follow. The key to making that first sale, though, starts with perfecting your business pitch.

A great pitch can do many things. It can convince potential investors and clients that you are worth taking a chance on. It can also help you recruit top talent that can help your business expand. These are essential ingredients for a successful venture.

As I have written previously, the first step toward delivering a great pitch is to keep it human, since far too many presentations and speeches can turn artificial and wooden quite quickly. Let your passion shine through by being yourself and allowing your points to come across naturally. Use humor to connect with your audience and demonstrate your creativity.

One of the best pitches I ever received was from a man who owned an elevator installation business. He knew that people frequently gave me their “elevator pitch” and thought it would be more efficient and fun to be in an actual elevator. While the idea wasn’t ultimately viable, it made me smile – I’m sure he has gone on to great things.

Of course, facts and figures are important. If you have data that supports your potential business, that’s great – but remember not to drown people in numbers (my eyes tend to glaze over as soon as too many stats are rolled out during a pitch). If you don’t have any supporting data available for your idea, you have to sell people on your vision and your dream.

Tell them exactly why you want this business to succeed. Explain the problem that you want to solve with your product or service, and why you believe it needs solving – even if other people haven’t realised that yet. And be sure to cite real-life stories that reinforce your points and make your idea more relatable and personable.

Keep in mind that people want to invest in people. So talk about your previous successes. For instance, if you have succeeded in a business once before, people will believe that you can do it again. If not, highlight your skills and connections: What abilities of yours will help make this business a reality? What deals or partnerships have you put in place to help execute your vision?

You must also make sure that you get out there and you are visible. You are, after all, your company’s greatest asset. I have always been right at the heart of promoting Virgin’s new ventures and our expansion into new territories because potential investors and customers will remember a business or brand if they can associate it with a face.

However, don’t make the mistake of trying to do everything yourself. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Entrepreneurial support is plentiful these days, and there are many people and organisations out there that can help you for free.

For instance, organisations like Virgin StartUp in UK offer free mentoring sessions for entrepreneurs, and Virgin Media’s “Pitch to Rich” competition offers new entrepreneurs a chance to win funding to get them started, plus mentoring sessions with me and experts within the Virgin Group.

Go online and look for entrepreneurial support groups in your area, and get these experts to assist you in refining your pitch or business model. Ask them for helpful connections in their networks. If you have external supporters on your side, you are more likely to convince others that your business idea is an opportunity they shouldn’t miss.

Building a business from scratch is tough, especially when you are selling a concept that nobody has come up with before. But remember: Many people thought Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton had crazy ideas in their time. But it is passionate and tenacious thinkers like them who tend to change the world for the better.

Don’t give up on your vision, and you will get your break.

Mr Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group. Email: RichardBranson@nytimes.com.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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