Fundraising isn't always fun. It can be a long, agonizing, and often emotional process. Emails go unanswered; pitches fall on deaf ears; and many times investors just don't get it. This constant feedback loop (or lack thereof) can be taxing on even the most seasoned pro and can push founders to believe that they have to change and become more aggressive, tougher, and do anything possible to get to that yes. Don't fall into this trap. Here's how to remain true to yourself and feel confident in your own story and pitch.
Don't "play the part" of a founder.
Founders come in all shapes and sizes, so be the real you during the process. It's very uncomfortable to pretend to be something you're not, and it becomes nearly impossible to live up to your potential because you're so focused on keeping up with the facade. It all goes back to trust. If you're inauthentic, people won't trust you. And without trust, there is no relationship. I know I always invest in people first, businesses second. Research shows that our instincts tell us to ask ourselves two questions when we first meet someone, "Can I trust this person?" and "can I respect this person?" We look to a person's warmth and competence to answer these two questions. And a big part of earning someone's trust is doing what you say you are going to do. If you walk away from an investor meeting with action items, make sure to follow up quickly.
Set a communication schedule.
The back and forth, uncertainty, and just plain silence can prey on your nerves, and it can be easy to let your annoyance seep into email communication. Take emotion out of the process by creating a follow-up checklist and communication schedule. For example, Day of meeting/coffee: Send a thank you email with actionable next steps. If no response one week later: Reiterate next steps. If still no response, wait one more week and write confidently something to the effect of, "I wanted to give you a brief fundraising update. We have great investors who have come on board (name them) and I am looking to close the round in xx days/weeks. I would love to have you be a part of this round. Please let me know if there is any additional information you need to make a decision." If they don't respond to this email, mark them as a NO on your investor tracking sheet and move on. Use simple, strong language to keep your irritation at bay.
Look for the small wins.
We know what big wins are after a pitch meeting, but it's just as essential to look for small wins to help you get ready to refine and try again. Sometimes an ah-ha phrase will emerge from the meeting, and your small win is that you picked up on a new way to communicate your message that will be more impactful. Other small wins: get an intro to an investor that may be a better fit or to a potential customer, or it may turn into an advising relationship. These are all parts of the process and appreciating the small wins will help keep you on track. If you go into fundraising with a growth mindset, it will make the whole process so much more enjoyable. Also have your eyes wide open that there are going to be a lot of no's, but look at every single no as a learning moment or an opportunity to gain a small win. Also, listen to what they're saying: What's holding them back from saying Yes?
Be confident in your value.
Remind yourself that you are offering investors the chance to be part of this amazing company—you're not begging for money. Build your confidence by paying close attention to your successes in life and how you accomplished them—you can't argue with facts. In my book, The Myth of the Nice Girl, I share the story of how I developed my own evidence-based confidence. Not too long ago, I was giving a big speech to three hundred managers and was really nervous. A close friend told me to think back to a time when I gave a good speech. I visualized that speech and recalled how I prepared for it, what I said and how I said it and it made me feel far more confident. To develop your own evidence-based confidence, start to write down moments when you've created value or earned a big or small win. Ask yourself these questions: 1) When have I done something difficult and survived? 2) When have I made a solid pitch? 3) What process have I used when making successful decisions?
Focus on the interests of both parties.
Spend time learning about the investor ahead of the meeting so that you can make a personal connection. I appreciate when a founder starts the meeting by referencing something about me personally. It's a basic human need to be acknowledged and it works in fundraising too. Experts also agree that using empathy is the best way to get a win-win outcome—and improves the relationship between the participants. To do this, focus on the interests of both parties—the things you are each trying to change or create. What does the investor stand to gain from funding your company? A big payoff, maybe. But what about the factors beyond the specifics of your business plan? Are you bringing them exposure to a new demographic? A new geographic area? Are there other investors already on board that this investor wants to do business with?
When they go low, stay high.
The sad reality is, there are [insert negative word] investors. When the person on the other side of the table isn't playing nice, your first instinct may be to mirror that behavior. Don't. Instead of becoming defensive, ask yourself: Is this someone I want on my team anyway? Yes, fundraising is about products and money and financial returns, but there is also a human factor—you're letting people into your world that you are hopefully going to be in a long-term relationship with. A big part of being successful at fundraising is partnering with people that have the same values and goals as you. Do your due diligence on the investor—check with past founders. You're giving up ownership and control in your company, and you want to make sure that your investors' goals, values, reputation and track record match up with your own. Do they have a good track record in my industry? Do they have a great reputation for the way they treat founders and partners? Ask yourself how you feel after meeting with the investor? Is this someone you will feel comfortable asking for advice? Never compromise your values for a check.
We are living in a time when women are rising to new heights which means they are regularly being confronted with the fear of being "too much". For women in business this is pervasive and costly.
A few ways women can be perceived as "too much" are:
Speaking up about their successes and achievements.
Sharing one too many photos of their cute kids.
Telling one too many people about that date night.
Looking a little too good in that swimsuit.
These can lead to being publicly attacked on social media or privately slandered which in turn leads to women dimming their light and walking on egg shells in hopes of avoiding conflict and judgement.
The minute a woman feels it's unsafe to shine she will begin to overthink, worry, and fear how she shows up in the world.
Forgetting to announce the book is done and the interview is live.
Choosing to focus on what's still on the to-do list rather than what's been checked off.
Many female entrepreneurs are subconsciously altering their behavior in an attempt to not attract too much attention to themselves, rather than focusing on allowing authenticity and magnetism to attract their ideal clients and community.
Women are afraid of being criticized, ostracized, and abandoned by other women for simply being who they are. This leads to quite the quantum when being who you are is simplest way to accelerate the growth of your business.
New research shows men are far more comfortable with self promotion than women are. Researchers found that men rate their own performance 33 percent higher than equally performing women. What we know is that self promotion pays off and this is where women are missing the boat.
The world needs more women to step into leadership roles and no longer be intimidated about creating six and seven figure careers.
Here are five ways to release the fear of being "too much":
1. Approve of yourself.
While it feels good to receive outside validation it will never be enough if you don't first appreciate yourself. The key to having a healthy support system is to make sure you are part of it. Being your biggest critic is what your mother's generation did. It's now time to be your biggest cheerleader. Becoming aware of self talk will reveal what belief is ready to be re-wired. Create a simply mantra that affirms how incredible capable you are.
2. Connect deeply to those you serve.
One powerful way to shift out of people pleasing behavior is to get clear on who actually matters to the wellbeing and success of your life and business. Leadership is not about being the most popular, instead it's a decision to be brave for those who can't be. Take a few minutes each day to visualize and meditate on those your business serves and supports. See your future clients moving toward you every time you choose to stand in your power and use your authentic voice.
3. Remember the legacy you wish to leave.
Having your life purpose and legacy in writing is one of the most transformational exercises you can do. Reading this often will keep you focused on what matters. Knowing what you wish to leave in the hearts of those you love most is incredibly grounding. You didn't come here to keep your mouth shut, dilute your truth, or dim your light-you came here to make a difference.
4. Forgive those who have been unsupportive in the past.
The past has a way of informing the future in a negative way when there is unresolved pain. Take a few minutes to get quiet and ask yourself who you have unforgiveness towards or maybe their name came to mind as you read this article. Listening to a forgiveness meditation or writing a letter to the person you are ready to forgive are both simple and effective ways to process and heal.
5. Be part a community of bright, successful women.
Meaningful relationships with others who have similar aspirations is what will keep you out of isolation and playing small. These connections can happen in a networking group, online community or a local Meetup. Thriving in every area of life is depend on you knowing where you belong and being celebrated there. Don't wait to be invited, go actively seek out people and places that support your dreams and desires.
6. Accept you can have it all.
Women have been fed a lie for generations that says, you can have love or money. Decide you can have it all and allow it to flow to you. You can have a successful career and an amazing mother. You can balance motherhood and loving marriage. Don't let anyone write the rules for you. This is the time to create the life you desire on your terms.
7. Celebrate everything!
The fastest way to leave the haters in the dust is to celebrate everything! At the end of each day lay in bed and recall the best moments. At the end of each week, publicly acknowledge and celebrate what's good in your life. Once a month, have a celebration dinner and share it with those who have helped you in the journey. If there's something good happening, talk about it with everyone who will listen!
May you be a woman who chooses to shine so that others may be reminded of all they can be and do.