Mark Suster joined us a couple of weeks ago at an event called How to Design Stunning Sales and Investor Presentations with Jan Schultink.
This video is Part 2 of Suster’s discussion on The Important of the Narrative. There was so much great knowledge shared that evening from Mark, Jan and Sean that we will be posting different segments each day along with the transcript from that segment.
See part 1 of Mark’s talk here: Mark Suster: The Importance of the Narrative.
MARK: And I think it’s really… 15 companies a week, I don’t know, pitching me – sometimes more, sometimes less – but it’s tiresome. And if I take Sean’s framework, the single most important thing I could leave you with in fundraising and in sales, both of my companies required selling. But the single most important thing I could tell you is the narrative—it’s the story, it’s “Why is this compelling?”.
Not letting yourself get into the weeds on detail where people can pick apart my new arguments; VCs like to be smart and prove it. So if they can pick up that your gross margins in year five for this company that you’ve just started, you’ve said are going to be 60% and no company is ever above 45%, but you really just wanted to talk about how you’re going to get year 1 off the ground, I’ll go straight to the thing to prove a way you’re wrong. And so don’t give them enough rope to hang you. Create a narrative, create a story, keep it eye level. Your objective in a VC meeting is the same as your objective in a sales meeting, which is to create a dialogue, to get them talking. If they’re not talking and asking you tough questions, you‘ve already failed. The worst meetings are the ones where they smile at you, I call it grin f*cking. That was really great, and you just need a little more traction. And when you get a little more traction come back and see us, we like the space—what that basically means is “No, but if you become really big and interesting then make sure to call us back.” And I think that’s the worst kind of feedback, I give pretty blunt, honest feedback if I’m not interested, or if I mean “not now”. But when you know you have them is when they’re sparring with you, when they’re engaged because it means that they’re interested. Like, if you’re not interested, you just smile and you pray that the meeting ends quickly. And so what I like to do is use the narrative to tee up a discussion, and you should have slides in your brain that says, okay slide 4 is the discussion slide – it’s the slide where I’m going to try to get the VC talking by asking a question.
But I always tell people, and it’s the same in sales, “You have to earn the right to ask your question,” and that is credibility. And I loved your presentation – it completely maps to my view the world (other than how to spell “buy”). And I always tell people, and most VC say the opposite, the problem being they’re wrong, is your bio needs to go upfront. Whatever your strongest points are about your leadership team needs to go upfront because that’s how you establish credibility. 70% of the decision framework of an early stage company is You – as individuals, your founding team – are your compelling? And if you’re not, I don’t give a shit about your market because it may be a great market but you’re not going to create an interesting company in it.
Check back Friday for the rest of his talk on the Importance of the Narrative: “Great People Do Great Things”.
Stay tuned for the videos from the event with HubSpot at MIT in Boston to come soon!
Mark Suster is a 2x entrepreneur who has gone to the Dark Side of VC. He joined GRP Partners in 2007 as a General Partner after selling his company to Salesforce.com. He focuses on early-stage technology companies.
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