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How to give good phone

A couple weeks ago, Fred Wilson posted a blog post on his strong dislike for phone pitches.  While I agree with Fred that in person meetings trump phone calls, for most, avoiding phone “pitches” is not a practical reality.  So if a phone call is unavoidable, how do you make the most of them?  Here are a few ideas I have… any additions?

  1. First and foremost, remember the goal.  As I wrote on my blog, a phone call “pitch” is not about a go/no go on an investment, it's about a go/no go on investing more time.  That means you don’t need to throw everything out there and cover all the bases.  Instead, what you want to do is provide just enough background to create some momentum.  To this end, Phil Michaelson of KartMe has some fantastic advice on how to nail a first meeting/call.  Check out his blog post here.
  2. Go halfway to an in person meeting: video calls.  Anybody up for a little Pitch Roulette?  Kidding, kidding… but seriously: why don’t people do video calls more often?  Still not as good as an in person meeting, but so much better than a plain vanilla phone call.  With a video call, you still get the efficiency of a phone call, but with visual cues and undivided attention.  So try offering a Skype video call.  I know I just ordered a webcam for my work computer and will be suggesting them from now on.
  3. Have a prop.  I find phone pitches most effective when there is a prop: a short deck or better yet, a demo.  It helps structure the conversation, and this helps you stay in control and on track.
  4. Ask questions. There are two kinds of questions you should feel comfortable asking on a call:
    • Advice.  Don’t be afraid to ask the VC some questions.  After all, as First Round Capital’s Phin Barnes wrote, your objective as an entrepreneur is not just to get money, but to get it from the right firm.  This has the added bonus of keeping the VC engaged.
    • You paying attention?  Don’t be afraid to ask questions like “does that make sense?” (or even “are you with me?”)  It’s a more polite way of saying “stop reading your freaking emails!” and keeps the other person on their toes and engaged.
  5. Have a coach.  Have someone from your company listen in on your call.  After the call, get feedback.  Some things to look out for:
    • Did you dominate the air time?  If you’re talking for most of the call, you’re not creating an opportunity to build a rapport with the other person on the call.
    • When asked a question, did you answer the question, or did you ramble?
    • Parts of your pitch that flow really well, and parts that don’t.
  6. Know who you’re talking to.  Do a little research on who you’re speaking to (his or her firm, investments, background).  It will help you focus your pitch and build a rapport.


Good luck!

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