How to Pitch (Investors) and Win – #1
One of the biggest misconceptions in business, politics, sports, and entertainment is that in order to succeed one must have some special and rare gift that clearly sets one apart from the crowd, or one is so naturally charismatic that everyone flocks to their side, or so commanding in presence that people naturally follow them. But the truth is that before they were business magnates, presidents, hall-of-famers or Oscar winners nearly all of these people were ordinary folks like you and me. In other words, their god-like qualities are “invented” by historians after the fact.
But what many of these people do have in common is this: they found a way to court power.
That means they had a combination of talent or good ideas, perseverance and the learned-ability to persuade others to invest in them.
Now, you might agree that you have talent and a great business idea and that you’re tough enough to persevere until you find success. But I can sense you thinking, “yeah, but those famous and successful people had some special ‘thing’ that I just don’t have.”
If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re right!
They’ve learned a secret that you may not yet have learned.
But the great news is that you can develop that special something in you that those who stand out from the crowd developed in themselves. You can hit that home run like a pro using your own “fastball”.
In the next series of posts, I’m going to convince you of just that. We’re going to learn that just about everyone has that innate ability to be a persuader — to court power successfully. It is not some ‘gift’ that you were either born with or weren’t. It is a skill you can develop and it is based on science that you can learn to apply.
Let me tell you briefly about three ordinary people who developed this skill. In the coming weeks, we will explore how they and others accomplished what they did on the road to success. For now, just allow these stories to open your mind to the concept that successfully courting power is a skill that you can develop and use powerfully.
We often think of Christopher Columbus as a sea captain. In fact, he was an entrepreneur who happened to captain ships as “CEO” of his venture. Now, I recognize that today Columbus is seen more as a villain than a hero, because of the ravages of disease and conflict he and those who followed him brought to the Americas. But what I’m interested in sharing with you is what Columbus managed to do before all that.
He wasn’t born of royalty; he was the son of a wool merchant. As a teenager, Columbus joined the merchant marine and sailed many voyages. On the last of these, his ship was sunk and he survived by floating on a piece of wood until the waves carried him ashore. He then studied science, geography, and mathematics for a time and conceived of a glorious idea — sailing west across the Atlantic to find a shortcut to the riches of the Asian trade routes. At this time, the route to Asia was over land populated largely by Muslims that, due to having been expelled from Europe, were not exactly inviting to Europeans. Columbus knew that the rulers of countries like Spain, Portugal, and France required wealth in order to prosecute their wars and expand their empires. Columbus knew his perfect investor was one of those kings or queens. So he used his wits and whatever connections he could find to get his ideas talked about in the royal courts of Portugal and Spain. Eventually, he was granted an audience with the king and queen of Spain. He pitched them and was rejected. So, he did the same thing with the Portuguese Court. He was again rejected. He then approached the Spanish Court a second time and was rejected a second time. Frustrated, he told his Court contacts he would travel to Paris to enroll the King of France in his vision.
Columbus hadn’t gone far when he was tracked down by officials of the Spanish Court. He agreed to return to see Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand a third time. This time, he was funded. He had successfully courted power because: 1) he did have a very compelling idea — a new trade route that was less costly and potentially safer; 2) he had perseverance; and 3) he knew the secret to eventually persuade the King & Queen of Spain — the secret you’re going to learn soon.
Candy Lightner never intended to become famous and probably would have traded every bit of it for the life of her daughter, Cari. You see, Cari was killed by a drunk driver. For Candy Lightner, it was the last straw. Unbelievably, Candy had been rear-ended years earlier by a drunk driver and the accident had injured her infant daughter Serena. Six years later, her son Travis was run over by an impaired driver. Now her daughter was dead. From the depths of her despair Candy decided if something were to be done to toughen the nation’s drunk and impaired driving laws she would have to do it. But how?
Lightner began by lobbying Jerry Brown, Governor of California. Eventually, this led to the passage of tougher drunk driving laws in California. She then appeared on national television shows, testified before Congress and lobbied and spoke constantly to persuade Americans to re-think their attitude about drinking and driving. Lightner put faces to the statistics, putting those faces of people unnecessarily killed in front of average Americans, legislators and business leaders. She forged a movement that eventually led to far tougher state laws in every state and federal legislation.
She was an ordinary person caught up in a horrible tragedy and she used her own pain to energize a mass movement that has probably saved tens of thousands of lives. She had a great idea. She persevered until others began to see it as a great idea, too. She persuaded those in power that change was needed. With their ‘investment,’ she built one the largest movement-based organizations in the United States, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). But how did an ordinary person get into the halls of power and persuade them to change laws in 50 states in the first place?
You may have seen the movie “Rudy.” It’s one of my favorites. In case you haven’t, it’s the story of Rudy Reuttiger, an undersized, marginally gifted, over-the-hill would-be athlete who had one dream in life: to play football for Notre Dame. Rudy was half the size of most of his teammates. He was far less talented athletically than any of them. And he was old — he’d spent six years in the Navy before attempting his dream of being a student-athlete at Notre Dame. Rudy found a way to get on the training staff of the football team, picking up towels, running errands, doing laundry. Not exactly the stuff that dreams are made of eh?
But Rudy used that position to repeatedly get the ear of head coach Ara Parseghian. Time after time, Rudy implored the coach to let him try out. Time after time he was kindly rejected. Finally, probably because the coach grew tired of being asked, he gave Rudy a spot on the scout team. The scout team is the “scrubs” that get beat up every day in practice by the varsity athletes, but never get to play in a game. Rudy did this tough duty for years, until in his senior season coach Parseghian told Rudy that he would dress for one home game that season.
But before the season began coach Parseghian retired and the new coach, Dan Devine, had no interest in playing little Rudy. Week by week, Rudy checked to see if his name was listed on the roster for that game. Week after week his name did not appear. Rudy’s diligence, toughness, and love for Notre Dame inspired his teammates over the years. They, too, began to petition coach Devine to let Rudy play. Finally, in the last home game of the season, after four years of diligent perseverance and the loyalty that endeared him to his teammates, coach Devine was persuaded, not by Rudy, but by a host of star players, to let Rudy dress. Rudy even got into the game late in the fourth quarter. His dream was complete. Coach Parseghian later said that Rudy “was the kind of kid you just couldn’t say no to.”
But just why was Rudy that type of person that you couldn’t say ‘no’ to? What did he know that you may not yet know? Stay tuned to learn!
I want your dreams to be complete, just like Rudy’s.
So even if your idea is great and you have the grit and perseverance to make it happen, you may just lack that ‘special something’ that investors are looking for when you pitch them and meet with them. Soon, you’ll learn exactly what it is and how to use it!
Key Takeaway: ordinary people do extraordinary things in all facets of life. But, before we’re successful we often feel as though we lack that certain special charisma to wow investors. In truth, many of us do lack it now, but anybody can access and develop it. That’s what others like Rudy Reuttiger and Candy Lightner did. And it’s what you’re going to learn to do in the coming weeks.